By Roxie Go
Photos by Carren evangelista
One might say that the quiet town of Dumangas, Iloilo is blossoming in its period of artistic spring, with sons like Mayor Ronaldo Golez, a performing artist-turned-public servant, and Rock Drilon, a renowned painter, leading the way. As springtime is often ushered in by certain butterfly species, some steps may need to be taken carefully to ensure that these pollinators thrive and multiply.
Art Cocoon, they call it, and for two years now, it has been nothing less than an incubator for Dumangas’ young artists. Fittingly named from one of nature’s evocative metaphors for transformation possibilities, the cocoon or the chrysalis nurtures the talent until the transformation is complete. This is where all the groundwork is done, artists are mentored and trained on techniques, styles, and even marketing, as much as the pupa’s structure is broken and reconstructed into body, wings, and legs of an adult butterfly.
Participants are screened in the first week of October, and further categorized into groups of 12 and below and 13 and up. From thirty participants in 2016, Art Cocoon increased its admissions to sixty this year. These chosen artists are honed in a three-week workshop, where they have to come up with an individual and a collaborative work. These pieces then compete for the best in each category, and are curated in an exhibit during the Haw-as Festival. One might say that the recently concluded Haw-as Festival was not only a celebration of Dumangas’ bountiful harvest, but also a symbolic splitting of the chrysalis—the release of new artists who will take this spring into new heights.
Gardeners Gardening for Butterflies
Hand in hand with VIVA EXCon Iloilo Org and Hubon Ilonggo, Dumangas LGU has been successfully cultivating an environment where artists may develop and thrive. VIVA ExCon Iloilo Org, the 2016 organizer of Visayan Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference, has continued to function beyond the event and now supports the Iloilo art community by funding projects across various disciplines. This year’s workshop facilitators are members of Hubon Ilonggo, particularly from The Red Table group, headed by Arel Zambarrano. VIVA ExCon Iloilo Org considers Art Cocoon as an outreach project, and has provided the honorarium for the facilitators.
Sustainability, Community, and Beyond
Since its inception last year, Art Cocoon participants have formed AVAC, or Ara-ut Visual Artists Collective, an organization that seeks to sustain both the artists and their development. With prices ranging from P500 to P5000, proceeds from the sales of artworks are split by the artist and AVAC. There are numerous heartwarming stories of how some of the artists paid their schooling through their art, and AVAC in return, ensures the members’ growth through activities such as museum/gallery tours, out-of-town exhibits, etc.
Without a doubt, Art Cocoon and AVAC envision art that does not alienate the locals, art that truly emanates from them. AVAC, for example, borrows from Dumangas’ ancient name, Ara-ut. The site for Art Cocoon program is smack right in the middle of the town’s bustling marketplace, giving it a sense of accessibility. Most importantly, perhaps, there is no great wonder why Dumangasnons themselves patronize the local art scene—al of the exhibited works show us a glimpse of life in a rural sea farming community: seascapes, mangroves, fishermen at work, vendors, and products such as fresh and dried fish, oysters, and crabs.
Everyone knows the transformative power of art, but the power of an artist transformed? Completely boundless. As these talents are released into their families and communities, we hope for this artistic springtime to last longer, and perhaps extend to other areas of the local culture, or better yet, other areas of the country, who knows for sure? For the meantime, the gardeners are hard at work to invite more pollinators and make the cocoon even better.
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