by Donna Laguardia
Art is one of life’s important aspects. It serves a number of purposes. According to art experts it serves as a way for the artist to reveal their thoughts and ideas which they were not able to express in the usual language. It can also be a medium of communication between the people of the past and those of the present by acting as a passage for the ancient norms, cultures, traditions, and beliefs to be in the future for they may be useful for the modern society. Art can also be a way to preserve the beauty and essence of something that is perishable.
These, and among many more purposes probably led to the establishment of a number of institutions such as national museums and art galleries to house and take charge of the preservation of a great number of works of art in various forms, world wide. One of these institutions worth thanking for saving Filipinos cultural heritage is the UPV Art Gallery – located in the Lozano Hall of the University of the Philippines – Visayas, Iloilo City campus.
Enclosed in its four ancient walls are passion, brilliance and the mighty power of the mind and the heart collided to form magnificent masterpieces. The hall is abundantly filled with genuine knowledge, unuttered powerful emotions and messages expressed in lasting silence and an amazingly creative way. A shelter for the hundreds and thousands of wild imaginations, mutely shouting and striving to be imparted from generation to generations – the UPV Art Gallery is the home for many excellent works of credible Filipino artists.
The UPV Art Gallery was established in the 70’s. Former University of the Philippines College in Iloilo (UPCI) dean, Dr. Dionisia A. Rola created the Cultural Development Committee (CDC). CDC was one of the development programs expected to benefit UPCI and the region it served. This committee, headed by Prof. Gaudelia V. Doromal who was at that time the chair of the Humanities Division, sponsored several group art exhibits.
In 1983, UPCI became an autonomous campus and was named as the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV). Dr. Rola who was appointed as UPV’s first chancellor, approved the conversion of the Little Theater annex room into CDC’s office and art gallery. Two years later, CDC became the Chancellor’s Committee for Culture and the Arts (CCCA), with Prof. Doromal as Chair. The title chair was later been changed to Special Assistant to the Chancellor for the Culture and the Arts.
In July 25, 1995, Chancellor Rola generously turned over some of her personal collections to the university upon her retirement. A huge number of the gallery’s collection today came from her donation.
Prof. Doromal was succeeded by Dr. Elnora A. Cabalfin and Prof. Cecelia F. Parcon, respectively. Under Prof. Cabalfin, the CCCA’s office and art gallery was transferred to Lozano Hall because the building was deemed structurally appropriate. In July 2001 Prof. Marie Joy R. Sumagaysay took over then followed by Prof. Roman C. Sanares in 2002 -2005. He was then succeeded by Prof. Vicente R. Tan who holds the position until the present.
The Chancellor’s Committee for Culture in the Arts (CCCA) was created in order to provide a central body to ensure and make available to the UPV constituency and the community a rich, balanced and quality cultural program. The objectives of the said committee include , to help enhance the humanistic dimensions of the university activities and programs; to help enrich the “inner life” of the university community as well as the community at large, through opportunities to understand and appreciate various forms of artistic expression; to help create and sustain a climate that will better enable the artists in the university and the community to realize themselves and to play their role effectively in shaping attitudes and values; to help provide leadership in the tone and quality of cultural programs and artistic activities in the region; and to assist in programs aimed at discovering and promoting the Filipino and Visayan cultural heritage.
CCCA’s functions are to design and disseminate a rich and balanced annual calendar of cultural activities for the university, encourage the formation and growth of performing and creative groups in the various artistic fields among the constituents of the university and to recommend policies and measures to encourage elevation and maintenance of high standards of cultural performances through a system of rewards and incentives. It also monitors the various cultural and artistic projects in the university and prepares the budget in support of the cultural program and recommends the allocation of cultural funds.
Prior to these functions the committee plans out annual calendar of activities for the promotion, preservation, and enhancement of arts and culture among the students, faculty and staff in the university and the larger community in the region as well. These activities involve art exhibits, art workshops/lectures, concerts/cultural performances and art recitals.
For several decades until recently, CCCA is doing quite well in running the gallery and performing its tasks. It has sponsored many exhibits and had collected a good number of art collections. A huge part of this success is attributed to patrons of arts organizations such as the Friends of UPV for the Arts (FUPVA) who willingly extended their generous support to the committee. RPG Foundation Inc., through its Chairman Dr. Raul de Guzman, also a pioneer faculty of the College of Management had rendered a big support when the foundation recently funded the rehabilitation of the UPV Art Gallery.
Most of the projects and cultural and arts–related programs being undertaken by the CCCA every academic year were also sourced from the cultural funds paid by the students.
The UPV Art Gallery takes pride for being the only gallery in the region to have the works of several national artists in its collections particularly there of Jose Joya, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Cesar Legaspi, Arturo Luz and Ang Kiukok. It is also a repository of the works of Ilonggo artists namely Edward Defensor, Nelson Ferraris, Dado Tan, Fred Orig, Alan Cabalfin, Jose Amora, Joseph Decierdo, Roman Sanares, Benjie Belgica, PG Zoluaga, Martin Genodepa, Levi Salmon, and many others.
