April 30, 2013


In March I had the privilege of working with Jo Caust, Jane Haley and Thuy Do to co-present workshops on Income Generation in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The workshops, jointly funded by the Vietnam Institute for Cultural and Arts Studies and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, were designed to give practical tools as well as inspirational stories on all sorts of ways of raising income including audience development, business partnerships, philanthropy and fundraising activities.


The audience was made up of cultural managers, artists, academics and government officials. They were amazing in their concentration and their interest. As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy  – giving up 3 days’ work to spend hours in a room listening to presentations in translation. Their responsibilities and interests included theatre and circus, public and private museums, cultural centres and arts management programs. One of the most wonderful parts of the seminars in both cities was when the participants would perform – sometimes it was to provide some inspiration on the day, sometimes to illustrate a case study, sometimes to thank us and sometimes just for fun. I haven’t been to any other training programs where art was such an integral part of the process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Presenters, translators and Ho Chi Minh

The challenge for Vietnamese Arts Managers is that in difficult economic times, the government is pushing them to become more self-sufficient but the policy and taxation framework isn’t yet there. One thinks of Australia 20 years ago, before Abaf, before the Cultural Register, before Prescribed Private Funds, where the culture of giving to arts and cultural organisations existed but wasn’t wide spread. And of course each country will have its own traditions when it comes to donations. In Vietnam, people clearly donate to temples and churches but they also have to provide financial support for the health and education of family members. So one suspects that cultural giving will be low on the list in the current economic climate.

We met some inspirational people during our time in Vietnam but I just want to mention two in case you are going to Vietnam and have a chance to visit their museums. The first was the director of the War Remnants Musuem in HCMC, Huỳnh Ngọc Vân, and the second, Vu Duc Hieu, established the first private cultural museum in Vietnam, focusing on the art of the Muong people.

And if you happen to be in Hanoi and don’t think that the Water Puppets are quite your thing, try the Tuong Theatre in the Old Quarter. It combines live music, dance, story telling and comedy and is a great way to spend an hour before dinner.

Other cultural experiences that are worth exploring include:

Women’s Museum, Hanoi:

Temple of Literature (and antique shop), Hanoi

Cultural Village Tour, Hanoi e.g. through Intrepid’s Urban Adventures

Fine Art Museum plus all the small art galleries that are on the same site, HCMC

Mekong Delta for village life, homestays, markets, food manufacturing e.g. Asia Trip Advisor: