Hyattsville sculptor Jerome Meadows is an artist with a cause.

As a Fulbright scholar in Pakistan, he teaches sculpture to college students in a region where Islamic doctrine has discouraged such art for centuries.

Because of that attitude, Meadows said, his students at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, "come to me very thirsty and hungry" for exposure to sculpture, and often come in spite of religious opposition at home and among their peers. For most of his 14 students, whose familiarity with the art form generally comes from the college library's books, sculpture "is like a calling."

From a professorial point of view, Meadows said that classroom enthusiasm is "a teacher's dream." And in his role as a Fulbright scholar, he said he's expected to be open to discussion of the forces driving his host country, which is 90 percent Islamic.

"The Fulbright agency emphasizes that you're traveling as an individual but you're also bringing something to the country," Meadows said during a recent visit back home. The program philosophy "is really based on the fact that there's direct interaction between the scholar and the people in the country."

In addition to being a Fulbright lecturer, Meadows, 36, is an artist in his own right. In that capacity, the Hyattsville resident received one of 51 grants awarded last year by the Prince George's County Arts Council. In 1987, the council disbursed $81,250 to music, theater and dance groups and individual artists.

Meadows, who keeps a studio in Hyattsville, received $650 from the council to advance his work on a wood and stone sculpture series called "Rising -- From Seed to Sun." He also teaches design and drawing at the University of Maryland.

But that work is on hold while Meadows is in Pakistan. He returned last week for his second and last semester. Accompanying him was his son Jordan, 13, who attends the American school in Lahore. Meadows' wife, Jacqueline, a certified midwife, remains in Hyattsville with their daughter Amber, 8.

What Meadows returns to in Lahore is a "very volatile {political} situation" caused, he said, by the proximity of countries with their own political tensions, such as Afghanistan, Iran, India and the Soviet Union.

Lahore, Meadows said, is "the cultural capital of Pakistan." Historically, however, "the whole area has been fraught with conquerors coming through," diverting or influencing the focus on art and architecture. He noted, for instance, that Alexander the Great's invasion "accounts for the European flavor to {the city's} Buddhist sculpture." But most other forms of sculpture, he added, have been shunned as idolatrous.

"Sculpture has never been widely regarded there," Meadows said, "and the arts in general have been regarded as architectural and decorative modes of expression."

This utilitarian attitude is one with which Meadows' students struggle.

"You're preparing students for a field in which there's no market, and in which there's even religious opposition," he said. "They've got a long way to go. It's the students who'll be directly responsible for creating that market."

It was a form of utilitarian artistry that first took Meadows to Pakistan in 1986. Under a different Fulbright program, he and 10 other artists toured the country to study the decline of traditional Pakistani crafts caused by modernization.

On this trip, he met the "principal" of the national college and showed her slides of his sculpture. In response to her interest in offering sculpture classes at the school, Meadows began pursuing the Fulbright lecturing grant he later received.

The Fulbright scholarship program, created in 1946 by legislation introduced by former senator J. William Fulbright and administered by the U.S. Information Agency, this year sent 1,000 scholars to 120 countries, according to spokesman Pat Fesci.

The sculpture series for which Meadows has received funding from Prince George's County evolves from his interest in seeds as a life form. He's spent two years developing the series, and several years before that developing the theme of seeds as expressed through the combined use of wood and stone. In the pieces he is creating with county funding, walnut and mahogany form a free-standing outer seed pod, with the stone, as a seed, sitting inside that.

His interest in seed sculpture follows extensive work, Meadows said, on the human figure. A precursor of his portrayals of seeds growing in pods is shown in the Madonna sculpture Meadows did for St. Joseph's seminary, depicting a woman whose belly is swollen with a child visible to the viewer.

"I was getting so I could do these figures in my sleep," he said. "When I'd taken it as far as it could go, I became intrigued by seeds and the idea that things grow out of seeds. I'm really fascinated that something as nonassuming as a seed can split and out comes this growth."

In using wood and stone to create seed formations, Meadows said he hopes to suggest the duality that, in nature, is required for a seed to propagate.

Meadows grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., with aspirations of becoming an engineer. He now reflects, however, that he spent much of his time drawing pictures, mostly of horses. Later, as a teen-ager, he said, "I found that, with painting all the time and playing in a band, my desire to be an engineer was quickly going down the grade drain."

He accepted a scholarship to the acclaimed Rhode Island School of Design, although he'd barely heard of it. While there, he pursued the interest in stone carving he'd developed in high school after viewing slides of the works of Michelangelo.

He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1973. In 1977, Meadows moved to Washington, slightly uncertain of what path his career was taking. One day, while touring the University of Maryland, he was overjoyed to hear the sounds of stone carvers at work.

"It's a very distinct sound," he said. "It's the sound of a hammer hitting a chisel and a chisel hitting stone."