Straight to the Source

March 14, 2014
Amanda Nagy

Richard Tran loves learning about various art forms practiced by different cultures. A second-year student majoring in visual arts, Tran’s preferred medium is clay. Although Oberlin does not have a ceramics program, he uses winter term to fulfill that interest.

This January, Tran traveled throughout Ghana to study traditional and contemporary art forms with local artists. The first two weeks, he studied papermaking, batik, adinkra prints, and weaving with a loom. The following two weeks, he traveled around Ghana learning contemporary glass-bead making and pottery. “All of the artists I worked with while in Ghana were not famous by any means. They were people who were just skilled in their trade and who were willing to spend time with me and teach me,” says Tran, a Chicago native and Posse scholar.

Tran enjoys pottery in particular because “every civilization at one point or another found the resources to construct pottery. Even though it is the same material and resource, it is amazing how different and unique each place does it.”

Tran is cochair of the Vietnamese Student Association at Oberlin and he is a member of the college’s Asian American Alliance. He is considering comparative American Studies as a second major and anthropology as a minor. Beyond Oberlin, he plans to pursue an MFA in ceramics and sculpture, and he hopes to open his own pottery studio for underprivileged communities.

“Pottery and ceramics are very expensive and nearly inaccessible without the funds, as with most art mediums,” he says. “I happened upon pottery while in high school, so it was free for me to do. And because I fell in love with it by complete chance, I want to be able to give that opportunity to everyone despite the barriers of money and class.”

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