'Little Saigon Stories' interactive art installation opens in City Heights

Little Saigon

An interactive art exhibit highlighting the stories of City Heights' rich Vietnamese community, commonly referred to as Little Saigon, will be opening Friday, January 18th at Fair@44.

The outdoor exhibit, titled 'Little Saigon Stories,' is a collaborative project organized in partnership by the Media Arts Center San Diego, City Heights' Aja Project, The Little Saigon Foundation, and the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association. The exhibit is meant to create a larger public conversation regarding the history of Vietnamese relations in America and the experiences of those who bridge both worlds.

In a statement to the Union-Tribune, Media Arts Center San Diego's Natalia Valerdi-Rogers said, "The idea is to create dialogue about this community and to have something that they can be proud of that's beautiful."

City Heights, a neighborhood primarily comprised of Vietnamese, East African and Latinx communities, is a shining example of San Diego's history as a welcoming destination for refugees and immigrants abroad. Since 2017, program organizers have worked with local students of immigrant backgrounds to conduct oral history interviews within their communities. These projects, organizers hope, will encourage community members to continue proudly telling their stories.

The Aja Project's Rizzhel Javier curated the exhibit. As a teaching artist with the non-profit organization, Javier noted that many of her students wanted to highlight their identities outside of the historically-imposed veil of war.

"My main goal is for my students to find a way to comfortably talk about who they are, where they came from, and for the community to recognize some of the underrepresented communities in San Diego such as the Little Saigon District," Javier said to the U-T.

The Little Saigon Stories exhibit opens Friday, January 19th from 4pm to 8pm. The event will include food, performances by local artists, and an interactive activity that encourages all who attend to contribute their own stories to the wall. The exhibit will be on display until mid-March.

The mobile exhibit's grand opening, a free event from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, will include food vendors and performances by local artists, and the installation will be available for viewing through mid-March. The exhibit will also be on display at the San Diego Tet Festival from February 1-3.