Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

This has been my favorite assignment to date. It gave me the opportunity to see the different artist-run establishments in Manila, but it also helped me see just how much more ground I have to cover. These artist-run spaces represent the tip of the iceberg. There is so much of Manila to explore. :)

I'll be posting these in parts since this is also a long article. Part 1 of 6 coming up.
~*C

A Glimpse Into Manila’s Artist-Run Spaces
Text by: Carren Jao
Photos by: Owee Salva and Nicky Sering
Edited by: Tara FT Sering
Published: Contemporary Art Philippines May 2009

THEY’RE by artists, about artists, and for the artists. Welcome to Manila’s artist-run spaces, packets of creativity throughout the metro that inject today’s art scene with renewed vitality. Part-gallery, part-workshop, and part-watering hole, these spaces cultivate a culture of creativity and exchange (not to mention camaraderie) among many artists, young and old, some of who find mentors among peers. We took a tour of five such spaces—White Box Studio and Blacksoup Art Space in Cubao, Art Informal in Greenhills, The Cubicle in Pasig, and Green Papaya Art Projects in Quezon City—and found the passionate forces behind them.

Door #1
Art Informal, Greenhills


Except for the sign bearing the words “Art Informal,” the school-slash-exhibition space could easily blend with the upper middle class residences surrounding it. Past its white gate and sculptures nesting on the grass, one is greeted with an expansive space—the biggest artist-run space when it opened in 2004, proudly says its Director Tine Fernandez.

Inside, Fernandez bustles in a white summer dress, preparing for Museum Foundation’s Art in the Park/Art After Dark affair. As Fernandez emerges from her sea of things to do, she explains Art Informal’s beginnings with the words, “Education is very important… we learn art more in an informal setting. During the process of art making there’s always learning—new ways of seeing.”

It was this realization that became the inspiration for Fernandez, Art Informal curator and sculptor Joel Alonday, as well as other artist-friends Pamela Yan-Santos, Jose John Santos III, Riel Hilario, Eriwn LeaƱo, and Jim Orencio to put up Art Informal. With the mission to educate, they introduced workshops catered to adults and children, taught by practicing contemporary Filipino artists. Eventually, the group would maintain the adult workshops and phase out their children’s program, re-focusing their efforts on a gallery, the natural outgrowth of Art Informal’s development. As students learn more about the process of art making, they develop a greater appreciation for artwork and “inevitably, it became a venue for viewing works.”

Though having been taught privately by Frederico Aguilar Alcuaz, Fernando Sena, and Stella Rojas, as well as having her own show in Boston Gallery and Pinto Art Gallery, Fernandez confesses by saying that her painting “has taken a backseat” to other concerns that include running Art Informal, and a post as VP of Sales at Belle Corporation, and upscale property developer. “I can [still] paint, but I have to sacrifice having my own shows…I didn’t want to come up with sub-par works, I can’t live with it.” She says, and after a brief pause, adds, “I’m better at promoting art, rather than making it.”

For this artist, intentions are kept pure precisely because she has not let go of her secure day job. She shares, “My brother and I own the house, and the sale of the artworks usually help us break even…[Art Informal] is not a business for me.”

Though her art making has been relegated to the sidelines, she places herself within the milieu of art through Art Informal. Indeed, as one views her answering intermittent text messages, attending to collector queries, and ensuring smooth operations for the upcoming event, it is evident she lives and breathes art. [continued in next post]

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