I was recently chosen as a winner of the Knight Foundation’s 2023 New Work art grant for Detroit! The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has long been funding artists and art non-profits in Detroit, and their New Work grant specifically funds art projects that incorporate technology. I’m honored to be selected as one of this past year’s recipients along with a talented group of artists. Read more about the Knight Foundation’s grant and the other winners’ projects here: https://knightfoundation.org/challenges/knight-new-work-2023/

My art project funded by the Knight Foundation is an upcoming exhibition called Threads of Passage: From Vietnam to America to coincide with the 50th anniversary of end of the Vietnam War in 2025. The exhibition will include interactive textile and video installations that will feature stories of Vietnamese boat refugees, their harrowing journeys to freedom, and the stories of the American people who helped them adjust and succeed in their newly adopted country, providing a window into a traumatic history for the Vietnamese-American community as well as a story of cross-cultural friendship that could present a path forward in this time period of growing racial and cultural division in America. The above photo is one of many warm memories my family has had with our Mennonite sponsors in rural Maryland who helped my family adjust to American life when they first arrived.

Last year, I traveled to Vietnam to document my parents’ journey from Saigon to America. My parents and older brother jumped on a boat the day the communists took over the city. Many people tried to flee that day and jumped on boats without knowing if they would make it out alive. The video still above was taken at the seaport where my parents escaped Vietnam. This was the most emotional video shoot of the entire trip. My mother started crying as she recalled the heartbreak of leaving while knowing she would never see her parents again. Both her parents passed away before she was allowed to return back to Vietnam in the 1990s. At the time of the video shoot, I wondered if the project was worth triggering my parents’ traumatic memories of the loss of their families, country, and culture, but ultimately, I thought of my nephews and niece growing up in America. This next generation will be even further away from my parents’ story. I feel that it is my duty to document this difficult history now so that future generations will remember the struggles and sacrifices my parents’ generation endured for us.

The generous grant provided by the Knight Foundation means I will be able to purchase the necessary equipment for my installations, such as projectors, speakers, media players, electronic components, microcontrollers, etc. I have a budget for travel to record more footage of stories from Vietnamese refugees across the country. I’ll also have funds to hire a machine learning specialist to help with one of the interactive installations as well as a budget to (shock!) pay me for my time in creating the art. I have mostly self-funded my previous art projects, so this grant will push my work further than I could have achieved on my own. I’m super grateful to the Knight Foundation, and I can’t wait to share the process of making these installations on my blog! I’ve also created Instagram and Facebook pages specifically for this exhibition, which I hope to travel to a few other cities in America with large Vietnamese populations.

Feel free to follow this exhibition if you’d like:

Threads of Passage Instagram

Threads of Passage Facebook