#FFAP2014: Introducing Our Exhibiting Artist Line-up

2014 FFAP Arist Collage

DALLAS, TX – Dallas non-profit Against The Grain Productions proudly announces the Exhibiting Artists for its much-anticipated 2014 6th Annual Fashion for a Passion charity event on Saturday, November 1st at Three Three Three First Avenue in Downtown Dallas. Event guests will enjoy each artist’s work in an exciting display of varying media, including film, digital prints, paintings and drawings, and can even take home their favorite pieces during the silent auction portion of the evening. Proceeds from the auction will go to Against The Grain’s supported orphanages in Asia, artistic and leadership scholarship fund and community outreach programs. This year’s artist line-up includes emerging and established Asian American artists, as well as four 2014 Against The Grain Artistic Scholarship Winners.

The 2014 Fashion for a Passion Exhibiting Artists include:

  • Kelly Jackson Brownlee
  • Tam Nguyen
  • LeUyen Pham
  • Elaine Wang
  • Catherine Mai (scholarship winner)
  • Sarah Sullivan (scholarship winner)
  • Calvin Tran (scholarship winner)
  • Dalena Tran (scholarship winner)

Fashion for a Passion Event Information:

  • Saturday, November 1st; 6:30 – 10:00 p.m.
  • Three Three Three First Avenue – 333 1st Avenue, Dallas 75226
  • Tickets go on sale today.
  • $50 for General Admission; $75-$100 for VIP/Reserved.
  • Visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com/events for more information.
  • Sponsorship opportunities are available by emailing Fundraising@AgainstTheGrainProductions.com.

“Fashion for a Passion’s featured artists are at the very heart of what we do as an organization, as they tell our stories in such unique and personal ways,” says ATG President and Co-Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “To be able to share with the community the work of passionate Asian American painters, digital artists and filmmakers is a privilege that we are proud to continue every year.”

This year’s show will again be emceed by LeeAnne Locken (actress/spokesperson/author and social fashionista) along with Elizabeth Dinh (morning news reporter for KTVT/CBS 11, former Miss Asian American Texas and Ambassador for Against The Grain Productions.)

For more press and media information on the event, please contact our marketing and public relations team at PR@AgainstTheGrainProductions.com.


Our 2014 Exhibiting Artist Lineup

Kelly Jackson Brownlee

FFAP 2014 Artist - Kelly Brownlee
Kelly Jackson Brownlee

Originally from Vietnam, Kelly grew up in Seattle, Washington. She studied Illustration at Western Washington University. Kelly is best known for depicting her love of playing on words, life’s sweet morsels and the sparkly world of burlesque. In addition to working as an international freelance illustrator, Kelly Jackson Brownlee has produced art shows in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. She lives in Seattle with her daughter and their cat Gigi. Kelly is also the originator of the Fashion for a Passion event logo.

What does it mean to be selected to exhibit at FFAP?

“It is a huge honor to be part of such a forward-thinking event!”

What do you hope to accomplish by showcasing your work at FFAP?

“I like to bring a smile to people’s lives.”

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

“To do your own thing, regardless of what you think you should do.”

How do you “Go Against The Grain?”

“I march to the beat of my own drum when it comes to my work. There are many ways that we are taught to go with the flow in order to fit in. But I say – do at your own pace and do what makes you happy.”

Tam Nguyen

FFAP Artist - Tam Nguyen
Tam Nguyen

Tam Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in Dallas, Texas. Experiencing his family’s humble beginning in America, he became appreciative and hopeful, learning that if one puts in real work, you may get what you want.

Early signs developed while he was growing up that pointed to one thing – art. A constant fascination in the arts such as drawing and painting has kept Tam delightfully distracted from the traditional study curricula. In grade school, he stood out from his peers due to his gifts. For a shy, short and skinny Asian kid with a chili bowl hair cut, this was his source of confidence, his sense of self. In 2007, he traveled to Pasadena, California, where he spent five years honing skillsets and expanding his artistic perspective. In 2012, he received a B.F.A. in Illustration Design at Art Center College of Design.

