Vietnamese Cultural Garden

The Vietnamese Cultural Garden in Cleveland features a 12-foot-tall marble statue of a woman standing atop a square pedestal. The statue wears traditional Vietnamese garments, including the nón dang conical hat and the áo dài dress, which hold significant historical and cultural meaning and are still worn in the community today. The statue of the woman remains composed despite the weather or season, with her hair and dress gently swaying as if moved by the wind.

The Garden, located at the northern end of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Rockefeller Park, was sponsored by the Friendship Foundation and dedicated in 2020. The Garden was designed by Char Crowley, who also participated in the renovation of the Irish Cultural Garden in 2009. The most direct footpath to the Vietnamese Cultural Garden's entrance is along the Harrison Dillard Bikeway.

As the Vietnam War came to a close, many refugees sought new homes abroad. By November 1975, over 500 refugees had made their way to the Greater Cleveland area in search of freedom. The Vietnamese Cultural Garden stands as a testament to their bravery and the vibrant culture they brought with them. After the fall of Saigon, various religious and social groups formed to prepare aid and shelter for the newcomers seeking sanctuary.

A formal group was established in December 1975 to assist refugee community organization. Until 1995, the primary organization in the area was the Cong-Dong Viet-Nam Tai Vietnamese Community in Greater Cleveland. Since then, additional organizations have emerged to sponsor friends and families seeking opportunities away from Vietnam. Through local and international programs, these organizations help those adjust by encouraging socio-economic independence, providing housing opportunities, and promoting autonomy within the community.

American veterans were among those interested in volunteering or creating affiliated organizations. After serving with the Special Forces during the Vietnam War, U.S. Army Captain, historian, and attorney Joseph Meissner dedicated his time to the resettlement effort in Cleveland. Along with his many lifetime accomplishments and endeavors, Meissner helped establish the Friendship Foundation, serving as its vice president.

The Friendship Foundation is an American-Vietnamese non-profit organization founded in 1993 by Vietnamese-American immigrant Luong Thi Gia Hoa Ryan. Discouraged by the inability to visit home to her native country due to the aftermath of the war, Ryan and other community members joined efforts to establish the Foundation, fostering peace, respect, and harmony. The Foundation's website offers a descriptive history of the project and how the history of the Vietnam War influenced the culture of the community they aim to serve and other humanitarian activities they continue to sponsor.

After multiple delays, the Vietnamese Cultural Garden finally installed the 12-foot-tall marble statue on November 15, 2023, three years after the Garden's dedication. The sculpture has repeatedly been recognized as the Vietnamese Mother, exhibiting features in line with the Foundation's objectives. The Cleveland Vietnamese Cultural Garden serves as a symbol of courage and resilience for all community members, whether they are veterans, immigrants, or just passing by.

Images

First Entrance to the Vietnamese Garden
First Entrance to the Vietnamese Garden Creator: Makialani Kanewa-Mariano Date: Spring 2024
The Vietnamese "Mother" Sculpture
The Vietnamese "Mother" Sculpture Front of the 12-foot-tall sculpture at the Cleveland Vietnamese Cultural Garden Creator: Makialani Kanewa-Mariano Date: Spring 2024
Back of the Vietnamese "Mother" Sculpture
Back of the Vietnamese "Mother" Sculpture Image of the Vietnamese "Mother" Sculpture Facing Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Creator: Makialani Kanewa-Mariano Date: Spring 2024
The Cleveland Vietnamese Cultural Garden in the Springtime Sun
The Cleveland Vietnamese Cultural Garden in the Springtime Sun A sign marks the entrance to the garden along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Creator: Makialani Kanewa-Mariano Date: Spring 2024
The Vietnamese "Mother" Statue
The Vietnamese "Mother" Statue The "Mother" Statue seems as if her hair and dress are being gently swept by the currents of the wind. Creator: Makialani Kanewa-Mariano Date: Winter 2023

Location

711 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106 | The Garden is located at the north end of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

Metadata

Makialani Kanewa-Mariano, “Vietnamese Cultural Garden,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 13, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/1024.