vy ngo

nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

Vy Ngo bears many titles: artist, doctor, wife, mom, first-generation immigrant. For the past two years she’s been working on her most recent art collection: The IN Between. The IN Between is an art exhibit that explores the ideas of immigration and finding acceptance within one’s ethnic heritage, within America, and within oneself. 

“The show is based on my life from childhood to adolescence,” Vy shares. “I remember feeling like school and home were these two separate worlds. When I stepped into my home, I was in Vietnam. When I stepped into school, I was in America. And I didn't feel like I fit in either one hundred percent.”

Feeling stuck between two worlds and cultures is a common theme for first-generation immigrants. Often it’s a push and pull, where one is either too much or not enough. As a result, identity becomes a tricky thing to navigate or even define. Vy grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where it felt like her family’s home was an isolated island of Vietnamese culture. Throughout her childhood, Vy dealt with conflicting messages about who she was perceived to be. Eventually, those conflicting messages became a wider definition of what self and identity meant to her.

“Having blended identities really works to our benefit,” Vy believes. “We can celebrate individuality, but we also understand the importance of family, tribe, community, and how we can come together and serve each other. It gives a greater context to our own identity and what we can do.”

Having blended identities really works to our benefit. We can celebrate individuality, but we also understand the importance of family, tribe, community, and how we can come together and serve each other. It gives a greater context to our own identity and what we can do.
— Vy Ngo
hand me downs  by vy ngo

hand me downs by vy ngo

Through The IN Between, Vy aims to present her perspective on identity and also the conversation around immigration at large. Immigration has been at the top of our nation’s conscience for a few years now. Our current president shamelessly campaigned for both a Muslim ban and a wall along the Mexican border. These days, it’s near impossible to turn on the news and avoid headlines about the inhumane treatment of immigrants and refugees. 

“The timing of the show wasn't intentional. It's just a part of a narrative of my life and in the greater context of America,” shares Vy. “America used to be a symbol of hope and prosperity for people that are suffering worldwide. But we've lost that footing with the current administration.” 

Though Vy was born in the United States, her parents were Vietnamese refugees. While she was still in the womb, they made the treacherous trip across the ocean to seek asylum. 

“I have no fear of change and it's because of the vast risk my parents took to come here,” Vy asserts. “How could I possibly fear anything? My parents faced life and death for their unborn child. They got on a boat, not knowing where they'll end up, leaving everything they knew in the middle of the night.”

I have no fear of change and it’s because of the vast risk my parents took to come here. How could I possibly fear anything? My parents faced life and death for their unborn child. They got on a boat, not knowing where they’ll end up, leaving everything they knew in the middle of the night.
nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

Vy’s fearlessness, strength, and vulnerability are common themes in the exhibit, and one piece that exemplifies this complexity is Go Back to Your Rice Paddies.

“That piece is one of the very first pieces I knew I wanted to paint when I started the series,” Vy recalls. “It’s a beautiful landscape that’s vibrant. It's a double meaning because it’s about me coming home. And acceptance. But it's also a negative thing, because that's what I heard growing up that was very racist and discriminatory.”

As a child hearing these taunts, Vy had never even been to Vietnam or seen rice paddies. The image of “rice paddies” represented a place she didn’t know but was expected to carry with her as evidence of not belonging. Coming back to those feelings as an adult has been a cathartic process for her, one that she’s ready to share with her community.

“The show has been a great way for me to circle back internally and close a lot of loops. It was very healing,” Vy reflects. “My other hope for the show is that we as a country and community can heal in these conversations. Let's heal our trauma first if we're going to move forward and grow. We need to acknowledge the ugly before we can move on.”

To initiate conversation and actionable impact, missfits is partnering with Vy Ngo to present The IN Between: an artist talk and community panel about the past, present, and future of immigration. 

While Vy’s exhibit touches on the past and present faces of immigration, it’s important to have a space to talk about the future of immigration. On September 25, missfits is hosting a moderated panel with a focus on the Latinx community. 

Join us for an artist talk with Vy and a community panel with members of RAICES, Casa Marianella, and Jolt Texas to discuss immigration from a broad variety of perspectives – artistic, legal, social, and political.

We’ll have a community raffle and 100% of proceeds will go to RAICES. A portion of the artwork sold from the exhibit will also go towards RAICES. 