Upon graduation, Tam headed back to Dallas to work as an advertising designer and freelance illustrator. He showcased his paintings at galleries around the Los Angeles area, including the Art Center Gallery, Nucleus Gallery and La Luz de Jesus. Back in Dallas, he enjoys exploring all the galleries and art meetings in the area as well as being a member and volunteer at the Dallas Society of Visual Communications. Talent runs in his family. He is also the younger brother of FFAP Veteran Presenting Designer, Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh.

What does it mean to be selected to exhibit at FFAP?

“I was honored when ATG reached out to me to participate. To be a part of this mosaic of lush talent is rewarding. I believe that support is how we make each other better. This event is an opportunity for me to lend any support that I could to the community that is dear to me, all the while, sharing what I love to do with people. It’s a win-win. It’s very fun too.”

What do you hope to accomplish by showcasing your work at FFAP?

“My purpose to showcase my work here is the reason why I make art to begin with – to share it with art lovers! If I can make a meaningful contribution to promote the arts community, I’m in. I want to lend my support to ATG for what you guys do. I hope to build bridges and relationships.”

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

“‘Going Against The Grain’ means having the audacity to live out your truth and the grit to give it all you got – day in and day out.”

How do you “Go Against The Grain?”

“Being an artist can put your love for the craft to the test. People may question you, or you may run into obstacles and have trouble overcoming them. If you love it, you will stick it out to figure it out. So staying dedicated and committed to my artistic pursuits is how I ‘Go Against The Grain.'”

LeUyen Pham

FFAP2014 Artist LeUyen Pham
LeUyen Pham

LeUyen is an award-winning author and illustrator of nearly sixty children’s books. Among her many works: God’s Dream, written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; the New York Times Bestseller series Freckleface Strawberry, written by Julianne Moore; Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio; the Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look; and The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman. She also co-illustrated the New York Times Bestseller Templar, a 450-page graphic novel written by Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, with her husband Alex Puvilland. Her books have garnered numerous awards, including the Society of Illustrators Bronze Medal, the Junior Library Guild award, Parents Magazine selection, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio award. Prior to illustrating books, LeUyen began her career at Dreamworks Feature Animation as a layout artist. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two adorable young boys Leo and Adrien. ATG was honored to have LeUyen serve on the esteemed panel at this year’s Groundbreakers Speak event.

What does it mean to be selected to exhibit at FFAP? What do you hope to accomplish by showcasing your work at FFAP?

“It is an amazing time right now to be an Asian American woman, particularly in the artistic and literary landscape. I think there’s a real hunger to hear all our stories, of our successes as well as our hardships. I hope the audience will take away the sense that our stories have real value and need to be shared with the world.”

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

I have the perfect drawing that answers that question better than I could with words.


brave fish

Elaine Wang

Art - Elaine Wang
Elaine Wang

Elaine Wang is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the current art editor of Boxcar Poetry Magazine. She is Taiwanese American who strangely does not like boba in any of her drinks and prefers to eat them plain and straight from a bowl.

What does it mean to be selected to exhibit at FFAP? What do you hope to accomplish by showcasing your work at FFAP?

“Being selected to exhibit at FFAP is a great opportunity to both show my work and also network with other like-minded artists and art lovers.”

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

” ‘Going Against The Grain’ means having the courage and freedom to pursue new forms of expression and at the same time not being hindered by rigid and pre-conceived constructs that may not be helpful to your own individual artistic journey.  Jhumpa Lahiri, an author that has time and time again superbly written about different immigrant experiences, has a book Unaccustomed Earth with an epigraph from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Custom-House’ which illustrates the need to always strive for new ground:

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.

There is no doubt that the past is important, for without a sense of history one will not know where one comes from or is going.  However, one also must not be burdened by this history to the point of being afraid or unable to strike out for this ‘unaccustomed earth,’ for this is where innovation and advancement lie.”

Catherine Mai

FFAP 2014 Artist Catherine Mai
Catherine Mai

For the past four years, Catherina Mai has entered the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest, winning five gold and three silver keys. She has also been published on TeenInk.com. Because of her background in painting, she decided to write, illustrate and self-publish her own children’s book, Dancing between the Wind, in December 2012. Using nature imagery from the four seasons and an ice cream truck, she encourages children through the book to celebrate their differences. At the book’s end, children can place their own pictures in an empty picture frame to personalize their books.

