Royal Train Square, the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), Krama NFT Marketplace and Field of Dreams on Sunday held the first of the monthly Full Steam Ahead events at the beautifully restored Phnom Penh Railway Station.

Full Steam Ahead – a 14-month arts and educational project in celebration of the 90th anniversary of Phnom Penh Train Station and to promote STEAM education – is to create 90 pieces of art live at a series of events at Royal Train Square.

Created by Cambodian and international artists working with CCF students, the collaborations will promote STEAM education and form part of a tapestry of all the works displayed next December celebrating the 90th anniversary of the capital’s railway station and the relaunch of Royal Train Square.

The opening event saw the exhibition of the first Full Steam Ahead artwork – “Expressive Computations” – and pieces soon to be available on Krama NFT Marketplace, as well as a performance by Cambodian-American poet Kosal

Khiev and music by Gerard Evans.

Royal Train Square managing director Scott Bolls said Phnom Penh’s newly opened arts culture and F&B hub was the natural home for an event such as Full Steam Ahead and hailed its importance.

STEAM education includes the arts. SUPPLIED

“We are delighted to be hosting Full Steam Ahead because as an art lover I fully appreciate the importance of including the arts as part of a fully formed education for students.

“It is wonderful that we have so many good artists here in the Kingdom, and we want to promote them and the Cambodian scene internationally, and with NFT Marketplace and Royal Train Square we have the perfect platform to do so.

“This represents the beginning of the growth of NFTs in Cambodia, and with Krama NFT Marketplace the pioneering digital asset creation company in the Kingdom, it is an honour to have such distinguished guests here at the Train Station to showcase the first set of art that we will be putting on the Krama platform very soon.

“We are thrilled to have the sponsorship of Field of Dreams, a fully planned community utopia to be built on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and potentially the Kingdom’s first tokenised real estate project. Alongside Royal Train Square and Krama NFT marketplace, we have a great set of partners supporting the wonderful work of CCF,” said Bolls, who is also director of Krama NFT Marketplace.

CCF founder Scott Neeson (left) and Krama NFT Marketplace’s Scott Bolls. SUPPLIED

The arts and sciences were traditionally viewed as two very different fields of study, but education policymakers have reappraised this view.

While STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – education focuses on innovation, influential educators believed it missed the crucial elements of design thinking and creativity, and STEAM was the answer.

Physicist Albert Einstein famously appreciated the importance of creativity – “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science,” he once said.

And the movement to have the arts included in STEM has been growing globally, and in the Kingdom.

Full Steam Ahead aims to promote STEAM education. SUPPLIED

“STEAM education is critical for our students and for Cambodia to have a solid base in infrastructure – physical infrastructure and digital infrastructure – as that’s where the jobs will be and what will best enhance Cambodia’s ability to compete on the world stage.

“Having the arts in STEAM is something very important to us at CCF and for the children to foster innovation while ensuring that Cambodian traditions and culture are not lost in this economic development,” said CCF founder Scott Neeson.

Prof Santoro from Metaestetica Lab who created the “Expressive Computations” digital piece of art for Full Steam Ahead with a group of CCF students said STEAM education was important for integrating a range of disciplines to develop a greater understanding of the “alternative reality of the abstract world”.

“At the CCF, our Expressive Computation Lab, promoted within the STEAM courses, offers students the opportunity to look at the world through a lens capable of synthesising interdisciplinary knowledge and exploring the reciprocal relationships between art, graphics, mathematics, geometry and psychology, focusing on computation, visualisation and perception.

“This is an experience that has allowed them not only to familiarise themselves with computer software, but also to develop their cognitive skills through those processes of abstraction necessary for the conceptualisation of complex shapes that animate the virtual space of a screen,” said Prof Santoro.

CCF Grade 11 student Kim Theary said the introduction of STEAM into her education had proven to be an inspiration.

“Art has inspired me with many things, especially my imagination. Art allows me to imagine anything freely which gives me freedom in my own world.

“Art helps me understand many things that happen in the world such as tradition and culture. Art inspires me to picture a new world with many different things. Art makes my life easier,” Theary said.

Artist Prof Carlo Santoro demonstrates the ‘Expressive Computations’ artwork to visitors. Heng Chivoan