Going Against The Grain: Ysa Le

Ysa Le

ATG loves passionate people like Ysa Le, whose commitment  has supported so many artists in our community. Everyone who meets Ysa will know she has a bubbly, upbeat personality, always willing to land a hand and give words of encouragement.

Ysa began her involvement with arts activism in 2000 when she volunteered for the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA), a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. She served as Board President from 2004-2008 and is currently Executive Director. She has produced and co-produced many events and co-founded the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF).  She recently developed the smART Program, which provides free art workshops to non-profit youth organizations in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas.

In 2005, Ysa was chosen by the Orange County Register as one of the “30 Vietnamese Americans to Watch” in celebrating  the 30th anniversary  of the Vietnamese American community in the United States.

Ysa is a graduate from the University of Southern California, School of Pharmacy and currently works as a pharmacist.

Full Name:

Ysa Le


Saigon, Vietnam

Current City:

Fountain Valley, CA



What does it mean to you to  “Go Against The Grain?”

Unconventional – swimming against the current –  but it needs to be done in order to reach the other shore. Art has always been viewed a secondary in the Vietnamese community.

What made you decide to lead Asian American non-profit for the arts?

I believe art can build the community.  It brings people together by creating understanding among people of different background and age groups.  And I love artists’ energy, passion and creativity.  Their work enriches my life.

What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?

Specifically as a Vietnamese American, I think in the aftermath of the War, the portrayal of Vietnam and Vietnamese people has been narrowed to “the war” by the mainstream media.  Many of the artwork created by the mainstream artists would only focus on their own stories, leaving the Vietnamese people in the background with no voices of their own.  All this would create un urge for community art organizers to present a diversity of stories from our own experience.  Our diversity, in turn, would enrich the American experience and history.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?

I think my biggest accomplishment so far is to introduce new artists to the Vietnamese communities as well as others through different projects by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA).

What’s up next?

The fifth biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), which will take place from April 7-10 & 14-17, 2011 at University of California, Irvine (UCI), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Bowers Museum, Santa Ana.  ViFF will showcase over 50 films made by filmmakers of Vietnamese descent from all over the world.

For more information, visit VAALA and ViFF.

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