Author: Renae Virata

Going Against The Grain: Danny Nguyen


Lurid fluorescent light spills over a shadowy figure working deep into the night. Exacting needles, spools of fine thread, and luxuriant fabrics find their way in and around the dexterous hands of this diligent artist. Reckless passion is cast aside and replaced by the brutal will of a true fashion designer. To describe Danny Nguyen’s talents with words would be as futile as identifying infinity with a number. Read more

Announcing the 2016 Fashion for a Passion Artist Lineup


Dallas-based non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions is proud to announce its 8th Annual Fashion for a Passion Exhibiting Artists. The roster of talented Asian American artists who practice a variety of media, includes a mix of emerging, established and 2016 Against The Grain Artistic Scholarship finalists. Fashion for a Passion, which serves the organization’s mission to support and provide a platform for emerging Asian American artists, will take place Saturday, Oct. 29, at new venue 6500 near Love Field Airport.

“We are very excited to have such a talented group of artists from various backgrounds, ages and experiences showing at our event for the first time,” said ATG President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “It is a wonderful opportunity to support their artistry while also sharing it with the Dallas community.”

Guests of Fashion for a Passion will have the opportunity to bid on each artist’s work through a silent auction. Proceeds from the silent auction and tickets to the event will benefit ATG’s supported orphanages and underprivileged children in Asia, artistic and leadership scholarship fund and community outreach programs.

This year’s emcees include Fashion for a Passion veteran Benjamin Smithee, CEO of The Smithee Group, and former Ms. Asia Houston Dr. Diana Tran-Yu. Both hosts are also past panelists for Against The Grain’s leadership-focused event Groundbreakers Speak.

Introducing our 8th Annual Fashion for a Passion Exhibiting Artists:

Xian Boles*

Eighteen-year-old Xian Boles is a Boston University student who plans to major in Painting. Quiet and shy, Xian expresses herself best in her art. She often paints about social injustice, including paintings concerning global inequality, gender, and cultural appropriation (of Japanese culture) and stereotypes. One of her recent paintings “Whitewashed” provoked students at her school to engage in a heated discussion about its content and other students to ask her about its meaning and her intentions. While she felt awkward about the attention it drew to her personally, she feels that raising the issue and instigating discussion is a positive impact.

Her parents decided to bus she and her sister to a magnet school in Saginaw, Michigan, so that they could experience more diversity than in Midland, Michigan, and that experience opened her eyes to ethnic diversity. Her first experience “going Against The Grain” in terms of social issues was submitting to “I Can Make History, Black History Month,” in which she illustrated an African American girl in tears with scowling faces behind her. She also submitted successfully in subsequent years with awards.

A later series revolved around mental illness, inspired by a friend who attempted suicide twice and whose difficulties deeply affected her and their relationship. Painting became a personal outlet for her to express the topic, specifically by reference to his intense experiences and her own difficulties understanding and coping.

In sum, her paintings and illustrations have been a way for Xian to “speak out” about social and political issues and mental illness, that hopefully lead to greater discussion and awareness. In the process, she feels that she has been able to better express herself and “go Against The Grain” through her art.

Michelle Dominado*

Michelle Dominado is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work is filled with nostalgia and fantasy, combining both European and Asian influences, to create various interpretations of fairytales, myths, and legends. There is no limitation to the media that she uses to express her stories, whether it is pencil, paint, sculpture, or computer animation. Born in Japan where her father, a U.S. Navy corpsman, was stationed, she is fascinated by East Asian culture. She especially enjoys the delicate designs and exquisite colors used in pottery and sculpture, particularly the red-brown and yellow-green colors.

Her art has flourished from the encouragement and direction of the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Virginia, where her skills have tremendously improved. Under the guidance of the program, she was able to exhibit at various student art shows and galleries. From these shows, she allows open interpretation of her work and receives constructive feedback that has helped shaped her current portfolio.

Sarah Hickey

Sarah is a twenty-something Speech Language Pathology Assistant from Dallas, Texas, who is living out her lifelong dream of being an artist. She has always had a passion to create, make people smile, and leave a lasting impression. During this season, God has blessed her with the flexibility of working in a pediatric home health setting while doing the very thing she loves – to paint.

