So he moved to the Indonesian
capital of Jakarta and spent as much time as he could around
the U.S. Embassy, hoping to meet an American who could help
him emigrate and advance his study of fine art.
From some university officials
who had come for a convention, he learned about scholarship
programs for foreign art students and applied. Ten years
ago, at the age of 24, he came to the United States and
studied on scholarships at the Maine College of Art and the
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Upon
graduation he launched MK Fine Arts and began looking for
commissions and sales venues. In the meantime, he worked as
a plumber by day and painted at night.
His big break came in 2004,
when Georgia State University commissioned him to paint a
portrait of civil rights stalwart, former Atlanta mayor and
U.N. ambassador Andrew Young. But such high-profile work
isn't easy to come by. Soon after the Young portrait was
unveiled last year, Kumbang began looking for financial
support -- and learned from a Somali refugee group about the
Ethiopian Community Development Council's Enterprise
The business plan Kumbang
showed EDG proposed buying additional supplies and marketing
MK Fine Arts online. EDG lent him $15,000, using a loan fund
it administers for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Kumbang used some of the money to have half a dozen of his
paintings professionally scanned at a $650 apiece, so he
could make high-quality prints and marketing materials. He
also used some of the money to rent a car to transport the
paintings to New York, where the scanning company is
located. He spent a few hundred dollars on software to build
a Web site (http://www.mkfinearts.com)
for the studio, and bought a credit card machine so he
didn't have to be limited to cash or check sales at art
shows. He spent another $50 on a small scanner/printer and a
ream of fine photo paper.
"To get it done right,
there's no way around it," Kumbang said.
Paying back the loan was
challenging for Kumbang, whose income these days comes from
selling paintings and teaching occasional art courses. He
was late a few times, but he called EDG and was granted a
grace period. He said he paid off the 18-month loan last
"It is very fickle as far as
an income base, but I'm not worried about that anymore," he
said. "My concentration now is to produce good art and
people will come."
Sometimes, they do come.
Recently an Indonesian businessman sent him a letter in
Bahasa Indonesia, Kumbang's native language, commissioning
three large paintings with tsunami-related themes. Kumbang,
who lost 19 relatives in the 2004 tsunami, immediately