Recent Holy Cross Graduate Awarded Fulbright to Study Art in Vietnam

Vo ’09 aims to deepen his understanding of family history, exile, and identity

John Vo ’09, of Worcester, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to paint and study contemporary and traditional Vietnamese art in his parents’ birthplace of Vietnam.

Vo’s parents immigrated to America in 1987. For the past several years, Vo, who double majored in philosophy and studio art, has been creating narrative paintings that focus on his parents’ experiences and stories.

“Through my art it has become clear to me that I must explore this void in my identity and deepen my understanding of exile by going to Vietnam and experiencing what my parents were forced to leave behind,” he wrote in his statement of grant purpose to the Fulbright Program.

He wrote: “I want the chance to be able to experience Vietnam, and visit memorial sites, such as Vinh Moc tunnels and the My Lai Massacre Museum. These are the kinds of encounters I cannot obtain from books or the Internet. Moreover, these are the experiences my paintings try to explain.”

While he is in Vietnam, Vo will learn the Vietnamese art forms of silk painting and woodblock printing. Vietnamese woodblock printing is an admired art form because of its significance in Tet (Lunar New Year) decorations. He will study at Ho Chi Minh City’s San-Art, a non-profit organization which provides exhibition space, residency programs for young artists, lecture series and an exchange program that invites international artists and curators to organize or collaborate on exhibitions.

Vo says an exhibition titled Changing Identity: Recent Works by Women Artists from Vietnam, held in Holy Cross’ Cantor Art Gallery during his senior year, helped spur him to apply for a Fulbright award.

“When I stood in front of those pieces I could not help but feel a connection,” he said.

Over the last year, Vo has been creating artwork and putting on shows in Boston. At Holy Cross, he was involved with ASIA (Asian Students in Action) and the Gesso student art society.

Vo also credits Anthony Cashman, director of Holy Cross’ Office of Distinguished Fellowships and Graduate Studies, in shepherding him through the Fulbright applications process.

Each year approximately 1,000 college students are awarded grants through the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship program in international educational exchange. Fulbright grants are made to U.S. citizens and nationals of other countries for a variety of educational activities, primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study and teaching in elementary and secondary schools. Since the program’s inception in 1946, more than 250,000 participants — chosen for their leadership potential — have had the opportunity to observe each other’s political, economic and cultural institutions.

Read about this year's three other Holy Cross Fulbright Grant recipients: Connor Hayden '10, Kaitlyn Mearn '07, Stacy Nazzaro '10, and Olivia Pruszko '10.

April 23, 2010|nm