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Looking Back at 32 Years of Work in Vietnam 
The early work of the IAP drew on the arts and artists to create a bridge between the United States and Vietnam. In 1988, the conditions and needs were considerably different than one finds
today. Vietnam was still trying to recover from nearly one hundred years of French Colonial occupation and more than thirty years of devastating wars against Japan, France, the United States and China. The economic conditions were extremely poor and life was very difficult. There were no private businesses and everything was under strict government control. In spite of the fact that the Vietnamese government established its “Doi Moi” open door policy in 1986, it was slow to catch on. There were no private galleries and only one museum, the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi. Artists lacked access to good art materials and were only able to travel to other socialist countries. The United States continued to impose a damaging trade embargo against Vietnam and did not establish diplomatic relations until 1995, twenty 
years after the American War ended.

During the summer of 1987, seven years before the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo and eight years before the normalization of relations, David Thomas, IAP founder and Director, traveled to Vietnam with a group of educators under the aegis of the U.S. Indochina Reconciliation Project. This was his first return to Vietnam since serving as a U.S. Army combat artist/engineer in Pleiku, South Vietnam, in 1969-70. During this trip Thomas met with then Deputy Director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, Mr. Nguyen Van Chung, and the idea for the first major cultural exchange project between the United States and Vietnam took root.

Thomas returned to Vietnam during the summer of 1988 and met with officials in Vietnam to continue discussions for an exhibition that would contain twenty artists from each country in an exhibition about the American War in Vietnam. The result of these discussions was the internationally acclaimed exhibition “As Seen by Both Sides: American and Vietnamese Artists Look at the War”. This exhibit marked the beginning of the IAP.

The American art work was selected by artist, Lois Tarlow, photographer and Vietnam Veteran, Bill Short and artist and Vietnam Veteran, David Thomas. The Vietnamese artwork was selected by David Thomas with the assistance of the Ministry of Culture in Hanoi and the Fine Arts Associations in Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. 

This exhibition opened in the Boston in 1989, and traveled to seventeen U.S. venues and three National museums in Vietnam, closing in Ho Chi Minh City In 1994. As far as we know, this was the first time that a serious attempt was made for the people of both countries to see and hear the art and voices from the “other side”.  A fully illustrated 128 page color catalogue accompanied the exhibition and copies of this catalogue are available. Please refer to Contact Tab.


Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Arvada, CO,
May 11 - June 6, 1990
Boston University Art Gallery, Boston, MA,
January 14 - February 24, 1991
Wright Art Gallery, UCLA, Los Angles, CA,
March 24 - May 19, 1991
Art Center of Battle Creek, Battle Creek, MI,
September 1 - October, 19, 1991
Waterworks Visual Arts Center, Salisbury, NC,
November 8 - December 15, 1991
Art and Cultural Center of Hollywood, Hollywood, FL,
January 9 - February 16, 1992
The Baxter Gallery, Maine College of Art, Portland, ME,
March 16 - May 3, 1992
Richard F. Brush Gallery, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY,
Aug. 31 - Oct. 2, 1992
Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, PA,
Nov. 11 - December 23, 1992
Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA,
January 21 - March 10, 1993
Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul, MN, Canceled due to protests. Southwest Missouri 
State University, Springfield, MO,
November 1 - December 15, 1994
National Museum of Fine Arts, Hanoi, Vietnam, 1994
National Gallery of Vietnam, Hai Phong, Vietnam, 1994
National Gallery of Art, Da Nang, Vietnam, 1995
Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum, Ho Chi Minh City,
Vietnam, 1995​

A sixty-minute documentary film about the exhibition was made by the Southeast Asia-Ozark Project located at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. Please contact this organization if interested in viewing.

The IAP’s second exhibition and catalogue was “An Ocean Apart: Contemporary Art from the United States and Vietnam”, which was circulated between 1996 and 2000 by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).  This exhibit’s intent was to serve as a vehicle to begin to heal the deep wounds which still existed between Vietnamese living in the U.S. and those in Vietnam.  

The IAP closed in 2019 after 32 years of exhibits and artist exchanges with Vietnam.

A record of this organization’s work has been placed at the Rockefeller Archive Center where they will be preserved and made accessible to research. The Rockefeller Archive Center is a ​major repository and research center for the study of philanthropy and its impact throughout the world.

They are located at 15 Dayton Avenue, Sleepy Hollow, New York 10591
Phone: (914) 366-6300, Fax: (914) 631-6017, E-mail:
Here is a direct link to their How to Access and Request Materials page:

Click here to view the book titled IAP 1987 - 2019.  The 195-page book contains descriptions and pictures of most of the major projects during that period.

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