By selling this book and her art at the fashion store MaxMara at a fundraiser in Vietnam, at farmer’s markets, at Orange County’s largest shopping mall and at her local anti-mall (a place that does everything a mall doesn’t, according to Catherine), she has raised $12,000 for two causes important: the fight against child trafficking and the children’s hospital that saved her life as a newborn. Unable to breathe on her own as a newborn, Catherine received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) from the hospital to survive. She has always had to work hard to concentrate and get A’s instead of B’s, and since curvy letters are frowned upon in Asian culture, at times it has been discouraging for the young artist. Art was one place where she could create things from her own heart, becoming her sanctuary and source of strength.

What does “Going Against The Grain” mean to you?

” ‘Going Against The Grain’ means doing something spectacular and unpredictable with the knowledge of the things you love.  It means going against what others believe I should do with my life and creating my own path based on my experiences and beliefs.”

How do you “Go Against The Grain?”

“I ‘Go Against The Grain’ by doing what I love, art, and combining it with something that can help better the world and community.  With my major in Global Health, I want to create hospitals around the world, so that more people can have access to healthcare, and intertwine art therapy within those hospitals.”

Sarah Sullivan

FFAP 2014 Artist Sarah Sullivan
Sarah Sullivan

Born in China, coming to the United States as an adoptee when she was just four months-old and currently living in Mount Olive, New Jersey, Sarah Sullivan thinks of herself as an artist, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Girl Scout, a mentor and sometimes a bit of a rebel.

During her elementary and middle school years, Sarah was fortunate enough to be selected for the Gifted & Talented Art program, which fueled her passion for creative pursuits.  In high school, she continued to take art classes but also became very involved in the competitive Robotics team, where she learned Computer Animation and was the captain of both the Animation and the Chairman’s subteams.  As the Chairman’s team captain, she was responsible for leading all community outreach activities and charitable initiatives.  For the past two years, she has been a mentor for three middle school-level Robotics teams. Many people assume that her interest in Robotics is related to an affection for science and technology, but she will tell you that that is far from true for her. She loves Robotics because it can help kids learn to use their innate creativity for problem solving and innovation.

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

“Sometimes you have to dare to be different from everyone else or from the ‘expected’ way of doing something. Whether the issue is large or small, impacts society as a whole or just yourself, it can take guts to be the one who is different because it’s usually a lot easier just to conform. For example, there will be times in your life when someone will try to talk you out of something you really want to do. There will be times when people will tell you ‘it’s okay, everyone else is doing it.’ There will be times when you see someone getting bullied, or people trying to cover up a crime, or an entire community standing by and letting something happen that you believe is wrong. Going ‘Against The Grain’ means that when these times come, you will have the courage to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in, no matter what society may want or expect of you.”

How do you “Go Against The Grain?”

“It may sound strange but if going ‘Against The Grain’ is about daring to be different, then I feel like it’s not so much something that I do, but more about something that I am. I feel as if I’m forever going ‘Against The Grain,’ like I’m always zig-zagging when everyone else is walking the straight line. I guess maybe that’s because I’m a creative person, and what is the use for creativity if not to think up, make or do something differently?

I still remember the first piece of art I ever made that I gave a title to. I think I was in the first grade at the time and while all the other kids were drawing flowers or houses or stick figure self-portraits, I was doing a picture of something I had found on our front steps that morning. I called my masterpiece ‘The Bad Cat Ate The Bird’s Head.’ Yep, that was a little unexpected. And that’s me all over…Sometimes the going is tough; it’s easy to doubt my direction when everyone is going the other way. At the end of the day though, the knowledge that my actions are mine alone, and no one else’s, is very satisfying. The times I have changed something for the better is proof enough that going ‘Against The Grain’ is the only way I want to go.”

Calvin Tran

Calvin Tran
Calvin Tran

Calvin Tran was born in Iowa to Vietnamese parents, later moving to Jenison, Michigan following his father’s career in community work and missionary. He began making films in the fifth grade when his brother showed him how to stop-motion animate with legos. From there, his developed a passion for making lego videos, which he posted on YouTube, reaching more than 100,000 views. In high school, he began creating films with his friends, actually getting a cast together and making live-action films. He soon realized his talent for filmmaking and produced a number of award winners, contest submission finalists and some just for fun.

