A home for artists

Published June 25, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid

On a 200-sqm lot in Tagaytay, a two-story building, the future home of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) will soon rise. Art aficionados who are old enough like me, may recall its beginnings 74 years ago in 1948 when it was founded by Purita Kalaw-Ledesma. Considered a “seminal figure of Philippine art for her vision, stewardship and generosity of spirit, Kalaw-Ledesma enabled Philippine modern art to gain a foothold and eventually find a permanent place in the public consciousness” (Life and Times of Purita Kalaw Ledesma, 2017).

Her motivation and philosophy can be gleaned from her autobiography where she writes: “What saved me from being consumed by materialism was my love for the arts, the self-fulfillment I derived from the intangible but beautiful things.”

“Since art market was unheard of in those days, an artist could end up as a tombstone carver, a sign painter, or a staffer in the art department of a newspaper or advertising agency. Artists were looked down by society as “hampaslupa.” The notion was that only those who could not pass their academic subjects became painters, sculptors, or musicians.”

During those early days, AAP occupied a rented building near the so-called “tourist belt” on A Mabini St. Its founding was much welcomed by a growing art group and it boasts of having National Artists like Jose Joya Vicente Manansala, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Elizalde Navarro, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Botong Francisco, Ben Cabrera, and several other notables as members. I remember taking art lessons from Manuel Rodriguez Sr. and criticism from art critics Leo Benesa and Eric Torres.

Several decades later, the AAP Kanlungan ng Sining relocated at Rizal Park which was contracted rent-free with the National Parks Development Committee from 2002-2014 in exchange for 12 paintings each year.. Fidel Sarmiento who was AAP president from 2002 to 2008, and our art maestro at the Sunshine Place on Jupiter St. Makati, nurtured the organization together with his so-called “Kanlungan Boys,” among them Randall Dilla, Robert Fernandez, Mark Louie Gonzales, Emmanuel Balboa, Averil Paras, Joseph Villamar who started their art careers at Kanlungan.

The park house project stopped in 2014 when the NPDC decided not to renew the contract. Not wanting to repeat that experience, Sarmiento thought of building a permanent home. He was inspired by two successful fundraising ventures that he had earlier managed – the Artabang I for Ondoy victims and Artabang 2 for Ormoc victims which raised some P10 million. Manuel Dino, Secretary for the Visayas helped him host a new Artabang which would raise funds for the AAP Home.

As AAP secretary Margaret Lim, Hall of Fame watercolorist noted, they raised P4.5 million from a one- night auction last December 2019 participated in by 80 artists who donated their paintings.
With AAP officers Roger Santos, Monette Alvarez, Angelito Florendo, and Veronica Olan-Sarmiento and Lim, they started searching for a place. The search ended with the purchase of a ₱1.8-million, 200-sqm.

Lot in Barangay Ulat, Silang, Metro Tagaytay. Groundbreaking began March this year.
AAP members number 8,000 with 2,000 of them active. The contractor/engineer. John Morales, Sarmiento’s high school classmate, is working pro-bono.

When completed, it hopes to provide school field trip destinations, on-the-job training for nearby schools, venue for painting workshops for artists of all levels. Those of us who had benefitted from Sarmiento’s mentorship and who share his passion are excited about the prospect.

Hyperrealist artist Robert Fernandez shares this testimonial: “When I started with AAP as a volunteer, I had no idea about how to paint. I met noted artists, and guided by AAP officials, I ventured into the art scene, Now I want to share what I’ve learned with the young and the adults who want to paint without expecting something in return.”

As journalist-artist Veronica Veloso Wuson, in The Diarist.PH noted, the project is a “visual manifesto, a testament by artists for artists who will finally have their forever home, a yearning that has incubated for 74 years… The members are painstakingly painting, stroke by stroke, color by color, their biggest canvas, as their legacy, the AAP Home.”

Donations for the AAP Home will be much appreciated and can be sent to Art Association of the Philippines Inc.

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