November 01, 2007
Emerging Artists Works, Culture on Display
to Capacity Crowd on October 30
It was the culmination of years of planning, long hours and
trips to and from Vietnam for Dr. Hung P.
Le, Assistant Dean of the Graduate Division of St. John’s
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. And, in a landmark
undertaking, Professor Le and Parvez Moshin, Curator of the Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art
Gallery at St. John’s University pulled together the
unthinkable in landing 13 of Vietnam’s emerging artists for an
opening exhibit entitled, “Vietnamese
Modernism” which debuted at the University’s Queens Campus on
This exhibit partnered the works of Vietnam’s most talented
artists with the cultures of their homeland by presenting
traditional dress modeled by St. John’s students, which met with
the overwhelming approval of a crowd of more than 250 assembled in
the Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery in Sun Yat Sen Hall on the
University’s Queens Campus.
“I’m amazed by the strong support of the University, never
thinking this event would rise to the magnitude that it has,” said
Moshin. “Dr. Le has enabled two nations to share their mutual
understanding of the visual arts and the experience has inspired me
to want to do more. It has been amazing. The art scene in Vietnam
is bustling and about to explode and we were lucky enough to
convince these talented artists to showcase their amazing talents
and give them the opportunity to market their work in the United
These aspiring artists, most of whom are making their first trip
to the U.S., made the 23 ½ hour trek from their homeland with the
ever-present possibility of jump-starting their artistic careers.
And if the opening night’s success of the exhibit (which runs
through January 15, 2008) is any indication – all have bright
futures to look forward to in their professions.
“The success of the gallery is a pleasure for us because my
colleagues and I worked so hard and put so much time into it,” said
Nguyen Quang Duc, Vietnamese painter who displayed seven of his
works and spoke through an interpreter. “We are very happy to see
so many people especially the St. John’s students experience our
work and culture too.“
Dating back to 2002 when the first Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) was signed with Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training
(which designates its best and brightest scholars to be formally
educated throughout the world); St. John’s University has had a
long-standing relationship in sharing academic and athletic
philosophies. In turn, the main purpose of the MOU was to educate
students from both countries with study abroad programs that
incorporate cultural curriculum and provide service learning
initiatives that adhere to St. John’s Vincentian Mission.
Dr. Le was an integral part of that first “White Paper” Vietnam
proposal that was written by Vice President for Student Affairs,
Rev. James J. Maher, C.M. Elements of that original “White Paper”
document have been adopted into the core curriculum by St. John’s
Dean Jeffrey Fagen, in the areas of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The initiative continues to reap benefits for current and future
students, faculty and sports administrators from both sides of the
sports element was added to the initiative two years, as St.
John’s University’s Men’s Soccer and Women’s Volleyball teams both
traveled to Vietnam for competition. This partnership with the
Vietnamese Sports Ministry also plans to expand and include the
organizing of coaching clinics and training seminars in the U.S.
for a select group of Vietnamese coaches in the near future.
“I think it’s a wonderful example of the range of what St.
John’s can offer Vietnam and what Vietnam can offer to St. John’s,”
said Rev. Maher, C.M., about the exhibit. “The cultures continue to
burgeon and share their own expressiveness and I think that’s the
way to get a feel – even though you haven’t been to Vietnam –
because Vietnam has come to us. That’s what art should do, that’s
what academics and sports should do - is really build bridges
between peoples and cultures and I think that’s what something like
Dean Fagen agreed and quoted from a favorite poet in expressing
“Amy Lowell, prize winning poet once wrote, ‘Art is the desire
of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his
personality to the world he lives in.’ I think that sentence
captures the essence of this exhibit,” said Fagen. “I have been to
Vietnam four times in the last four years and I have come to
appreciate the beauty of this country and its people. The exhibit
will give visitors to our art gallery a taste of that beauty. “
This exhibit has taken on special meaning for Dr. Le, who has
accepted a job offer back in his homeland of Vietnam and will be
leaving the University at the end of the current academic
“I leave with a heavy heart. I wish St. John’s the very best of
luck and hope that they continue to be bold and creative,” said Dr.
Le adorned in bright gold, traditional Vietnamese dress, which was
also a focal point of the exhibit presentation. “And, to always try
to do the impossible. It can happen if you have the courage and
ability to push the envelope.”
And what has Mr. Quang Duc and the other artists enjoyed most
about their short time in New York.
“It has to be the weather,” he said. “It’s so nice and cool and
not as humid as in Vietnam.”
The simple things that New York has to offer might be what’s
most coveted today by these first-time visitors to the States, but
the shared artistic works and cultural exchanges for both the
artists and St. John’s community will be the things that last