February 5 saw the opening of an exciting new arts community centre situated on St 240 in the capital. The day’s events were attended by a large and international crowd who gathered together there to take part in a variety of activities, including kid-friendly fun featuring clowns.
The IKIGAI arts centre got off to a strong start with its first event, which included two dozen activities and works by 16 artists on display at its grand opening festivities that ran that day from 11am-6pm and emphasised the IKAGAI motto “society changes and so does art”.
“Ikigai is an ancient Japanese concept about existence’s meaning being derived from whatever brings you joy and happiness in your daily life.
“Ikigai is a pragmatic concept that uses a very simple approach and doesn’t involve any moral judgments and instead focuses on the personal and individual journey of finding balance and harmony in your life so that you can provide space for what you are good at, what you are passionate about, what the world needs and what you can be paid for,” Claire Taddei, manager of IKIGAI Arts Centre, tells The Post.
The dizzying array of activities that day included crafting living masks, performances by Yosakoi flower dancers, painting lego block creations, live painting, collage making activities for kids, learning how to make “ghost” pictures by using long exposure times on film, a textile workshop on sewing, music for kids, face painting for kids, a class on graffiti stencil art using spray paint, a flower workshop, a lecture on creative inspiration in art, circus arts workshops and lots of live music.
“We started to operate as a new cultural space here in the heart of Phnom Penh in October, 2021, but this open house has really been organised as the belated official launch event that we wanted to use to welcome everyone interested in the arts and offer them a unique opportunity to explore a wide variety of ways to express their creativity,” Taddei says.
Many of IKIGAI’s events and activities are free and on the occasions that they do charge it’s usually only $2 or so at certain workshops or performances.
At the February 5 launch event attendees could wander through the building freely and mingle in all of its different spaces and places like the performance theatre with a stage, creative laboratories, workshops for handicrafts, photo shoot studios and circus arts classrooms.
Although IKIGAI isn’t intended to be a place that is just for kids, those who attended the launch event certainly had their fill of fun along with their parents and it was refreshing to see crowds of children interacting together to express their creativity rather than just staring dumbly at their phones all together in the same place but somehow still alone.
“After so many uncertainties and then postponing due to Covid-19 we are now very happy and relieved to finally have been able to officially launch IKIGAI Arts Centre. We already have a growing community around us here. It was really lucky to be able to gather so many artists in one place with so many different talents and skills on display today,” she says.
The grand opening of the centre turned out to be a place for artist’s to engage in fellowship, communicate, get to know each other and grow their network of people from different areas of the world and be able to appreciate the mix of media, arts and artists over the course of what turned out to be a really inspiring day.
“It was very important for us to use this day to deliver a message that art is not just about entertainment. It also involves taking a stand sometimes and spreading your values to others. We wrote a manifesto about how art is a tool to speak out on social issues as well.
“Today has been super crazy for our team but we are proud to have made it through to the end of it all together, but I have to say that I’m really glad that you can only do a grand opening once,” Taddei says.
Taddei says that they really only started to prepare for this grand opening spectacle in earnest less than one month ago. They were able to quickly put together a programme by enlisting artists that they’d already worked with or who they’d planned to work with.
“The way we work with artists and build our cultural agenda is really based on emotions and feelings. If there are some common goals or a shared vision or social connections then we just make it happen,” Claire says.
Now that the centre has been officially launched they intend to rely on a regular schedule of events, classes, workshops and performances to keep all of their spaces filled with activity each day. All of the centre’s spaces are multi-purpose and can be rearranged very quickly to accommodate almost any sort of arts-related happening.
IKIGAI also has a shop where they sell art books and curios as well as original pieces by local artists with an emphasis on all things made in Cambodia.
There are spaces dedicated to hosting workshops, photo studios, film-screening rooms, discussion forums and their performance area is quite large and can be configured to host just about any kind of live performers whether the show is musical, theatrical, dance or anything else. Up on the third floor they have a studio set aside for their artist in residency programme.
“We aim to be a creative laboratory with a trans-disciplinary approach where we can propose unusual and more interactive art experiences by breaking down the barriers between artistic disciplines, engaging in activism and creating confusion between the traditional division that separates the artists from their artworks,” Taddei says.
The arts centre wants to provide inspiration and propose immersive art projects and performances with weekly workshops, diverse activities, educational talks and conferences.
They also want to be a space for people to express their creativity freely and with limitless possibilities with a living and breathing Phnom Penh arts community that will use the space to grow, share, laugh and experience wonder.
“IKIGAI Arts Centre is a creative place that is really only open to anyone with a strong position about the role of art in society and who believes that when art is engaged it can really create change. We want to reach as many people as possible and it doesn’t matter about their backgrounds, genders or their nationality as long as they agree with us on that.
“We hold a deep conviction that anyone can be creative and so we have just launched our ART PROJECTS BOX. Anyone can make proposals to us on creative projects that she or he would like to achieve with our help,” she says.
To learn more about IKIGAI Art Centre visit their Facebook page: @IkigaiArtsCenter