Cambodia art journey reflects the nation’s modern hope

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — Lauren Iida, an accomplished Seattle artist, creates spaces and opportunities for Cambodian artists to train and excel. She is the founder of Open Studio Cambodia, a fledgling art center in Kampot, the small coastal city south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. The center gathers and trains emerging artists, many of whom live with disabilities and have enjoyed very few chances to hone their art skills.

Iida, who has Japanese American roots on her father’s side, studied art at Cornish College of the Arts. She traveled the world extensively before finding a calling in Cambodia more than 10 years ago. She now lives in Cambodia, and frequently visits her family in Washington.

Iida still has strong ties to the state. Her gallery representative, ArtXchange Gallery, is in Pioneer Square, and she has been selected as one of the artists to create public art for the major addition to the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

Besides making art, Iida leads tours comprising visitors meeting Cambodia’s contemporary artists and their studios.
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