Featured Fellow: Phượng Nguyễn

Phượng Nguyễn, a first-year MFA student in the Department of Art & Art History, is also Arts Everywhere’s Studio Assistant for Morrison Art Studio. We recently spoke with her to find out more about our talented fellow.

Read the article below to learn about her passions for varying artistic mediums, her work at Morrison Art Studio, and how the pandemic has affected Morrison Art Studio events. After you check out some of the amazing works that she shared with us for this feature, be sure to also check out her website for more inspiration- thank you Phuong for all that you do and for speaking with us!

Questions for Phượng

Tell us how you got involved in art and a little about your art.

I’ve always loved making art since I was young, and feel very fortunate that I am able to continue nurturing my practice in this capacity. My undergraduate training was in painting but my current practice has expanded to incorporate a variety of materials and techniques with a focus on embroidery and sculptures. Through my work, I want to examine the issues of memory and identity through the lens of my experiences as an immigrant.

What attracted you to your art mediums of embroidery and miniatures?

Plaything. Embroidery, clay and plastic beads on fabric. 5×3.5×3 inch, 2020.

I learned embroidery from my mom, who is a very talented seamstress. She used to sew all of my clothes when I was young and embroidered these beautiful floral patterns all around the necklines and sleeves. As for the miniatures, I started making them in earnest last April as I, like many of us, struggled to deal with quarantine and the overall stress/fear/anxieties. So I turned to making these miniature imagined studio spaces that my mind could escape to.

How do you set a creative mood for yourself/get in the zone?

I usually listen to podcasts or audiobooks as I work in the studio. I also love watching video essays on various pop culture topics on YouTube. It really is about giving my brain something else to focus on and letting my hands do their thing.

Have you faced any obstacles reaching where you are today? What were they, and how did you work around or overcome them?

As a first generation college student from an immigrant family, I felt the pressure to pick a field of study that would more or less guarantee me a stable job and to live out the American Dream life that my parents moved us across the globe for. All that is to say, I was on the pre-Med track for the first two years of college – a decision that both my mental wellbeing and my GPA suffered greatly for. Fortunately, with encouragement from family and friends, I was able to change course and pursue Art. The lesson here, as I’m sure so many folks could relate to, is to listen to your instincts!

Home. Ink, gouache, crayons, and colored papers on paper, 9×11 inch, 2017.
Scaffolding. Color-aid papers, ink, gouache, and crayons on paper, 9×10 inch, 2017

Advice for those who want to get into art but don’t have much experience?

I would say listen to as many artists’ talks as you can. A few sources I turn to for these include podcasts (Sound and Vision, Deep Color are a couple of my favorites), virtual artists’ talks (Zoom has make this so much more accessible since you can attend talks at different institutions all over the country/world!), Art21, and so on. There’s no one way to make art, and it’s incredibly beneficial to learn directly from the artists themselves about their own journeys and processes. But most importantly, dedicate the time to make work and try to come up with a studio schedule that fits into your life. Even if you can only set aside, say, an hour twice a week to make work, that’s still time well spent!

Morrison Art Studio Experience

Entrance to Morrison Art Studio

Tell us a little bit about what you do as the MFA Morrison Studio Art Assistant

I help brainstorm ideas and plan for our virtual events (i.e prepare supplies kits for pick up, and lead virtual workshops) and keep track of our supplies inventory.

How has the pandemic altered your efforts?  

Since the studio is closed to the public this year because of the pandemic, the other planning committee members and I had to come up with creative solutions and ideas for virtual events and ways in which we could still provide folks with resources that Morrison Art Studio has to offer. We noticed that a lot of our students were feeling particularly isolated and experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, which encouraged us to be mindful of the formats we would adopt for our events. We intentionally plan out our virtual workshops, preparing supplies kits for giveaways, and facilitating a growing Art Pen Pal program that helps to connect students across different corners of UNC (and beyond!).

Hopes for the future for Morrison Art Studio?  

Morrison Art Studio is such a unique space on campus that I hope to see it continue to grow and to serve the UNC community! When it is safe to do so, I would love to see the studio reopen and become a lively gathering and making space that it is meant to be.

Favorite part of the job?

I love working with everyone on the planning committee! There are so many great ideas that developed from our conversations. And to be able to (safely) interact with our students the rare moments this semester where I help to distribute supplies or facilitate Pen Pal drop off/pick ups!

 Speed round

Favorite piece of art that you created?

Playground #3. Embroidery, plastic beads, and clay on fabric. 7x5x3.5 inch, 2019.

Favorite piece of art that you didn’t create?

String by Rosie Lee Tompkins
String by Rosie Lee Tompkins

Current favorite artist?

Rosie Lee Tompkins! (Her quilts are gorgeous!)

One word you would use to describe yourself?


One word you would use to describe your art?


Favorite color?


For more, check out Phượng at:


Featured photo taken by Sarah Cramer Shields http://www.cramerphoto.com/