Sight and Sound 12.2

Page 21

Chopsticks Alley Art Incredible art can be found everywhere we go, but it takes a certain presentation to make the brilliance visible to many. Chopsticks Alley Art gives underrepresented artists opportunities to be paid and featured in an honorable way.


Written by Esther Young Photography by Peter Salcido Chopsticks Alley Art (Olinder Community Center) 848 East William Street San Jose, CA 95116 Instagram chopsticksalleyart

he more attention that our careers and home lives demand of us, the deeper we feel the urge to return to ourselves—our origins and the people who remind us of our power in the spaces we inhabit. Chopsticks Alley Art cultivates this cultural and artistic oasis, run by and for the people whose voices it amplifies. Coordinating gatherings ranging from cultural cooking classes to poetry performances to festivals to pioneering art exhibitions, they expertly frame traditional values in awareness with the new and celebrate these bright new expressions with delicious food at events that are nearly always sold out. But altogether, the volunteers and artists behind Chopsticks Alley Art serve one main mission: to bring visibility to the brilliance of individual Southeast Asian cultural expressions that are not yet recognized in the mainstream. Trami Nguyen Cron, the founder of Chopsticks Alley Art, lived in cultural crossroads for most of her life. In the 1980s, when many Vietnamese immigrants were fleeing postwar communism by boats, Trami became a political refugee in

France. Because her familial structure was changing as well, she flip-flopped between American and French schools, jumping back and forth between grades. Chopsticks Alley Art was born out of a need she felt herself, after earning an American marketing degree, climbing the corporate ladder, and starting several successful businesses of her own. Looking up novels about Vietnamese Americans one day, she found mostly narratives about refugees and boat people. “We have this beautiful culture and so many stories,” she thought to herself. “I’m going to write mine.” Her 2016 debut novel, VietnamEazy: A Novel about Mothers, Daughters and Food, placed her in San Jose, which contains the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam. As a trilingual emcee for community events, Trami noticed there was plenty of media and entertainment catering to the interests of older Vietnamese folks. When she proposed starting a forprofit publication for a younger Vietnamese audience to her reader base, the response was overwhelmingly positive. 21