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The Danang Sculpture Foundation uses its knowledge of stonemasonry to advance Vietnam‘s development

The village Non Nuoc with the Marble Mountains in the foreground.

Locals are trained and qualified, and, for established sculptors and artists, workshops are offered, and commissioned works are carried out

The Danang Sculpture Foundation has an unusual business model for sculpting: it offers workshops and programs for sculptors and takes on commissioned works to finance training and qualification for young Vietnamese sculptors who come from poor backgrounds. Some have already managed to earn their keep with sculpting according to PHAN Quynh Huong. She is the manager of the independent, non-commercial foundation.

As is often the case in such projects, contacts abroad stood at the beginning of the initiative.

PHAN Quynh Huong (far left), Oyvin Storbaekken (3rd from left).

In this case, ties to Norway and more particularly to sculptor Oyvin Storbaekken, and through him, to the artists‘ organisation from there. The Norwegian government subsidized a pilot project followed by participation of the Nordic Church Assistance and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. From 2003 to 2009 The Da Nang Sculpture Project was set up as an experiment. But by and by the business model has become established and the foundation is now self-sufficient.

The buildings of the Danang Sculpture Foundation.The buildings of the Danang Sculpture Foundation.

The Danang Sculpture Foundation entertains its headquarters at the Marble Mountains Village (Non Nuoc or Ngu Hanh Son) in proximity of Da Nang. The property and the buildings were provided by the Government after the project developed so favorably with the help from Norway.

The training, according to the Foundation‘s Dossier, provides modern technology. But the focus of the program lies in traditional sculpting with hammer and chisel. CNC-Technology and robots are not part of the curriculum.

The training takes four years to complete.

To Huong Phan, the social aspects of learning is of particular importance. In our mail-exchange she emphasized repeatedly that young people are meant to have a chance to become self-sufficient and lead a better life.

20 young sculptors have absolved the curriculum so far. Some work as artists, others have established their own stonemasonry. Some have stayed on to become docents at the foundation itself.

Guests from abroad at a workshop.Guests from abroad.

Another important aspect of the program is directed at professional artists usually from abroad. For them the foundation provides workshops or extended stays for anyone who comes on a stipend or finances his own stay. Many use the time in idyllic surroundings to find inner balance and a new artistic orientation.

Sculpting symposia are part and parcel of the program.

Commissioned work.Commissioned work.

The business model revolving around commissioned works is unique. Here and with respect to smaller objects, the foundation offers an all-round service: it provides the stone (usually from local Vietnamese quarries), has the sculpting done and provides packaging and transportation.

Similar commissions come from architects and interior decorators. Here the Foundation provides the services a stonemasonry would provide commercially.

Similar business models are known from the Carrara region and other scuplture centers, but here the profits are meant to flow into the social work.

Foundation’s donation to the Cham Museum. Commissioned work.

In recapitulating, Huong Phan and her crew use natural stone as a means for economic development in an aspiring country: with the help of qualification and education the Foundation provides turnover for the local marble and granite industry and creates jobs. It is not the aim to export stone blocks but rather, finished products and keeping the added value at home. With this ideal, China has established itself as a strong contender in the stone branch.

Of course Huong Phan established contact to us to further her cause: „I hope you and your network can help us in many ways“ she writes i.e.: „Commission sculptures and stone work, Grant funds for training program for poor and young carvers in Vietnam, Support in investment of facilities and infrastructure, Donate our sculptural projects, Introduce us to others.”

Danang Sculpture Foundation

Photos: Danang Sculpture Foundation

Access to the Marble Mountains. Photo: Nguyen Minh Son.

(23.09.2019, USA: 09.23.2019)