Traveling Via an Art Lens: a Case Study

What is your favorite flavor of the arts? How often do you connect with the arts during your travels? How can you connect with the art community upon arriving at your destination? 

I offer this case study of my efforts to answer these questions from my time teaching and traveling in Vietnam

My flavors for the arts are visual art, from painting to textiles, ballet and cultural dance, jazz, and classical music. Fortunately, Vietnam has all of these art forms in abundance, especially in national art museums, performance halls, and galleries. 

You may have heard of the opera houses in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi. Did you know they have a year-round program of offerings, including cultural dance, ballet, and symphony orchestra performances? I have attended shows, but I have never had the opportunity to connect with the artists. But I plan to. 

A thriving contemporary music scene in Vietnam includes jazz and big band music. We also get cross-cultural opportunities with the Filipino bands playing at various venues. Fellow educator John F connected to the music scene in Vietnam, making weekly trips to central HCMC music venues and clubs. He painted the picture for me of what I might experience if I stayed up past my usual bedtime to venture into the city’s music scene. ;) 

Another approach to the local Vietnamese culture is to get up early and spend time in the parks. In HCMC, folks exercise and practice Tai Chi before the day’s heat. Later in the morning, I enjoyed watching the ballroom dancing in the park performance areas. 

While not local Vietnamese, there was — and still is — the big-band-playing expatriate band Scott R started that connects foreign and local community members. Many readers will connect with the reference to Scott, who started bands in Hong Kong, HCMC, and now Bahrain!

My deepest dive into local culture came through visiting art galleries and museums and contacting artists to visit their studios. The first step for both HCMC and Hanoi was to find out where the art galleries were. The second step was to find the artists on Instagram and Facebook. I then began visiting the galleries and making friends with the staff and owners who became my teachers. I subscribed to an arts newsletter called Sophie’s Art Tour to keep up with exhibits and openings. 

I visited with artists at openings and in their studios. I also contacted and met artists in Hanoi. You can scan through my Instagram @clubcarp15 account to see some art from my travels. I also collected a listing of art galleries in HCMC. Sophie also provides a listing of some galleries in several cities. 

Enough about my traveling via the arts. What lens might you apply to further experience the local culture during your next trip?

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