One of the prized pieces is the huge artwork entitled “Tree of Life” which is an abstract collage consisting of acrylic paint on wood with patches of hand–made paper with colors cream, green and brown which are cut in varying shapes and figures made by former Dean of the College of Fine Arts in UP Diliman and posthumously awarded national artist, Jose Joya. This art piece was acquired by UPV in 1986. Another fraction of UPV Arts Gallery’s collections is the pottery works of Nelfa Querobin – Tompkins, an Ilongga artist from Concepcion, Iloilo who donated more than 50 of her early works to UPV before she migrated to the US also in 1986.
Also held in the gallery last November 11, 2005 was Francisco Riccardo Monti in the Philippines. It was an exhibit featuring well-mounted black and white photograph of large scale sculptor pieces by Monti, an Italian sculptor who stayed in the Philippines for almost three decades (1930-1958). Monti was the one who designed the figures situated above Lozano Hall’s main doorway and the Law and Order statue (commonly mistaken as Plato and Aristotle guarding the entrance). He was also a good friend of Juan Arellano, The National Artist for Architecture.
In 2006, the CCCA has also conducted several projects such as Kurit-Dagyaw (an Interaction Painting), Dihon (Art Installation Exhibit), Bungang-Isip (On the Spot Poem Writing Contest), Saranggola (Stage Play), and Kuting-Kuting (An Informance featuring the Kasilag Guitar Quartet). It has also sponsored solo exhibits namely, Violated Portraits, an exhibit by Martin Genodepa’s latest collection of sculptures presenting his musings on what constitute violence against women and children, among them disease, poverty, hunger and physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Genodepa holds a bachelor’s degree in the humanities from UPV. As mentioned by Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez in her article Crossbred and Émigré: Visual Art in a Flux, Martin was one of the only four Filipino sculptors today who work primarily in stones along side with Imelda Pilapil, Roberto Robles and Eduardo Olbes. Another CCCA’s major undertaking is Kuhang Marino: Images of Filipino Seamen, a two-part exhibit on Filipino seafarers who are considered one of the contemporary heroes today. One part features a photo documentary exhibition by Johannes Ode, a professional Dutch photographer commissioned by the Philippine Seafarers Assistance Programme to capture the living and working conditions of Filipino seamen in world’s ships. The other part showed the seamen’s poetry that they have been written onboard. This was done in collaboration with UP Diliman Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center.
For the Academic Year 2007-2008, the CCCA has again carried out a number of huge projects particularly art exhibits such as Whimsies by Tina Ascalon, The Saffron Spirit from Cambodia by Loven Ramos, Outburst by Anthony Castillo, History of UP Visayas in collaboration with Center for West Visayan Studies, Exhibit of UPV’s Selected Art Collections by CCCA, Dos por Dos by Joey Isturis, The Nude Exhibit by Various Illonggo Artists and Partnership at 60 (traveling photo exhibit in celebration of the 60 years of Philippine-American Friendship Day). It has also featured contests, lectures and workshops namely, Bungang Isip (a poem writing contest), Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Lecture-workshop in collaboration with SCBWI and OCEP, Kuris-Kuris (a sketching workshop by Fred Ong) and Photographic Society of Iloilo’s Public.
And for this academic year 2008-2009, it has also accomplished several noteworthy events such as Handurawan (a visual art exhibition featuring the works of Levy Salmon), Handuraw (a cultural presentation in celebration of the Salakayan Festival), 35 Years On: Nelfa Querobin’s Retrospective Exhibition in celebration of the UP Centennial, Kurit Dagyaw (an Interaction Painting), Artist’s Talk: Nelfa Querobin’s Life and Craft, Cultural Heritage; Makakain ba yan?(a lecture by Prof. Eric B. Zerrudo), Pagpupugay sa Pambansang Alagad ng Sining – Virgilio S. Almario, Bigkas Binalaybay: Book Launching and Writer’s Night, PMB’s Dorm Poets Society (a poetry exhibit), Pabatyag ( a poetry workshop), Take Two (a stage play presentation), Parangal (a centennial commencement concert featuring Ballet Philippines), Indio-Genious Art: In and Out Frame, and just recently the 2008 Shell Art Exhibit Program (featuring Juvenal Sanso). In the whole month of August of this year, it will be in custody of The One-man Show by Prof. Edward D. Defensor – a multi-awarded humanities professor in various fields of Art and Literature.
Art indeed is an important part of human life. For people mentioned above wouldn’t have spent a huge part of their life creating and promoting art pieces for nothing. And for institutions like the UPV Art Gallery would not be in existence if it was not because of such considerable importance.
Source: UPV Art Gallery files