However, Calvin wants you to know one thing about him: His love of economics. On his own time during his sophomore year, he began to study economics, fueling his interest in how the world works. He was later introduced to Carl Menger, Eugen Bohm-Bawerk and Ludwig Von Mises. He began reading the historical work of Murray Rothbard and Tom Woods. He saw the world through new eyes, like those of Jeffrey Tucker, one of his all-time favorites. It makes him cry tears of joy in the supermarket after realizing how far mankind, for millenia, has been struggling against poverty and starvation and now the battle is won. He is amazed and astounded at the simple formation of a pencil (he suggests reading I, Pencil by Leonard Read for more understanding). All of this makes him believe the goodness of humanity as people try to make life better every day. In this way, economics shapes the way he lives his life, the words he says and the films he produces.

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

Is not art meant to convey a message? If so, then why have a message if it is not going ‘Against The Grain?’ Why say something if everyone already agrees? No, we must go ‘Against The Grain’ in order to change the way the world is or has been.

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

I look to new grounds, new worlds of thought, new ideas and new areas to be explored. It’s not surprising that those lands may be filled with groundbreaking subjects and technology that threaten the establishment and promise a better future. That’s why I’ve become deeply involved with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. These aren’t just digital currencies, but are ways to decentralize power and restore trust in whole parts of our busy lives. I look towards the future and all the splendors that it brings. That is why I’m working at a cryptocurrency news site, writing about the effects and changes this technology makes as well as producing media and videos to continue its progress against centralized money manipulation. My writing and my film work have a message, and it is ‘Against The Grain.’

Dalena Tran

DalenaTran Photo
Dalena Tran

Dalena Tran is a self-proclaimed “Earth child with a movie camera.” Currently studying film at the University of Utah with a focus on screenwriting, direction and cinematography, Dalena’s favorite directors include Wong Kar Wai, Andrei Tarkovsky, Michael Haneke and Harmony Korine. When asked about her filmmaking, Dalena offers this: “My art and work are a constant journey to sensitize the apathetic and to bring a conscious unity to our lives. This conscious unity is what allows us to understand each other as individuals and as individuals within a larger cultural landscape.”

This young Chinese and Vietnamese artist has written two feature-length films that she plans to film upon graduation. Her experimental short film, Cooking with a Chameleon, has been screened for an audience at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City. Her projection art, “Seymour,” has been featured at the Black Box Theater and “The Science of Social Media” at the Photo Collective in Salt Lake City. Expanding her repertoire of experience, Dalena is currently working on a music video called “Dil Se” with Huxley Anne, a flower-conscious music producer.

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

“To ‘Go Against The Grain’ means to push into new or abandoned paradigms and disrupting the status quo in order to explore the wealth of the unknown. To go ‘Against The Grain’ means to involve critical underrepresented thoughts and emotions in shaping the standards of a society and an individual’s own identity.”

How do you “Go Against The Grain?”

“I continue to learn about and practice different mediums. I work with old film cameras to explore how aesthetics and visual representation trigger different interpretations of realties. I challenge how and what storytelling should look like and how we as a society recognize film and filmmaking. I have over 10 experimental videos that deal with light, motion and sound in its most basic form.”


ATG Against The Grain Productions, Inc., a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is an innovative resource that creates educational, cultural and artistic opportunities for Asians and Asian Americans through films, media, programs and events; promotes awareness and unity of Asian American culture, artistry and identity; and gives voice to significant, relevant and untold stories in our community. Inspired by the stories from producing/director her award-winning feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, President Tammy Nguyen Lee co-founded ATG in 2008 to help raise funds for orphanages in Asia. Continually reaching out and helping those in need, ATG soon after expanded its philanthropy to include scholarships for impressive Asian American high school, college and graduate artists and leaders, awards to help Asian American adoptees attend heritage and culture camps across the U.S. and host event that provide mentorship and leadership to the community. ATG is made up 100% of volunteers – no one is paid, except in hugs and smiles. Administration and marketing costs are kept to an absolute minimum so nearly 100% of donations can be given away.


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