REWIND, REVERSE explores cultural identity and connection, as captured through narratives of childhood memories, cultural expression, anxiety, self-acceptance, and the reclamation of identities by youth of color in Orange County.
June 1, 2022 – Orange County, CA – For the first time since the pandemic, the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA), will host REWIND, REVERSE, a culminating exhibit showcasing multidisciplinary art from eleven Orange County youth of color. Artwork can be viewed at Crear Studio on June 4 as part of the monthly DTSA Artwalk and displayed at Steelcraft in Garden Grove from June 10th through June 30th. To celebrate its 30 years, VAALA hosted a three-month Gallery Beyond Walls workshop series as part of its National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program. Gallery Beyond Walls, a VAALA program, is a multi-faceted, visual arts program focused on community arts engagement, facilitating dialogue, and developing leadership skills for future career pathways. In this year’s iteration of Gallery Beyond Walls, youth participants practiced storytelling through the mediums of oral history, memoir-writing, mixed media, monoprinting, dip-dying, comics, and zine-making. Local Vietnamese American teaching artists included TK Le (Oral History/Memoir Writing), Tiffany Le (Mixed Media Arts and Comics), Thinh Nguyen (Dip Dye and Monoprinting), and Viet Vu (Zines and Comics).
Under Program Manager Viet Vu, the Gallery Beyond Walls project was directed by Janet Le, whose urban planning and art background informs her commitment to advocating and creating opportunities for Southern California’s next generation of young creatives. The workshop served 15 local youth of Asian American and Latinx backgrounds. The pieces range from writing and poetry to collage, comics, zines, and illustrated works. For many of the participants, this was the first time they had the opportunity to practice forms of drawing, poetry, writing, and applying mediums of art to tell their stories.
“The participants were given a space to learn and share their experiences with each other. They were challenged to explore their own memories of childhood, relationships to their immigrant families and cultures, and experiences with anxiety and identity. Impacted by the pandemic, they felt the urge to create and connect to others after experiencing sheltering in place for two years. They also learned how to employ writing and art skills to tell these personal and engaging stories,” said Janet Le.
REWIND, REVERSE will be showcased at Crear Studio in Santa Ana, and vinyl reprints will be displayed at Steelcraft in Garden Grove due to its outdoors environment. This exhibition explores cultural identity and connection, as captured through narratives of childhood memories, cultural expression, anxiety, self-acceptance, and the reclamation of identities. REWIND, REVERSE connects with themes from the graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui, and it is also inspired by the second chapter of the book. The graphic memoir traces the author’s journey to uncover her immigrant family’s past. Just as Bui offers glimpses into the lives of her parents to humanize the refugees of the Vietnam War, the young artists present artworks that reconstruct memories, emotions, and significant experiences from their own pasts to diversify stories of the immigrant experience within the community, which continues to change from one generation to the next.
As Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May leads up to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month this June, the artworks reflect the many nuanced experiences of these communities like mental health issues to intergenerational trauma. Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services. According to NAMI, “Studies have shown that a strong sense of ethnic identity is linked to lower suicide risks and predicts higher resilience in the face of racial discrimination (for Asian Americans). LGB youth are more than twice as likely to report experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness than their heterosexual peers. Transgender youth face further disparities as they are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning youth.” According to a 2019 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the arts can improve both mental and physical health.
“We hope that by viewing these pieces of art by our youth and glimpsing into their lives, this will help communities better understand and connect to one another. Though some of the artworks may contain sensitive materials, it is important for the youth and their peers to know that their voices are not marginalized, they are not alone, and their stories can be expressed through art,” said Christine Tran, Managing Director of VAALA.
REWIND, REVERSE is available for view from June 4, showcasing for the first time at the DTSA Artwalk, through June 25 at Crear Studio (222 W 5th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701). Reprints will be displayed at Steelcraft in Garden Grove from June 7th through June 30th. The Steelcraft Opening Exhibition will be on June 10th at 7pm. You can see the exhibition on the second floor at Steelcraft at 12900 S Euclid St, Garden Grove, CA 92840. To learn more about VAALA’s 30 years of history and programming or to donate to VAALA, please visit VAALA.org.
Pictured: The view of the Rewind, Reverse at Crear Studio from outside of the gallery.
Founded in 1991, the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a community-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks to connect and enrich communities through Vietnamese arts and culture. Join VAALA on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
PR CONTACT: Christine Tran, Managing Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
About National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.