Food is often viscerally associated with memories, places, traditions, and personal and collective history. Food tells stories. It has a who, a where, and a why. For refugees, it can be a source of solace or a survival necessity. Illuminated Recipes is a project that uses the power of food and art to document the refugee experience, foster conversation, and connect people across generations and cultures.

The Illuminated Recipes project’s purpose is to contribute to diversifying the story of the Vietnamese American refugee experience and the larger American immigrant narrative through the mediums of storytelling and oral history, photography, and mixed media art with food as the compelling connection. VAALA aims to provide a space for young adults (ages 16-26) to have access to learning and participating in art and storytelling for free. This project is a 12-week program where the participants will be mentored and trained by expert instructors.

Workshop Dates:
Sundays from 10am to 1pm from April 7th to June 30th

Sign Up Deadline:
March 27, 2019

Re-discover your roots

Share the topic of food through storytelling, photography, and mixed media.

Learning Outcomes:

The intended learning outcomes of the program are for the participants to walk away with a foundational understanding of storytelling, photography, and mixed media art skills, as well as an illuminated re-connection to their roots and identity through the topic of food. As a collaboration between James Dinh and the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA), the project will be implemented through the Gallery Beyond Walls program, one of the organization’s key community programs. As stated on the VAALA website: “Gallery Beyond walls is a multi-faceted, visual arts program focused on engaging the community in the arts, facilitating dialogue, revitalizing marginalized communities, and highlighting freedom of expression.” We also intend to curate the artworks to be exhibited at a gallery or public space and for the recipes and art to be published into a book for purchase. Proceeds will go to VAALA, a non-profit organization promoting the arts in the Vietnamese community in Orange County.


If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Christine Tran, Project Director, at

Sponsor Us:

Without potential sponsors like you, we would not be able to support this project. VAALA is run by volunteers and organizers who are passionate about educating the youth in reconnecting with their roots and the arts. Your sponsorship will go towards things like: supplies for our workshops, the printing of our cookbooks, organizing our pop-up restaurant, and finding talented mentors that will host these workshops. Your name will be included in our cookbooks and events, because we can't thank you enough!

VAALA would like to express gratitude to the Critical Refugee Studies Collective for help fund this project.