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Have an Interest in Creating? Saigon's Ươm Art Hub Welcomes All.

“There’s nothing much to say of Ươm except for the fact that it’s a collective of zany 20-somethings aspiring to do something that one might sort of categorize as ‘creative.’” — This is how Ươm Art Hub, Saigon’s brand-new creative commune, describes themselves.

Once upon a time…

Ươm Art Hub, or just Ươm to close friends, was born in November this year to a group of parents after two years of planning: Duy Anh (The Purpose Group’s former art director), Huy Tạ (the mind behind Design Anthropology School, or DAS), Đức Bùi and Khánh Ngọc (founders of FPDB and De Egg studios), Hải Nguyễn (AE Media), and Huyền Nguyễn (F&B Director).

On Ươm’s foliage-filled lot, the studios have now gotten into their work groove, preparing for a number of events and workshops in the future. Before becoming the neat creative space that passersby might ooh and aah at today, Ươm started with a common wish that its founders share: to establish a space where everyone can work together to nurture creativity — “ươm” means cultivate in Vietnamese — and share their enthusiasm and drive without being hindered by industry barriers.

Falling in place like dominoes, how they got to know one another were all happy coincidences: Duy Anh met Huy Tạ via a class, Đức Bùi through a brand design project, and encountered this spacious plot of land one time when he went to eat phở. And then, just like its name, Ươm grew organically through time, from a pop-up coffee cart “so we can sit and shoot the shit,” to a three-story building, into a full-fledged creative hub today.

A homegrown ecosystem

The good words about a new home for like-minded folks spread across town, and sooner rather than later, the Ươm “squad” had assembled even before the infrastructure was finished. They are all familiar figures. “Most are our acquaintances, like artists we have worked with before. They needed to grow and establish some formal collaboration. So we invited them to take root here,” Duy Anh says.

Those very “serious” invitations — something to the tune of “Yo, we’re doing something fun, wanna join?” according to Duy Anh — resulted in a diverse community at Ươm with many disciplines and personalities: a design school (DAS), photography studio (De Egg), design studio (Xôn Xao), art book shop (The Razcals), tattoo parlor (Tattoonista), cafe-cum-exhibition-space, and other exciting plans on the horizons.

“Everything is different, but connected by a fondness for art, so not separate,” Huy Tạ, of DAS, says. For instance, a student from Huy’s design class can visit their next-door neighbor, FPDB studio, if they wish to learn more about photography. In turn, the resident photographers can learn a thing or two about design philosophy from a class held nearby if they wish. No matter which discipline they are pursuing, members can make use of the available resources from the collective, like the art studios, academic texts, and even a cozy working space to nail down their next inspiration.

Tattoonista's sun-drenched workspace.

Inside Design Anthropology School.

It’s in Ươm’s philosophy to welcome anyone with a keen interest in creative pursuits, not just professional practitioners. At the end of the day, the space’s growth can largely be attributed to homegrown entities — the overall design was overseen by the young architects at Xưởng Xép, and construction materials came from the sustainable workshop PLASTICPeople — so just by attending an event here, you are already a part of the Ươm community.

Freedom to bloom

Beneath the physical space, the spirit of Ươm is still, first and foremost, to empower creators. Duy Anh explains that, after a few years in the industry, he realized that many freshly graduated young artists are still left to figure many things out for themselves alone, even though they had solid training in school.

The cafe-cum-exhibition-space at Ươm, created using environmentally friendly materials.

“They study for their life, and then work for their life, but ultimately end up not having ample opportunities and platforms to express their creativity, even though those are much needed to form their own identity and build recognition in the market. That’s a pity,” he says. With all that in mind, Ươm was created as a training ground for both veterans and newcomers to develop their talents to reach out to the public. The train of thought is reflected in the internal policies of the art hub.

Inside De Egg studio.

“We want to present a space for anyone to share their work, not just well-established names. To Ươm, both old and new creators should have a space, both in the physical and metaphorical sense, to showcase their talent though events, exhibitions and workshops,” he adds.

Sticking to this goal, Ươm hopes to provide support in the form of financial subsidies and location use, or even fee waivers, for programs organized by students or independent artists. The hub’s tenants are also entitled to low rents, “so they can survive, and continue to pursue the arts.”

The Razcals, an art book shop, caters to many age groups.

While the hospitable policies and physical space are appreciated, many Ươm residents find that it’s the community and environment here that draw them in.

Thống Nguyễn and Nu Nguyễn, the founders of Xôn Xao Studio, tell me that before settling here, they often spent four or five days a week working at coffee shops. “Working at cafes is quite inconvenient because we have to find a corner where passersby can’t peek at our screens. If we need to attend a meeting, we have to scramble to find a more private place,” they lament. “Then, Xôn Xao set up this small studio, and everything became smoother.”

The studio is named Xôn Xao, because clamor is a Saigon characteristic, and the founder loves that noisiness.

To Thống, the ease of staying here stems from how Ươm is an entity of people following the same goals, who are keen to work together, having a private office and a mellow coffee shop just a stone's throw away is just the icing on top.

If you wish to pay Ươm a visit, here are some events in the near future to keep in mind:

  • Xôn Xao Sài Gòn (from December 16 to 23): An exhibition using augmented reality with works by over 25 artists.
  • LÔCÔ Art Market Year-End Edition (from December 24 to 26): An art market for those who wish to score a last-minute Christmas present.
  • Swiss Photobook Today (to be held in the first quarter of 2022): A display of photography texts from Switzerland.

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