This artist talk and community panel is free and all are welcomed. RSVP here. If you aren’t able to attend, you can keep up with Vy and her work on Instagram.

go back to your rice paddies  by vy ngo

go back to your rice paddies by vy ngo

charles moon

explore-definition (1).png

Like a lot of military kids, Charles Moon is used to being on the move. When he was younger, that meant new cities and new schools. Now as an adult and creative, that means being open to experimenting with new ideas, projects, and media. 

Charles’ many titles (DJ, sound engineer, photographer, event producer... the list goes on), his eagerness to keep learning, and his love for outer space inspired this month’s theme: explore.

Charles’ first experiments with beats and production started in high school. In the early days, he and his friends would beat boredom by rapping on beats that Charles would create. His friends’ positive reactions and enthusiasm provided him with validation that he was good enough to keep going and fueled Charles to pursue music more seriously.

His interests in music carried on into his college years at Texas Tech where he was an Exercise Science student by day and a studio intern by night. His experience at the studio in Lubbock opened doors for him to refine his skills and expand into event production through ScoreMore Shows. 

I slept on a friend’s couch and applied to every studio that was in town, even walking up and knocking on doors.
nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

A few years after graduating college, Charles admits that he “felt like he just hit a ceiling and couldn't do anything more.” His mentor cautioned that he would “plateau” if he stayed in Lubbock, so Charles heeded his advice to move to Austin.

“I slept on a friend's couch,” Charles recalls. “And applied to every studio that was in town, even walking up and knocking on doors.”

Charles’ persistence paid off and one of the major studios in Austin, Orb Recording Studios, hired him on as an intern.

“At first I was just a fly on the wall. I had a notebook and a stool and was sitting literally next to the shoulder of the engineers like, ‘What did you just do?’”

I had a notebook and a stool and was sitting literally next to the shoulder of the engineers like, ‘What did you just do?’

Charles’ constant pursuit of learning and evident passion for music catapulted him to the role of Studio Manager within two years. True to form, once he felt like he had learned all he could at Orb, Charles moved on to a completely new project: Thank You for Sweating.

Inspired by his tenure at ScoreMore Shows, Charles wanted to create a “late night free flowing party where every type of person you can think of is there enjoying each other and dancing and being sweaty.”

I love space. I love staring at the horizon, seeing as far as you can see, and not having any idea what’s out there.
nina ho // collective blue

nina ho // collective blue

He and his friend decided to pull the trigger on purchasing the domain on a wine-induced whim. At this point Charles had learned that there isn’t really ever going to be a “perfect” time for anything, and that some of life’s best opportunities come from not overthinking and simply taking the leap, even when you don’t quite know where you’ll land.

A life-long risk taker, Charles’ comfort with the unknown stems from his name, “Moon” and its ties to the limitlessness of outer space.

“I love space,” he reflects. “I love staring at the horizon, seeing as far as you can see, and not having any idea what’s out there.”

For Charles, looking up into the sky is a humbling reminder of his comparative size in the world. Gazing into the vastness of space and realizing that no matter what happens to him the world is going to keep spinning gives him a sense of freedom.

“I'm just not afraid to try something different,” asserts Charles. “I struggle with associating an identity with the work that I do. I don't ever want to limit myself to one genre or to one form.”

Thank You for Sweating and his other projects give him the opportunity to explore new ways to create and collaborate with other creatives in town.

“I created a haven for creatives to come and hang out and party and feel good. Now they're meeting each other and the work is expanding,” Charles shares. “I think that's awesome. I love connecting people and seeing what happens.”

When asked about what’s coming next, Charles admits that he takes it day by day.

“That's what life is about. It's just the constant pursuit of trying to learn more.”

Keep up with Charles’ projects on IG and follow Thank You For Sweating for the latest news on their events and parties!

hamaila qureshi


The collective blue team – Nina and myself (Regine) – are constantly reflecting on what it means to be Asian-American and the expectations, beauty, and challenges that come with our respective backgrounds.

Within the context of a hyper-inclusive label (“Asia” consists of 48 countries), people are at different stages on their journey of unpacking the complexities of their respective cultural identity. In recognition of May as Asian and Pacific Heritage Month (APAHM), we’re featuring Hamaila Qureshi as this month’s creator.  Her discoveries about herself and the complex identities she holds inspired our theme: awaken.

