Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) believes that arts and cultural expression are essential to a thriving future for Cambodia. This month, we tell the story of Ou Buntheng, operation manager and tour manager at Epic Arts.

Ou Buntheng is operation manager and tour manager at Epic Arts in Kampot, an organisation that uses arts as a form of expression and empowerment to bring people with and without disabilities together. Currently he is one of CLA’s Fellows, a year-long personal and professional development programme. He has been working in the arts sector since 2012, when he became an administrator, and later a tour manager for Epic Arts.

When Buntheng first started working for Epic Arts, he was responsible for bringing artists to perform in villages and community settings. He was concerned that because he didn’t have a background in the arts, he wouldn’t be able to work well in this role. “I had no interest in arts at all. I just knew about my admin work, and I was so concerned when my job started to involve more about culture and arts.”

After some years working in the sector, Buntheng fell in love with the mission of Epic Arts, to use arts as a tool that creates opportunities for people living with disabilities. In addition to some of the artists having disabilities, the work of Epic Arts pushes boundaries in many ways. “When audiences see contemporary work, it is even further from their idea of what performing arts should look like,” he says.

Buntheng applied to take part in the Living Arts Fellows programme because he wanted to overcome these issues, and increase the impact of his work in the arts sector. “Since I started this programme, I have become more inspired to be an art leader, and I see there is no reason why people without artistic skills themselves can’t become arts leaders. I learned how to deal with the challenges I face in my work through methods like mind maps and concept maps. I built my network both inside and outside the country, and I see more clearly now about the culture and arts situation in Cambodia and outside, and how I can support our arts sector myself.”

Buntheng is keen to see more people take part in culture and arts without discrimination, and wants to see more creative pieces by local artists. His advice to artists and those who wish to work in the sector, especially people with disabilities, is to believe in yourself and try to understand more about the development of arts, and the value that art brings to people and communities.

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