Cambodian Community Press Release

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The cultural diversity in the Bay Area makes it one of the best places to live in the world. Cambodian-Americans are certainly significant pieces of that cultural tapestry. The preservation of the Cambodian culture is, therefore, vital. It is paramount not only to the collective community, but also to the Cambodian community, and the individual Cambodians themselves.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cambodian Living Arts + The Vanderbilt Republic Foundation

For immediate release.
Contact: Matthew Bogosian / 718-749-7775 /

A team of American artists will spend this October in Cambodia working to rebuild Cambodia’s art and culture by documenting the country’s cultural resurrection in partnership with Cambodian Living Arts.

New York City, July 16, 2009.

Between 1975 and 1979, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge effectively replaced Cambodia’s two thousand year old artistic history with one of genocide and death. In this massively coordinated effort to return to a flattened “Year Zero”, approximately 2 million Cambodians, or 25% of its population, died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. In a merciless attempt to march backwards in history, nearly 90% of the country’s artists were executed.

Luckily, a twelve-year-old flute player named Arn Chorn escaped from the brutal regime and found sanctuary in the arms of an American missionary named Peter Pond, who later adopted him. Arn Chorn-Pond returned to Cambodia as an adult in 2001 with the inspiring goal of piecing together what was left of Cambodia’s culture. He found 16 surviving music legends and created the Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) program around them. The CLA’s mission is to pass Cambodia’s musical traditions on to younger generations; after starting with nothing, the program now supports nearly 300 students, and is growing.

“I hope Cambodia can become a center for arts and culture,” Chorn-Pond said. “When visitors come to Cambodia, we won’t be known for the killing fields. We want the world to know us for our arts and culture, like in ancient Angkor times. Our arts will be the international signature of our country.”

Arn Chorn-Pond and Cambodian Living Arts have partnered with The Vanderbilt Republic Foundation (VRF) to emphatically broadcast Cambodia’s coming cultural rebirth to the world. Founded by acclaimed portrait photographer George Del Barrio and his representative, Matthew Bogosian, the VRF is an arts and culture non-profit devoted to increasing public awareness of critical arts, cultural, and human rights organizations. The VRF mobilizes the talent and experience of the photographic industry’s most diverse and talented working creatives.
To purposefully document and promote the CLA’s mission, The VRF will send George Del Barrio ( to Cambodia to photograph all the living Cambodian Master performers, bringing to this important human story a style of portraiture that has been called “iconic”, “moving”, and “deeply human”. Del Barrio will work closely to realize this ambitious vision with creative director Dwayne Shaw—an accomplished industry veteran and former creative director for Universal/Motown records, Vibe Magazine, and Time, Inc. This crew - with Columbian, African-American, Cuban and Armenian heritages - understands cultural conflict firsthand and is fully prepared to devote their collective talents to help the CLA. “To meet these masters who have persevered and are trying to preserve their culture speaks directly to me as an African-American. It takes courage”, said Shaw. To emphasize the reality of this Cambodian st ruggle, Del Barrio’s trademark combination of a Sinar view camera with 4” x 5” Kodak sheet film will be indispensable. The resulting work will be reproduced on a large scale and at a level of quality now unfamiliar to contemporary audiences. Traveling exhibitions, events, seminars, and a feature-length film will result from this concerted effort.

Chorn-Pond thinks the VRF is the perfect organization to help the CLA reintroduce Cambodia’s legendary art and culture to the larger world. “I’m very excited that The Vanderbilt Republic Foundation is going to Cambodia, to photograph [the] Masters,” he said. “To show the world. And to bring…their story to light.”

DriveIn Studios, Calumet Photographic, Root Capture, St. Lawrence University, The Public House and Brooklyn Brewery are providing support for the project, but the Vanderbilt Republic Foundation is looking for further donations to make this project a reality. To get involved, visit or call Matthew Bogosian at (718) 749-7775. For more information about Cambodian Living Arts, visit