Our organization started in 2012 and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 2016. We support communities of artists across the globe. Our aim is to improve their lives and local economy while sharing their stories and art.
How it Started
“Stop the car,” I said. It was 2011 and we were leaving the temples of Angkor Watt by a little known back road in Cambodia. The car stopped. At the back of an open space was a travelling theatre. A few people were sitting on the grass. I left the car to find who they were and what they were doing. Fortunately my interpreter followed me closely. I had never been on that road before and, as it turned out, neither had the theatre company. They had come down from the north the day before and set up their theatre hoping to attract foreign tourists visiting the temples. They offered me food and I joined them on the grass. No surprise, no rejection. When the interpreter told them that I was also a performer in my country far, far away, all barriers came down.
They were/are Bassac performers. Bassac is an indigenous form of Cambodian opera with a history of many hundreds, if not thousands, of years and that day I happened to encounter the only company that had survived slaughter by the Khmer Rouge. The dictator, Pol Pot had initiated the elimination of all artists. They performed the ancient Hindu legends, the basis of the mythology of Cambodia to a mainly illiterate population, and as such had to be eradicated to foment his form of Communism. Only two artists had survived. I met one of them that day.
Len Choeun, the director, had been born into a Bassac Company and because he was a child, had been hidden under the bodies of his slaughtered parents. When the Vietnamese freed the Cambodian people all he knew was Bassac. The training starts very young, so he was able to recreate what he remembered and that Company, The Reasmey Angkor Bassac Opera Company, was the one that I met that day. My time was limited, I had to rush back to Siem Reap to get my plane to Singapore. As I was leaving, Choeun went down on his knees, the tears pouring down his face. “We are starving,” he said. “Please help us.”
Two days later I was in the States putting together anything that I thought would help them. The cost of mailing was more than the cost of the clothes, etc. By trial and error and the help of expatriate Cambodians, a form of support emerged. Money was the easiest to transfer but the hardest to acquire. In 2012 we incorporated and Save World Art was born. We are proud to tell you that a theatre is being built to house the Company with classrooms and apartment dwellings, and a wonderful main stage for public performances.
Our mission of supporting indigenous art that has been threatened with extinction has carried us in to many countries in many forms. We know that we have not only contributed to the rescue of almost forgotten art forms but have saved lives, strengthened local economies, and raised the quality of life. Our mission is daunting. We are never quite sure where we are going to be taken next. Come join us for the adventure and the wonderful sense of achievement.
Where We Are Now
Since 2012 when we first started Save World Art, our projects have spanned the globe.
Dogon Country in Mali
Santa Marta, Colombia
Knitting artisans in Iran
Silk weavers in Andrah Pradesh, India
Dancers in Kathmandu, Nepal
Indigenous shadow puppet theatre – Company Sovanna Phum in Pnom Penh, Cambodia
Vital support has been greatly effected by the pandemic and we look forward to rejoining with these groups and forming new connections.
FROM THREATENED TO THRIVING
We develop projects that will promote the health of individuals and their environment and support their continued ability to perform and produce their art. We measure our success by the continued production and vitality of the output and its reflection of the traditions of the community and its economy.
Board of Directors
Helena de Crespo,Executive Director
Helena is a Spanish born graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. Is an award-winning actress. Is fluent in two languages. Has performed in 16 different countries on three continents in theatre, television, and film. Served The Department of Culture of the Colombian Government and that of Costa Rica in South and Central America. Awarded the ONDRA for her contribution to Latin American Theatre. Developed projects on behalf of UNESCO. Resides in the US.
Peter Cooper, Photographer
Peter has been practicing photography for the past 60 years. Combining this with the love of travel, he and his wife have explored many countries. The UK, France, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile, India, China, Kenya, Thailand and Iceland, to name a few. The next on the list is Uganda where they will be continuing projects for SWA.
Because of these supporters, we know we don’t walk alone. We’re waiting to hear from you!
Tualatin Valley Creates
Tualatin Valley Creates inspires our diverse community to connect to the heart and soul of Washington County through arts, culture, heritage, and the humanities.