Interview with Loeurt To - Arts and culture represents life and action

Loeurt To has witnessed the growth of performing arts industry in Cambodia first hand. Through his capacity building project funded by the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), Phare Ponleu Selpak, To’s arts organization, has contributed to the professionalization of over 360 cultural actors. To is attending the 7th Conference of Parties with the mission to connect with his peers around the world.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in the creative sector?

To me, arts and culture represents life and action. Without it, we do not know our history or identity as human being. I love arts and believe that it can be used as a tool for human and social development. I would like to use different art forms for education, health, business, and science. I strongly hope to have more social impact through my work in the creative industry.

To me, arts and culture represents life and action.


Over the years at Phare Ponleu Selpak Association, what kind of success and impacts have you seen your students achieve?

Since its inception 25 years ago, the Association has steadily expanded its programmes, which now extend to theater, circus and music. We also offer vocational training programs through our Visual and Applied Arts School and Performing Arts School.

Our programs have had positive economic impacts in the community. The performing arts students are compensated for their on-stage performance during the curriculum. Sound and light technicians report increased payment after our technical trainings. Recently, graduates from our Visual and Applied Arts School founded a startup animation company. Some graduates implement social impact project as an independent artist. We also hire around 40 graduates at our social enterprise, paid a much higher rate than the industry average.


Why is investing in the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) important for Cambodia?

Since 2016, the economic growth rate of Cambodia remains stable at around 7%. The creative sector in Cambodia is also growing, and there are a lot of investments from businesses and investors. The sector will provide jobs for young people in the future, and the next generation seems interested in the CCIs.

However, the sector is still in its infancy. It has limited capacity and resources to respond to the fast growth or to create cultural goods and services. We also need good governance as well as young leadership.



What are some positive trends you have witnessed in Cambodian CCIs?

It is a golden age of animation filming in Cambodia. An animation competition takes place annually and sends winners to Japan. Recently, our social enterprise signed with an animation company in Europe to work on a major animation project about culture exchange. Film industry and publishing are also areas experiencing rapid growth.

The government has been providing technical support to organizations in the creative sector. For instance, our MoU with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts grants our foreign volunteers a visa exemption. A cultural taskforce, formed to support the CCIs and policy implementations, meets regularly to discuss topics such as taxation on entertainment productions.

Wholistic programs that not only provide artistic skills but also soft skills for professionalization are needed.


What challenges do professional artists in Cambodia face?

Scarcity of proper training opportunities and programs is one issue. Wholistic programs that not only provide artistic skills but also soft skills for professionalization are needed to address artists’ concern about their future. For instance, it takes many years of training to become a circus artists, but they need to retire early. Naturally, they need a second set of skills so they can switch their career.

What are you hoping to achieve at the 7th Conference of Parties?

I look forward to learning about the best global practices as well as the role of arts and culture in achieving the SDGs. I am also eager to network with other participants for future collaborations. I would also like to tell UNESCO that the fund received through the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) has been effectively used to achieve social impacts in the Cambodian CCIs.


Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention