#GiveInMay for VAALA
The mission of the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is
to connect and enrich communities through Vietnamese arts and culture.
In 1991, a group of Vietnamese American journalists, artists and community members formed the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) to fill a void and provide a space for artists to express themselves as a newly resettled immigrant community in Orange County. Since then, VAALA has been rooted in the community and remains the only Southern California arts organization providing high-quality, community-based arts programming focused on nurturing and highlighting the intersections of the Vietnamese experience.
VAALA programming includes art exhibitions, book readings, music recitals, theater, and signature events like Viet Film Fest and Gallery Beyond Walls. These events inspire conversation and discovery and engage all stakeholders - community members, volunteers, partners, and emerging and experienced artists. VAALA is frequently sought after to offer Vietnamese artistic and cultural expertise and has collaborated with over 300 entities both locally and globally in business, government, media, and education.
Although its offering to the community centers on lifting up Vietnamese stories, VAALA recognizes that Vietnamese identities are not a monolith and reflected in a diverse set of experiences and intersectionalities (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, etc.). These intersections of the “Vietnamese experience” can be expressed through art and enables community members to create, witness, and validate their own stories, particularly those holding marginalized identities within the Vietnamese diaspora. Through this, art becomes a vehicle for healing, intercultural connection, and creative expression. Currently, our programming consists of four pillars:
(1) Viet Film Fest (VFF): Since 2003, VFF has been the largest and only film festival in the world that celebrates Vietnamese stories and voices in cinema. VFF draws an annual, on-site audience of over 5,000 people and offers special screenings and programming at no cost (Senior/High School Day) to ensure equitable access to VFF films.
(2) Gallery Beyond Walls (GBW): A multi-faceted arts program, GBW engaging the community directly in the arts, facilitates dialogue and amplifies marginalized voices. Workshops and exhibits enable collaboration between the larger community and experienced artists and culminate in a community exhibition or screening.
(3) VAALA NextGen: VAALA offers multi-session art workshops to local youth of color (ages 14-26) through a variety of artistic mediums. Past Projects have included Youth in Motion, a film workshop for emerging filmmakers, Project Foto, a creative space for women-identified youth while fostering positive self-esteem through printmaking, photography, and video skills, and more recently, Illuminated Recipes, which uses the power of food and art to document the refugee experience, elicit conversation and promote intergenerational connections.
(4) Viet Book Fest (VBF): In 2020, VAALA launched its newest program in the virtual space to celebrate Vietnamese voices in literature. In partnership with UCI, Viet Book Fest highlighted children’s books in its inaugural year and drew 7,700 views on its virtual streams, and was rated “Very Good” by 95% of attendees surveyed. The event received coverage by Voice of OC, LA Times, Little Saigon TV and Central Broadcasting Network.