NGO launches resort-based art gallery

Siem Reap-based charity Colors of Cambodia Art School has taken the bold step of opening its own “altruistic” art gallery in the FFC Angkor Resort courtyard to promote student artwork and hopefully create student revenue.

The River Gallery, as it is called, was launched last week to “good attendance and good sales, even with an empty town during low season,” according to the charity’s founder, US expat Bill Gentry.

“Opening the River Gallery was a spontaneous decision,” Bill says. “We had shown our kids and teachers art since the Colors of Cambodia inception in 2003, and we had to move this year from our Kandal Village location as the building was being sold.

“We then found this fantastic school location just south of town along the river, but we knew we would get little walk-in traffic there so we also sought out affordable gallery space where there would be some foot traffic, and voila, we chanced upon a smallish location in the FCC Angkor Resort courtyard.”

The gallery hopes to hold a Siem Reap Art Competition later in the year and show selected works in mid-November. It will also hold the school’s 20th-anniversary celebration on September 16.

Bill hopes to round up as many of its past teachers, managers and students as possible, and show some of the work of past and present students. “Trust me, this will be good as a number of our past students have gone on to be quite successful artists,” says Bill

The NGO was established in 2003 by Bill, an artist and also a Silicon Valley refugee who worked in the business started by his father, manufacturing high-end electronic connectors predominantly used in Aerospace and today’s Datacom servers creating the cloud. “I helped invent a number of products that have become industry standards, and I had some fun,” Bill says.

He then moved his family to Singapore and he first started coming to Siem Reap in 1999 to teach art for free at a few schools on the outskirts of town.

“Colors of Cambodia School came out of those visits, and commenced when we bought a building near Pub Street in 2003,” Bill explains.

Manager Sophany Sor oversees a Sunday morning class for youngsters. Supplied

“I plastered the slogan ‘Art Will Save the World’ across the top of the front façade, hired a local teacher to help and created an NGO so we were legal and legitimate. It was my little project where I tried to do good things for people.”

Bill is also set on global expansion for his art training vision and this is being done via video.

“A large portion of our new development effort is now creating art training videos, and we are starting to have them dubbed in varied languages. This is a big project. We have 13 videos done, and they are being put into Spanish and Khmer to start.”

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