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Georgia Southern art students study in Vietnam May 16-31

Nine Georgia Southern art students will travel to Vietnam May 16-31 to immerse themselves in the culture of Vietnam and produce a body of artwork that is representative of their Vietnamese experience. The two courses they will take during their journey and immediately after will culminate in an exhibition at the Legends Gallery of Statesboro’s Averitt Center on Friday, June 22, beginning at 7 p.m.

‘When I told my dad I wanted to travel to Vietnam, he wasn’t enthusiastic,” said James Bentley, a senior photography major from Tucker, Ga., who will be making the trip. ‘Like many Americans, he thought of the Vietnam of the 1960s and 70s during the war. But today’s Vietnam has a growing economy and a changing population. In fact, they just joined the World Trade Organization in January 2007. I’ve done readings and videos to prepare myself, and I am looking forward to the experience.”

The student travelers will take a course titled ‘Visual Culture of Vietnam,” looking at Vietnamese art in relationship to its audiences and environment. Prior to departure, the students and faculty will meet to orient themselves to the culture and review what is expected in the course. For the second course, ‘Studio Exploration Abroad,” students will create a series of artworks based on their direct experience in Vietnam. While there, students will work daily with faculty to determine the scope and concept of their creative work.

‘We’ve already begun to meet about their projects, because we want the students to be prepared when they arrive in Vietnam,” said Jeff Beekman, assistant professor of art, who will travel with the students. ‘They are mapping,’ or creating a proposal, for the work they want to accomplish there. In the transition from studio to environment, it’s important to have systems in place to collect raw materials to take back to the studio.”

Beekman and colleague Megan Jacobs, also an assistant professor of art, developed the two study abroad courses and planned the trip with support from Georgia Southern’s Center for International Studies, which helped with the logistics of the trip. Two other faculty members, Jessica Hines and Marianna Depetris, will also travel with the students.

The students’ itinerary takes them from Atlanta to Seoul, South Korea, to their final destination, Ho Chi Minh City, where there is a thriving contemporary art scene. They will also visit Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital for more than a thousand years and home to the Vietnamese National History Museum, the National Museum of Ethnology, the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Revolution Museum. They will spend a day at the ‘Little Rose” shelter, an orphanage for girls 12-18, where they will deliver art supplies.

‘My mother teaches at Nevils Elementary School, and she has organized a drive to get donations of art supplies for us to take to the children there,” said Kimberly Kaiser of Statesboro, a senior art student who will travel with the group.

Wei Wang, another of the student travelers, lived in China for his first 15 years. He moved to Atlanta eight years ago and is excited to return to Asia.

‘I will be looking for the similarities between Vietnam and China, and expecting to see some similarities from my childhood,” he said. ‘I also want to see the reaction of the Vietnamese to the American students. On many levels, this will be a great learning experience.”

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