Her art is slowly evolving as she continues to explore acrylics. Each abstract piece stems from Scripture, which is the foundation of each painting. Her desire is to illuminate His already impressionable word with color and movement. She also wants to paint with a purpose. For every painting she sells, a portion goes toward feeding the poor in the Philippines through the non-profit organization Compassion for Asia.

Jin-Ya Huang

Upon arrival to the United States after being raised in Taipei, Taiwan, until the age of 13, Jin-Ya Huang was inspired to remember her experiences as a whole and relate it to her new life.

As she struggled with her East-West identity, dealing with social issues of being an immigrant in America and as a working Mother/Artist, Jin-Ya realized this is the narrative point of view she wanted to address in her work. She found her translation through mixed media and written words, by which she is able to convey her history with meaning, while making a difference and project the mission-of-kindness footprint.

Michelle Kim*

Michelle Kim is a first-year student at NYU Steinhardt and currently resides in New York, New York. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, she moved to the U.S. at the age of five and lived in New Jersey; Illinois; and Long Island, New York. Inspired by childhood experiences, favorite movies, and everyday surroundings, Michelle enjoys painting and drawing with various mediums on canvases of all sizes. She especially loves to use acrylic paints and observe oil paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The MOMA, places she often visited as a young girl with her parents.

For a long time, Michelle wanted to become a teacher because she believes that she feels the happiest when she is surrounded by children and spending time getting to know a child’s personal story. She attended Ashcan Studio of Art since the ninth grade at Syosset High School and competed in various local and national art competitions, including the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, from which she was awarded the 2014 National Silver Medal. Her artwork has also been displayed in galleries at the CUE Art Foundation and Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education. Currently, she is seeking opportunities that combine both her love for teaching and fine arts such as illustrating for children’s books, becoming an art teacher, or using art therapy to assist children in hospitals.

Susan Yu Petty

Sue Yu Petty is a self-taught artist who lives in Dallas, Texas. She started at a young age, working with various media with an inclination toward realistic sketches and watercolor paintings. In 2000, she first began painting with oils. Shortly after, she became acquainted with the brilliant master-painter JD Miller, who inspired her to use a free-flowing, heavy oil sculpting style. Her first oil series and gallery show began with brightly-colored, sculpted butterflies that flew off the canvas. The next series portrayed luscious hearts and cascading florals. Currently, she is transforming her work into a new series this fall that will take on an even more organic nature.

While painting, the creative process for her transforms into a meditative one, where often what was initially planned takes on new life. It is that deep moment of creative flow that echoes for her the reality of a creative God whom she loves.

Sue is a retired chiropractor, passionate about health, and lives in Wylie, Texas, with her beloved husband Travis Ross Petty and her two greatest masterpieces – their daughters Meela Grace and Mikayla Love.

Tram Vo

Tram Vo is a 30-year-old Vietnamese artist whose art first began in a talented/gifted art class in the fifth grade. She received her first award from Cox Communication, for which, in celebration of Black History Month, she drew Ruby Bridges entering a segregation school. She won second runner-up and received $500, which she gave to her mom.

With an affinity for painting pretty and eye-catching things, she describes her style as “pretty broad.” Lately, she has moved toward more abstract paintings, which appeals to her because of the many potential layers and manifold details.

Tram draws from the influence of her art as a hobby, relishing in how stress-free and happy it makes her and well as those who display her art. She also loves that her daughter enjoys paintings with her.

She is honored to be chosen to present at Fashion for a Passion because she will be able to do good with her art.

*2016 ATG Artistic Scholarship Finalist

About ATG Against The Grain Productions, Inc.

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages and underprivileged children. In addition to hosting outreach events, it also awards annual scholarships to exemplary Asian American student artists and leaders. ATG produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at more than a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit or

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Meet Our 2016 ATG Scholarship Finalists

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly scholarships to a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. Since 2011, we have awarded 30 scholarships. In 2015, we awarded ten to deserving students across the country – and look forward to doing the same in 2016!

