FOR THE past three years here in UST, I saw myself grow as an artist. I accepted the challenges that I came face to face with. One was breaking through the conservativeness UST has framed me with. Art students in UST have always been treated unfairly and belittled because the institution insists on keeping us boxed within the trivialities of our field. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being a Thomasian and a Catholic but we have to look at the bigger picture: Art in UST is not a priority.

Personally, I have seen different art schools and one character that always stands out is the environment that expressly encourages and inspires the artist to produce. Yes, UST is rich in cultural artifacts such as the Arch of the Centuries or the Main Building, but these do not inspire enough. Our art is not proudly displayed outside of our halls for all to see, and even at the rarest instance that they are allowed showcase, they are soon detached and disassembled until the next rare opportunity presents itself. The Beato Angelico building that houses the Colleges of Fine Arts and Design, and Architecture is too bland a setting for artists. It is as if in UST, artistry is a desolate place. Another sad point to consider is the fact that we have been hosting an annual on-the-spot painting contest where recently, Fine Arts students from UST do not win. Ironically, UST alumnus Carlos “Botong” Fransisco was the inspiration for the previous year’s contest, you would assume that this is close enough to the heart of UST to be able to garner a win, but sadly it did not.

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Although we have a museum, it is not really a platform for art but artifacts, taxidermy. There is more space for the embalmed carcasses of animals than the curated paintings of our artists. Ironically, some of this country’s National Artists hailed from UST like Victor C. Edades, Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Ang Kiukok. These artist’s came from UST and lived at a conservative time but they chose to be different. Many disagreed with their style but in the end their divergence lead them to be the anchors of Philippine art. The great Pablo Picasso has been quoted perhaps giving advice to the artist and his tenacity: “When i was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead i became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

Being an artist in UST is like a parent-son relationship, you do what you are told to do, it is their house, therefore their rules, and basically what they say is always right. This is the problem, if you chain an artist’s freedom, you chain his potential.

College should be the building block of a student, particularly an artist. Here is where he/she should forge not just their creativity but also their sense of freedom. For years I have followed the instructions of my former professors, all these techniques, histories and all the do’s and don’ts but never had I had a professor that taught me to follow what I am. We don’t need professors who just tell is what to do, we need mentors that can shape our very core.

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To make a good artwork, an artist needs to find their own frame of mind. An artwork is the reflection of an artist, being real to yourself makes an artwork genuine and authentic. Although being truly artistic is not without the risk of offending someone somewhere.

Thus art is very difficult to understand, often discriminated. It takes an artist to understand another artist.

A graduate of UST named Mideo Cruz held a controversial art exhibit entitled “KULÔ” which was meant to incite debates and critical thinking but people reacted so violently so much so that he got death threats.

People criticized his work for being blasphemous and offending to Catholics without knowing the story behind the work. I actually admire Mideo Cruz because of his bravery in sharing his point of view, a trait that never could have thought of. He merely expressed what our society is doing to our religion: all of these contraceptives, and issues on premarital sex, abortion, and the RH Bill. These topics aren’t what you would call new, he just provided us with a new perspective to view them with, see? I’m not saying that you should break the doors and burn books. But this conservativeness keeps our appreciation of art shallow.

Artists in UST have a lot of potential compared to other colleges but unlike in UP, they can express their art forms freely because they are liberal but the question is are we also liberal? Or is freedom just a state of mind?

Art should be applied in our everyday life. What we see, what we hear, who we talk to, where we are right now should spur our passion for the arts, it is without boundaries. Art is for everyone, you just need to learn how to appreciate it. You never know when the next Picasso comes running out the Arch of the Centuries.

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