Human connection is as equally important as infrastructure, and a Department of Culture and the Arts can help facilitate that
Lately, as I was traversing through the latest portion of the Skyway over EDSA, I suddenly had this thought: These are physical interconnections and they are all wonderful to have. But what about invisible “skyways” and “bridges” that will connect people and energize their inner lives?
Of course, I was thinking of the arts, which are my paramount concern. Alongside these awesome structures, I feel the necessity—no urgency—of building the other necessary pathways that will facilitate the arts to reach people from all walks of life as well as communities of diverse cultures. Music, dance, visual arts, performing arts, even digital arts can be the skyways and bridges across cultures and across walks of life and class divisions.
Someone once said: “While feeding them with food for their bodies let’s not forget the spirit and the soul. Art is what nourishes that part of the human being.”
As an artist myself, I couldn’t agree more. Around the world, millions of people visit art museums, read literature, watch movies and stage plays, and view awe-inspiring architectural structures. They seek an escape from the pressures of everyday life, a chance to experience something out of the ordinary, a trigger to think about life’s bigger questions, and the thrill of exploring the meanings of artistic creations.
Equally important, I also believe that art makes us forget our differences—generational, political, social, gender, and economic—and serves as a bridge that enables people to understand and appreciate each other. This is especially true of music. This is why one of the projects I initiated was free public concerts by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO). It is personally satisfying to see a sense of delight on the faces of audiences whether in Antique or Davao City. For some brief moments of their lives, their spirits were uplifted by music that seemed to have come from heaven.
When we encounter a piece of good music, a painting, a poem, or a novel, something tugs at us and draws us instinctively. Our common appreciation for a piece of art helps us transcend our petty antagonisms and our social divide even if only for a moment. Art has that magical ability to unite people into a “collective mind.” Suddenly there is no “us” or “them.” Just human beings.
In my mind’s eye, I see our country inter-connected and united in the arts. We need structures that link our artists to each other as well as artists to their audiences that link, inspire, connect people and spaces for creative sharing.
Art has that magical ability to unite people into a ‘collective mind.’ Suddenly there is no ‘us’ or ‘them.’ Just human beings.
Whether it is to learn, laugh or be challenged, to share discovery or wonder, art brings people together. And whether by stimulating appreciation or controversy, art helps people understand each other. Art, in essence, is a community endeavor. It provides a vital connection to others by reminding us of our shared humanity. Through art we can form communities, build bridges between cultures, and better empathize with others.
Thus the need for a Department of Culture and the Arts. Where the concerns of the arts as well as the art community are given voice and representation at the cabinet level, within earshot of the country’s Chief Executive. This means placing all existing agencies of arts and culture under the management of a Department of Culture and the Arts, which will set one clear guiding vision intended to touch the lives of people from the grassroots to the highest level of society.
Furthermore, mini-CCP can be established in every region, which shall open access through a two-way flow of performing arts from highly urbanized centers to and from even the most depressed Filipino communities. Indigenous dances, music, weaves, and heritage shall be raised to global class while our indigenous people in hinterland regions can comfortably enjoy the magical concertos of Beethoven or Mozart or riveting musical dramas from around the world.
Creativity and arts shall comprise an essential part of primary and secondary education curricula with teachers expertly trained in the use of creative arts to enhance the teaching process and save the young students from languor, boredom, and depression.
I envision a country where art and music programs are alive in schools, where art museums are being opened in our towns and cities, where scholarships are increasingly offered in performing arts colleges, and where public exhibitions and performances would become commonplace and open to all. I also look forward to a government that cares for the health and livelihood of its artists and has a social safety net for them.
So while we continue building more skyways and bridges, let us at the same time build and open “skyways” and pathways to finding pleasure and beauty in the variety, strangeness, and surprise of the world of the arts
Meanwhile, let us do our share to reawaken interest in the arts and humanities. Indeed, let us begin to play our roles as passionate culture cultivators, help bring the arts to the people if only for the enrichment of the soul of this one little nation—our nation.