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Art school students Hay Chhoem (left), Sophea Doung and SAS art coordinator Yuko Sakata. MIRANDA GLASSER
Art school students Hay Chhoem (left), Sophea Doung and SAS art coordinator Yuko Sakata. MIRANDA GLASSER

Kids art gallery open for business

Khmer Kids Art Gallery, a new gallery featuring the work of young artists aged between 10 and 15, is run by the self-financed, Japanese-owned Small Art School, which provides free art education to Khmer children.

The gallery showcases artwork by students from the Small Art School as well as five different NGOs: Angkor Krau Community Centre, Khmer Social Economic Development Organisation, The Self Help Community Centre, Anjali House and New Child Care Centre in Pouk district.

The art ranges from watercolours to oil on canvas, with prices starting at $15 and going up to $60. Proceeds go towards funding the gallery and programs run by the Small Art School.

“We’ve been teaching at some of the organisations for close to four years, so the children have really developed,” says the school’s art coordinator Yuko Sakata. “The art shows their Khmer culture, their way of living and their energy.”

Sakata says the kids are always amazed when they see their work displayed at the gallery.

“Just seeing their art framed is really special,” she says. “Before we bring the pieces here we show them in the villages and the students are really proud. Some say, ‘I never thought I could draw like this’.”

The light, airy gallery also features colourful gift bags made from banana tree bark, dyed in bright hues of cerise, blue, yellow and green. Each is handmade and illustrated with a small, signed pen and ink drawing by a Small Art School student. Profits help support medical care in Thmei village, where the bark comes from.

Khmer Kids Art Gallery is already garnering fans. In the short time it’s been open it has sold several works, and Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort has invited the gallery to exhibit this summer.

The Small Art School was founded in 2008 by retired Japanese art teacher Tomoko Kasahara, to give Cambodian children, many of whom lacked the opportunities to learn art, a chance to develop their artistic and creative sides. Having taught for over 30 years in Tokyo, Kasahara now teaches art classes at local primary schools, village community centres and at the school headquarters behind Wat Damnak.

The school also provides free Japanese lessons to local children. The Small Art School has taught about 800 students to date.

Khmer Kids Art Gallery is on the second floor of Old Forest, near the Old Market. It is open daily from 1.30pm-9pm.

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