Meet Our 2016 Scholarship Finalists:

ATG Artistic Scholarship

  • Angeline Young
  • Jamie Nguyen
  • Jihyun (Michelle) Kim
  • Kiana Ziegler
  • Maya de Leon
  • Mei Lu Barnum
  • Michelle Dominado
  • Sarah Yap
  • Tan Vu
  • Xian Boles

Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

  • Nicci Kelly
  • Angeline Young
  • Ben Chu
  • Ishan Sharma
  • Kristina Nguyen

#LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship

  • Hao Trieu
  • Hsin-Roe Pan

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Going Against The Grain: Chef Uno Immanivong


Chef Uno is the owner of Chino Chinatown in Trinity Groves. She was on “ABC’s The Taste” competing on Anthony Bourdain’s team and a regular on EyeOpener TV sharing her unique recipes. She started her culinary career when she founded Foodie Couture, a cooking entertainment and catering company.

Ultimately Uno’s food journey was inspired by her mother who catered to make ends meet. Uno observed the art of creating every dish, along with the happiness that resulted from each bite. The kitchen is where Uno spent most of her childhood, learning and understanding Southeastern Asia ingredients while cooking with her mom. Chino Chinatown’s menu is a result of Chef Uno’s passion for cooking and her Latin twist on classic Asian dishes.

Talent runs deep in this family, too. Join us at Fashion for a Passion as Chef Uno’s daughter Emma joins our performer lineup with her group The Sun and Stars!

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Thai “PopUp Supper” at New Jettison to Benefit ATG – Sept. 19

Thai "PopUp Supper" at Jettison to Benefit ATG - September 19
Chef Mateo Roberson on Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, one of the largest lakes in the world.

To celebrate the opening of their latest bar and event space Jettison (1878 Sylvan Ave, located at the new and exciting Sylvan | Thirty mixed-use development), Houndstooth Coffee will host a series of intimate PopUp Suppers featuring renowned chefs across the Dallas Metroplex serving up dishes from their favorite cuisines from around the world. Their inaugural event will take place from 6:45 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, September 19, with Thai favorites from Chef Mateo Roberson (Instagram: @mateoroberson) and will benefit Against The Grain!  We are so grateful to Chef Roberson for selecting our organization as the beneficiary for PopUp Suppers’ kickoff dinner. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today. Read more

Asian American Leaders “Go All In” During Sin City Leadership Panel

Groundbreakers Speak Panelists
Photo | Thao Nguyen for NAAAP

DALLAS (Aug. 30, 2016) – Dallas-based nonprofit Against The Grain Productions once again joined the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) at their national conference, this time in Las Vegas, to present their 5th Annual Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Asian American Movers and Shakers on Aug. 13. Taking place at Caesars Palace, the event featured Asian American leaders speaking on their motivating personal stories to success. Each panelist gave a TED-inspired presentation, answered a lightning round of questions by ATG President and Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee and joined audience members for one-on-one intimate group conversations. NAAAP President Fabian De Rozario opened, remarking, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…but not in this case. Take the inspiration and learning here outside of Vegas and share it with your family and friends.”

Going Against The Grain: Miki Yamashita and LT Diana Tran-Yu


Actress, comedian and lyric soprano Miki Yamashita is a singer and teaching artist with the Los Angeles Opera. She made her main stage debut in the role of Marcellina in “Figaro 90210”. With the LA Opera’s community engagement division, Miki has fused her New England Conservatory-trained voice with her unique comedy chops to perform roles as diverse as a hungry coyote, a grandmother bird spirit and Turandot.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Miki studied acting at Yale University and holds a B.A. in English from Mount Holyoke College. Miki has performed the role of Connie Wong in the national tour of “A Chorus Line”, and the roles of Maria in “West Side Story” and Tuptim in “The King and I” in various respected regional theaters across the country.

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President Tammy Nguyen Lee to Receive Award with Southwest Jewish Congress


We are proud to announce that our very own Co-Founder and President Tammy Nguyen Lee will be receiving an Audrey Kaplan Inspiring Women of the Southwest Awards from the Southwest Jewish Congress on Oct. 26 at Eddie Deen’s Ranch. Emceeing will be Sylvia Komatsu, Chief Content Officer at KERA and KXT.

The Inspiring Women of the Southwest Awards was named in loving memory of the founder, past recipient and our dear friend, Audrey Kaplan. The Inspiring Women of the Southwest Awards are presented to women from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. They have been diligent in the pursuit of positive social change, and who, as role models, have made an impact on our communities, either local or regionally. These inspiring women advocate for inclusiveness in our society and support positions consistent with the mission of SWJC.

Click here to read the full press release.