Dorchester is already known throughout Massachusetts as the neighborhood in Boston with the largest diversity of residents, however not many realize that a significant percentage of that diversity is Vietnamese. In fact, Fields Corner in Dorchester has even been recognized as “the heart of the Vietnamese community in Boston.” As the immigrant population continues to grow in Dorchester, there are many residents, such as local Dorchester artist and youth organizer Tran Vu, who seek to unite the Vietnamese people with every other group in the community.
Ngoc-Tran Vu, a multimedia artist who is best known as “Tran,” has won a $10,000 grant to design and paint a permanent mural celebrating Vietnamese culture in Fields Corner. The artwork will adorn the side of the Pho Hoa restaurant across from Dot House Health and is scheduled to be completed by this fall.
“I feel honored, excited, proud,” Le told the Reporter. “Honored that Tran has decided to use our wall to create what we anticipate to be a beautiful homage to our heritage and community, excited to see the community come together to share the experience of the creation of the piece, proud of Tran and her dedication to the Vietnamese community. I could not think of a more fitting person nor a more fitting medium to achieve this than Tran’s mural,” he said.
Vu is collecting the experiences of immigrants like her own family in the first project of its kind to focus on one of the Boston area’s largest and most overlooked refugee groups. She is facilitating the recording of oral histories of both the Vietnamese diaspora in the U.S., and American veterans of the Vietnam War, to create an oral history of their journeys that will be stored at the Library of Congress.
Her work is part of public’s television’s American Experience, and was born out of “Last Days in Vietnam,” an Oscar-nominated documentary that chronicles the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War, and was directed by Rory Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy’s youngest daughter.
The ExpressingBoston Public Art Fellowship is a nine-month fellowship funded through the Boston Foundation with creative leadership by Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) focused on fostering a community of practice for those engaging in innovative public art. The ten 2014 fellows represent a cross-section of artists predominantly from the neighborhoods along the Fairmount Cultural Corridor and will produce public art along the Fairmount Line. This fellowship supports artists in thinking through and testing new ways to do their art practice in public spaces, in ways that increase the authority that artists and community members feel to activate public spaces in their neighborhoods.
As 2013-14 IA/JGS Fellows, ten publicly engaged students of photography and digital media participated in a yearlong working group. Each month, the Fellows convened virtually to delve into topics related to their artistic practice, academic experience, and civic life. In this first Imagining America Vlog Chat, we asked two of this year’s outgoing Fellows, Edgar Reyes and Ngoc-Tran Vu to interview each other about the experiences that motivate and inform their work.
Ngoc-Tran Vu's thirst for knowledge about racism and injustice has taken her to Cuba, an American Indian reservation in Montana, and along the trail of the Freedom Riders in the South.