THE paintings hanging on the walls of Java Cafe this month look like they were painted by professional artists, and at US$200 to $300 apiece they are being sold at professional prices. But in fact, they were created by teenagers at Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), an NGO that “uses art to answer children’s psycho social needs”.
The fourth-grade art students who created the abstract paintings adorning the interior of Java Cafe are not only using the paint brush to express themselves – many of them also hope to use the skills they are learning to begin careers as artists.
“I like to travel and to paint everything around me,” said 19-year-old Pen Robit. “Later on, I would like to work as an artist and a writer.”
Many of the students who are studying at PPS have travelled a rough road to reach the NGO. The name of the organisation means “the brightness of the arts”, and it began at Site 2, a refugee camp on the Thai border. Eight students and their French teacher went on to start what has now become an arts institute that works with more than 1,000 students every day.
Although most of the art made at PPS is meant to give children a creative outlet, the young men and women displaying their works at Java have become serious art students striving for excellence.
“I like reading art books and sharing the paintings of various artists from everywhere in the world,” said 20-year-old Bo Rithy, who was born in Vietnam. “In the future I would like to be a great artist too.”
If you want to have a look at the paintings yourself, visit the downstairs lounge at Java Cafe east of independance monument at #56 Sihanouk Blvd. While you’re there, you can go upstairs to see a photo exhibit by Lim Sokchanlina.