“What Does a Rooster Say?”

An exhibit featuring the Master of Arts Thesis works of Kim Cao Pfeffer opened Monday in Minnesota State’s Conkling Gallery. 

The title for the exhibition: “What does a Rooster Say?” It is not a traditional art gallery but is instead referred to as a design show.

Pfeffer moved from Vietnam to Mankato in 2016. Formerly a math educator, she switched her major to art education, where she earned her degree and teaching license. She later came back for another year to finish her BFA in graphic design and stayed to continue with her master’s in graphic design.

She described her process as a system of solving problems, such as figuring out a challenge within its context of culture, history, or environment. 

“So first, I have to look for problems, things that have issues, and then come up with a solution to solve that,” she said. “The main idea for the entire show is about redesigning textbooks for Vietnamese first graders.”

Her decided challenge was textbook changes. She shared the conflicts that changes in new textbooks have created, and took inspiration from old Vietnamese textbooks. She designed a textbook called “Em và Tiếng Việt”.

“Current textbooks are not good but the very, very old textbooks work well, so the super old textbooks became my inspiration for the art style. It’s based on Vietnamese traditional woodblock print.” Pfeffer said. “We already have a textbook system, but it’s not friendly for kids to read. They are just very overwhelmed with the design and the curriculum, so I just want to make everything more simple and basic.” 

With the textbook she has created that aims to provide better visuals and content, Pfeffer expresses hope that the textbook designs she has created can present a solution to the challenge and can be proven beneficial. 

“So the kids can read by themselves and the other pieces are all teaching as I have a background in art education. I designed the poster and then I have a gameboard. So when kids study spelling, they can apply it and use it in the gameboard I designed.” Pfeffer said. “When we teach Vietnamese and for this show, it is more about teaching spelling for first graders. So usually what you’re saying when teaching spelling, you go from ABCD in order of the alphabet, but I want to teach them in a way that they see one letter and they come by with the next letter. So knowing the letter is going to appear before they introduce it. So I start the first lesson with the letter O. In Vietnamese, ‘what does a rooster say?’ It’s that letter sound.”

The designs were inspired by traditional Vietnamese art and imagery and from old Vietnamese textbooks. Pfeffer shares that any and every cultural aspect is important and that making these graphic designs has helped her improve. 

“Art is important for me because it’s basic for me and I think it’s helped a lot when I continue my career into design. I want people to observe more about cultural aspects. Because I think different cultures are beautiful and just being more open to like ‘how do you present media? Is that suitable for the audience that you are trying to reach?’” Pfeffer said. 

Students can stop by the Conkling Gallery located in Nelson Hall until Nov. 3 to see the displayed designs. 

Write to Anahi Zuniga at anahi.zuniga@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Artist Kim Cao Pfeffor crafted Vietnamese art, imagery  and textbooks for her MA Thesis Exhibition in Conkling Gallery. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

One thought on ““What Does a Rooster Say?”

  • danielsebold

    I am a retired teacher living in Cambodia where I regularly go out at sunrise taking photos of the most vibrant red, blue and orange and, I am sure, other colored roosters, nothing like the roosters I saw in Worthington growing up. I taught “super kiddies” in Seoul for a couple years back in the nineties before moving on to college kids for nine years in South Korea, then moved on to Saudi Arabia. I worked with some very talented colleagues, and we had our theatrics and games in the classroom such as children running around in a circle and slapping picture cards and yelling out the word on the card for whatever those methods are not worth.

    I got “stuck” for two years in Saigon during Covid, due to border closures, so I managed to visit every corner of the city shooting photos of syncretic architecture–gorgeous huge pink churches that looked like Buddhist temples with Buddhist gongs and drums and last supper scenes inside, children on the streets making a living doing fire breathing, reminiscent of my life in Mexico City in the seventies, and photos of school children walking home, two little boys in aqua colored uniforms with big brother holding on to his kid brother from behind by the collar. Or how about a photo of the tall hammer and sickle flags hanging from the Mc Donald’s in Pham Ngu Lao or the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange? I shot eighty-five thousand photos in Saigon alone, not including the awesome Fine Arts Museum and History Museum and several trips to the Mekong Delta to photograph the northern bird parks with their Teradactyl-like looking species.

    The art museums in Hanoi were even more awesome, especially the lacquer paintings, with their high contrast depictions of Vietnamese factory life as well as jungle boat scenes and villages during the Vietnam War. If you go to Vietnam or any country, dont miss the museums. They are vital to your education. Also, the fifteenth century Lee Dynasty chocolaty pottery with cobalt lines is awesome (if you cant get to Hanoi the museums in Birmingham, Phoenix and Boston have it.)

    The Cham Museum in Dannang depicts an ancient Hindu culture that migrated up from Borneo into Vietnam two thousand years ago creating the tall Cham towers running up and down the coast of southern Vietnam–the statues inside are much better lit now than ten years ago and depict an amusing cartoonish look at Hindu mythology that children might find amusing. Omani traders later converted them to Islam and they now live in Vietnam, Cambodia, and here in Bangkok from where I am currently writing. They live peacefully on the canals in all three countries, but were victims of the Khmer Rouge.

    Vietnam is an amazing country, from the colorful purple and flower Hmong people of Sapa in the mountains with rivers chuckling through wooden villages and rice paddies to the towns on the Red River Delta with overwhelming syncretic Chinese style churches, to the heartbreaking history of Dien Bien Phu and the brutal starvation from the French occupation in the northwest near the Lao border.


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