IDEAAL Capstone Art Gallery: Who Am I?

On April 5th, Stark Gallery was full of Texas A&M University students celebrating their Asian-American heritage and their many accomplishments over the course of the school year. The Institute for the Development of Asian American Leaders, or IDEAAL, was hosting their annual capstone art gallery. IDEAAL is a student-led organization that has been a part of Texas A&M’s multicultural services for nearly twenty years. Taran Rao, director of this year’s art gallery, explained that IDEAAL was “designed to be a safe space and support system for [Asian American freshmen] students as they expand on their own perception of their identity.” The organization consisted of biweekly workshops with guest speakers, leadership trainings, written reflections, and one-on-one mentorship. To conclude the spring semester, IDEAAL hosted an art gallery that allowed its freshmen students to showcase work that answered the question of “Who Am I?”. Students completed works that ranged from paintings to poetry to even performances. It was a performance by Audrey Hidajat that particularly stood out to Taran. Audrey’s dance symbolized “gaining confidence in herself and expressing her passions.” Audrey is now a peer mentor herself, but when she was a freshman, Taran was her peer mentor. He has enjoyed watching her grow as a leader over the years and seeing that growth expressed in her performance.  

Audrey Hidajat during her performance

Anna Huynh, a freshman English major and current member of IDEAAL, first heard about the Institute at an APIDA (Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Desi American) community event. IDEAAL easily caught her interest, and it was the very first organization that she joined on campus. Anna admitted that she had previously struggled to understand and embrace her Asian-American identity within predominantly white institutions, so finding an Asian-American community on campus was important to her. Anna was surprised by the similarities between her upbringing and the upbringing of the other members of IDEAAL, and she found comfort in their shared experiences as Asian Americans. Anna believed that this support system and community atmosphere was what helped her to “come back to [her] roots and fully appreciate them like [she] always wanted to.” Older students such as Esther Kim and Vik Subramanian became not only mentors but trusted friends. Anna expressed that she “love[s] learning and hearing about the shared, yet personal, experience of being Asian-American, and [she] honestly [has] fallen back in love with everything that makes [her] who [she is] culturally.

“I love learning and hearing about the shared, yet personal, experience of being Asian-American, and I honestly have fallen back in love with everything that makes me who I am culturally.”

For the Capstone Gallery Exhibit, Anna Huyhn showcased her visual plexiglass poem titled “Tôi Thấy Tôi Là Ai,” which was translated to “I See Who I Am.” The poem was about Anna “seeing [her] roots and understanding that [she was] a walking mosaic of [her] culture and that [her] parents and [her] ancestors [made her] love being Vietnamese.” She was grateful to IDEAAL for the chance to participate in a gallery exhibit and see other people’s reactions to her work and hopes to participate in similar events in the future as she continues her academic and artistic endeavors.

Anna Huynh with her visual poem “Tôi Thấy Tôi Là Ai” “I am a walking mosaic of my culture.”

Anna also praised the work of her fellow members, which she found extremely creative and moving. She particularly enjoyed Isabelle Dela Cruz’s piece, titled “Work in Progress.” Isabelle’s artwork and presentation explored the common struggles with identity that young women of color face, and it was a beautiful reminder that “the journey of coming to relearn and love yourself is not a linear one.” The piece encouraged acceptance of oneself wherever one was even during periods of perseverance and uncertainty, just as students have found acceptance within IDEAAL.

Isabelle Dela Cruz with her painting “Work in Progress”

If you are an incoming student interested in joining IDEAAL, check their website ( for upcoming events.


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