Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

[continued from previous post]

Door #4
Green Papaya Art Projects, Quezon City

On a corner of Kamuning Avenue and T. Gener Street stands an unobtrusive glass display that affords one a peek into Green Papaya’s third manifestation. Having been kicked out of its second venue in Maginahawa Street for excessive rowdiness, Green Papaya seems to have found a neighborhood more suited to its strange combination of creative savvy and plain old freewheeling fun.

Run by visual artist Peewee Roldan and contemporary dancer Donna Miranda, Green Papaya Art Projects was described by the Art Asia Pacific Almanac as “venerable” in the world of independent art spaces. “In short, matanda na (In short, we’re old),” injects Miranda with a laugh. Where spaces such as theirs normally only last three to four years, Green Papaya Art Projects is nearing ten years of existence and continues to brave the turbulent waters of independence.

Inspired by the Kitchen, one of the foremost interdisciplinary art spaces in New York, Green Papaya’s birth also dovetailed with a period that saw the opening of many now-defunct artist-run spaces like Third Space by Yason Banal, Big Sky Mind by Ringo Bunoan and Katya Guerrero, and Future Prospects. Roldan explains, “During this period dun talaga nag-sulputan yung (really saw the proliferation of) artist run spaces because [the landscape] was totally lacking in infrastructure.”

With the help of Manuel Chavez, now Art Director for Town and Country, the vision of Green Papaya evolved from simply a visual art space into “a forum for contemporary art practice—not only the presentation aspect, but also information dissemination, research, interaction, intellectual exchange, international networking.”

While Green Papaya has shown the works of such artists as Geraldine Javier, MM Yu, and Patricia Eustaquio, Miranda clarifies that it is not just about exhibition. “Our focus is not presentation space, our focus is building an infrastructure for contemporary art practice….we would much rather prefer this mediating artist mobility and [giving] artist empowerment kasi marami namang aspeto ang art scene di lang makapag-exhibit (because there are a lot of facets to the art scene, not just putting up exhibits).”

Despite the loftiness of its vision, Green Papaya saves itself from starched shirts in white towers by keeping an open, creative vibe alive—anything from poetry reading and drinking sessions to Radioactive Sago Project performances have been known to transpire under its roof. Each Wednesday, Green Papaya is also home to its Wednesdays-I’m-in-Love Open Platform (w.o.p) residency program, “an experimental and creative laboratory for new artistic explorations in contemporary visual arts, performance, and new media” supported by Arts Asia Network. Previous residents have included Mark Salvatus, Angelo Suarez, and Martha Atienza.

Besides enriching the community, w.o.p. also has a positive side-effect, relieving a little bit of the creative stress from the shoulders of Peewee and Donna. “Over the last 6 months, we were able to take off the ground yung Wednesdays Open Platform. So, every Wednesday, it’s not just me and Donna running the program, there is an assigned resident artist running the program with us,” explains Roldan. Green Papaya’s Wednesday to Saturday operation also helps both artists make time for their respective practices.

Despite its current indications of vibrancy, both Peewee and Donna acknowledge that Green Papaya’s longevity was not all their doing. In 2006, its doors nearly closed for lack of funding and the only thing that kept them afloat was the community they served. “Nung time na pasara na kami, may mga artist na nag-sabi sa amin, (When we were in danger of closing, some artists asked us), ‘What can we do to help to keep you alive?’ And we would like to mention names kasi it’s about time that we acknowledge these artists,” says Roldan.

Now-familiar names like Geraldine Javier, Yasmin Sison, Wire Tuazon, Maria Taniguchi, and Mawen Ong crop up. These artists donated some works, which could be sold to pay the rent—even Baguio Arts Guild co-founder, Santiago Bose donated a work specifically to be used on a rainy day. With a slight catch in his throat, Roldan says, “We realize [that] while over the years we were building this space for the community. In the end, it’s the community that will save you.”

As Green Papaya inches its way to a decade of exploration and experimentation, the dynamics of its inception have also progressed. “Sabi namin (We said), ‘We are about to celebrate our 10th year and so parang alongside [it was] the realization na… this is not just an alternative—we are no longer an alternative… Based on the definition of Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), we are an alternative cultural center,” clarifies Roldan. For the observant art-lover, it is apparent that Green Papaya has matured, but thankfully has not lost the anarchist-system-subverter spirit that has endeared it to a whole community. [continued in next post]


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