Gallery Brings Art Into the Streets of Battambang City

When Cambodian artist Mao Soviet and US artist Arnoldo Hur­tado Escobar installed unusually shaped rattan light-shades over Street 2.5 in Battambang City, neighbors didn’t know what to make of them.

“They did not like it,” Mr. So­viet said.

“They were afraid [the sculptures] would fall and hurt children on the street.”

But after the heavy rains two weeks ago failed to bring the shades down, and local children started coming to their gallery to paint the sculpted lampshades, neighbors started to look differently at the activities of Make Maek Art Space, Mr. Soviet said.

The shades are part of the gal­lery’s “Cloudy & Loud Ex­hi­bi­tion” that opened on Friday.

On Saturday, at 7 p.m., the ex­hibit will expand into “Make Light,” a street-and-gallery event during which lights in the shades —which form an 18-meter-long installation—will be turned on in the gallery and over the street. Sparklers will be distributed to children, child-friendly activities will be organized and movies shown.

The goal of the gallery-meets-street art project is to familiarize the public with contemporary arts, Mr. Soviet and Mr. Hurtado Es­cobar said.

Even though Battambang City has one of the most active visual arts communities in the country, most people in the city still hesitate to visit art galleries, Mr. Soviet said.

However, now that local youngsters have gotten used to dropping by Make Maek Art Space, which opened last year, people in the neighborhood are beginning to come over, Mr. Hurtado Es­cobar said. “The kids are a bridge to the community,” he said.

In addition to those lit rattan sculptures, which are meant to suggest clouds, the exhibition al­so features paintings by the two artists on the theme of light and clouds.

In one of Mr. Soviet’s paintings, nebulous shapes of soft blue, red and white seem to float on the canvas, while in one of Mr. Hur­tado Escobar’s works, well-de­fined patches in pale orange, grays, blues and greens move freely in space.

Mr. Soviet and Mr. Hurtado Escobar began planning this project about three months ago, viewing it as a collaborative effort be­tween artists from two very different backgrounds eager to learn from each other, Mr. Soviet explained.

Born and bred in Battambang City, Mr. Soviet is a graduate of Phare Ponleu Selpak’s art school and has numerous exhibitions to his credit in the country and abroad.

Mr. Hurtado Escobar came to Cambodia in July 2011 as a US Peace Corp volunteer. The 23-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, holds a bachelor degree in fine arts from the University of North Texas. His Peace Corp assignment involves education activities in the public sector as well as community development work through the arts, he said.

The two artists intend to hold gallery and street events every Saturday during the exhibition, which will run through mid-May.



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