Art will change society | Inquirer Opinion

Art will change society

“Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.”

Those words belong to Victor Pinchuk, one of the world’s billionaires. He must know whereof he speaks. He is scorned for his involvement in politics, but praised for his contribution to the arts. Pinchuk has established an art museum that has transformed the cultural landscape of his native Ukraine, and he has put up grants and awards that encourage young artists worldwide.


Since “freedom and creativity” are both inherent elements and resulting by-products of art, art on its own has the power to bring about change in society.

There are outstanding Filipinos in our midst who are using the power of art to help transform their communities. They’re doing so without fanfare, outside of the limelight and shorn of financial rewards.


There’s Nunelucio Alvarado, a brilliant painter who has relentlessly portrayed the anguished lives and blighted future of the Negros sakadas, the most impoverished group of farmers in our country. Alvarado has created his unique visual characters that eloquently depict the struggles and deprivations of sugarcane workers. His social commentaries are compelling, and the quality of his paintings are outstanding. Alvarado is one of our most underappreciated senior artists, even if he rightfully deserves a nomination for the National Artist award.

Alvarado organizes a regular art festival in his hometown, Sagay, Negros Occidental. He invites dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors and speakers who perform, exhibit or do workshops. His neighborhood has been transformed into a visual kaleidoscope after he mobilized his townmates to paint nonfigurative shapes and colors on the exterior walls of their houses. From its placid stupor, community life in Sagay
has been roused with creative pursuits because of Alvarado.

There’s Orley Ypon, a multiawarded artist who has garnered top prizes in art competitions in the Philippines and in the United States. Ypon displays an extraordinary talent in classical realism in the tradition of Juan Luna, but with contemporary themes.

Ypon has established Aroma Art Academy, an informal art school in Toledo, Cebu. There are now 24 young and underprivileged artists from all over Cebu and Mindanao who are staying with Ypon. The young artists learn by observing Ypon’s painting process and listening to Ypon’s critiques of their works. Ypon also conducts lectures and on-the-spot outdoor painting sessions with his wards. The young artists stay with Ypon for one to two years, with free board and lodging and, best of all, free art education from an exceptional artist. Some of the young artists are now exhibiting and selling their works in reputable galleries in Metro Manila.

Finally, there’s Emmanuel Garibay, who is a stalwart of the famed Salingpusa artists group. Garibay is an exemplary visual storyteller, with an exceptional talent for rendering amusing but biting social, political and religious commentaries in his paintings. With an impressive body of work, Garibay has secured his place as a major name in the Philippine art scene.

Garibay is the perennial instigator of art projects that propagate art to a wider audience, infuse art with social relevance, and foster camaraderie among artists. He was a principal mover of Tutok Karapatan, which hosted various art events dealing with extrajudicial killings. He organizes the yearly “Artletics” event, in which artists come together to play sports and to listen to art talks. Recently, he spearheaded “Paghilom,” an art festival in Amadeo, Cavite, that sought to bring art to the wider audience of ordinary people, as opposed to art fairs, auctions and art gallery exhibitions that cater to a rarefied market. The art festival, which consisted of workshops, talks, dance and music performances and art exhibitions, drew more than a thousand participants.

These three commendable Filipinos are utilizing the power of art to foment freedom of thought and to ferment creativity in their communities. They are inspiring agents of change in our society.

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TAGS: art, Emmanuel Garibay, Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Nunelucio Alvarado, Orley Ypon, Society
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