Hamaila Qureshi is a local jewelry maker and entrepreneur. She’s also eager to let everyone know that she recently got a job at Limbo Jewelry, one of her favorite shops in Austin, as a Jewelry Production Assistant. Piece by piece, she’s creating a career and life for herself that brings her joy. However, the path to get to this place of creative expression and fulfillment wasn’t easy.

nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

As the eldest daughter of four, Hamaila grew up with a distinct sense of familial responsibility. After high school, she went down the expected respectable Asian career path: pharmacy. Though it obviously wasn't where she was supposed to be, Hamaila toughed it out for two years to the detriment of her mental health and creative spirit. After a lot of tumultuous changes, she ultimately graduated with a degree in nutrition and moved to Los Angeles to work at a non-profit.

She returned to Austin after a year. Feeling like she had fulfilled her responsibility to pursue the “right” path (or at least attempt to), she decided to finally pursue the arts.

“I just started taking classes [at Austin Community College] to see what I liked, ” recalls Hamaila. “I started doing whatever I wanted to – art, metals, woodworking, graphic design, and drafting as well.”

It wasn’t until two years into her experimentation that she found something that stuck: jewelry making. An adult by the time she discovered her love and aptitude for creating jewelry pieces, she received some pushback from her family when she first started pursuing it as a career.

nina ho//collective blue

nina ho//collective blue

Making jewelry was far from the job  that her parents had envisioned for her, and it was difficult for them to understand why Hamaila would reject traditional stability or to even trust that she would find a way to make it work.

A part of that challenge stemmed from her Pakistani background. “Our community definitely treats women who are married versus unmarried very, very differently. They feel like you don't mature or become an adult until you are married,” asserts Hamaila. “[I’ve been trying to] bridge that gap with my mom. I understand I'm not married. … But that doesn't mean I'm still a child. I have my own thoughts and ideas and things I want to accomplish.”

As Hamaila gained traction not only as a jewelry maker but as an entrepreneur, her parents’ attitudes toward her creative path shifted.

“For the first few years of ACC classes, they were like, ‘What are you gonna do with this?’” shares Hamaila. “And then as soon as I started my own business, my mom was over the moon.”

Alongside her journey of crafting a fulfilling career, Hamaila shares her reflections on identity and what it means for her to be a modern Pakistan-American woman.

“For the longest time, I grew up in a bubble. I never analyzed my identity much,” Hamaila admits. “I was such a sheltered child. I always just listened to whatever my parents said without even questioning it. It was only in the last few years that I've stepped back and realized, ‘Wait a second, I should start thinking for myself.’”

For Hamaila, thinking for herself involved not only sorting out the conflicting influences in her life but also finding examples of what alternatives could look like for her. As Hamaila embedded herself more deeply into the creative and maker community, she started to realize that her identities as modern, Pakistani-American, and woman don’t need to clash. Rather, there are ways to express herself that are authentic and tie all the parts of her together.

“Now I'm finding more and more Pakistani women who are Muslims, but they manifested very differently than how I had seen it growing up,” reflects Hamaila. “And to me that just opens up so many doors.”

One particularly inspiring role model for Hamaila is Fatimah Asghar, a Pakistani-American poet,  filmmaker, educator, and performer. Women like Fatimah and other people Hamaila have connected with since pursuing creative work serve as both inspiration and living reminders of the opportunities that she can create for herself.

“I would have never imagined I'd be here a year ago,” reflects Hamaila. “A year ago, I was just starting to take classes in jewelry. I never thought that I would actually push myself and make my own community or my own company.”

You can support Hamaila’s work by following her on Instagram and buying her jewelry online and at local vendor markets. She’ll be participating in West Austin Studio Tour at the ACC Highland campus on May 11-12 and May 18-19.

If you’re particularly interested in the conversations around Asian-American womxn and identity, you can follow missfits fest on IG for the latest news on our event series in collaboration with in bold company.

On May 19, we’re collaborating Miranda Bennett Studio to throw Interwoven Histories: A Sunday Social to celebrate our shared histories as Asian-American womxn. Join us for community, a moderated panel, and opportunities to shop from female Asian-American makers curated by MBS.

We’ll also have light refreshments, an interactive art installation using zero waste scraps from Miranda Bennett Studio, and chances to win some fire raffle prizes. Tickets are available now!

Happy #APAHM, y’all.