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Arts and Entertainment

Art Exhibit Showcases Work of Students in Cambodia

Businessman Bill Gentry was raised in Springfield.  But the executive vice-president of global sales and marketing for Positronic Industries, has been living in Singapore for 15 years.  About ten years ago, he and his wife went on a trip to Cambodia to help build houses for the poor.  While there, they visited some underprivileged schools in the area…

"I visited a school, and I saw some amazing innate talent in the kids, so I talked to the headmaster and I got the idea to possibly go there and start teaching the kids art because I was trained in art from the University of Indiana, and he accepted my proposal and so I started travelling and working with children teaching them let's say a trade approximately ten years ago."

According to Gentry, many of the schools have dirt floors and no light bulbs.

In 2003, he started Colors of Cambodia to provide students in Cambodia with art instruction.  As the organization grew, he was able to hire art teachers and send them to teach at schools in the area.  The lack of exposure to artists’ most basic materials was apparent…

"Some of the schools we've been to, the kids don't even know what crayons are--they start to eat them.  They think they're like candies.  The supplies are really expensive.  I mean, these are people whose parents maybe make $30 a month in income, so items like paper and pencils and art supplies are big extravagances."

But Gentry was inspired by the artistic history of Cambodia and the innate creative skills of the Cambodian people…

"When one goes there you notice the amazing amount of talent that must have once existed in that region of the world--you know the thousands of carvings, stone carvings, on the walls of all these temples.  There's definitely what I would call an abnormal amount of talented kids there."

Gentry says seven schools have benefited from Colors of Cambodia.  And more schools might be added since they’ve just hired a fourth art teacher. 

The Colors of Cambodia Art School and Gallery has been established, too, to show students’ artwork.  Kids are free to come and go as they please during numerous flowing art classes there.

An art exhibit, “The Colors of Cambodia,” featuring work by some of those students, will be at the Creamery Arts Center this month.  Gentry explains what you can expect…

"Well, they'll see some great draftsmanship and pencil drawings and watercolors and some oils--most of the oils are mine--but you'll see work that is very very professional and skilled and detailed way beyond the age of the kids who did it."

Gentry also has some pieces in the exhibit.   The students’ artwork was done by kids 15 to 17-years-old.  He says you’ll see depictions of life in Cambodia…

"You know, family scenes, landscape scenes, ruins of the temples scenes--they're very much connected into what their life is all about."

The Colors of Cambodia opens during First Friday Art Walk tomorrow night (10/7) from 6 to 9 and will be open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 until October 28th.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.