Relevance of Art in Difficult Times

By Isabela Blancas

Watercolor works by Katrina Centeno

Pope Francis said, “One of the things that helps others in their lives is the expression of beauty. And an artist is an apostle of beauty.” I began to wonder: In difficult times, does art hold a place in our lives at all?

I’m a social entrepreneur. I established One Closet that rents out designer dresses to ladies in Butuan City for a good cause. These dresses are donated to us by known fashion designers in the country. I view each and every dress as a masterpiece of the designer. A true work of art.

In difficult times, One Closet collaborated with artists in Butuan and Agusan del Norte to inspire people as well as to raise funds for a cause.

In March the artists approached MindaNowOne Kita, a volunteer group to which One Closet belongs, to raise funds for the victims of a huge fire in Butuan. Artists Resty Sala and Goy Candelario gave us the idea to start an online art sale for this particular cause. The artists donated their works and 100 percent of the sale or a total of P58,000 went to the cause.

Sala and Pacanut paintings

When the spread of Covid turned into a pandemic, the tables turned and it was us who sought their help.  One Closet needed funds to make protective personal equipment (PPEs) for donation to frontline health workers in Butuan. The artists gave us permission to sell their unsold artworks and we raised P30,000 for our cause. 

In need of more funds for our PPE making project, One Closet once again approached the artists to do another online art sale for a cause. This time, we agreed that the theme for the artworks should be positive, and that 70 percent of the sale would go to the artists while the 30 percent to PPE making as well as purchase of relief goods.

In the days of fear, anxiety and uncertainty, I thought that art could have a way of pulling us out of the depths of despair. It compels us to get lost in its vibrant colors, a kaleidoscope that enchants us, a brief escape from life’s worries.

At first glance art may appear trivial or insignificant but its essence leaves imprints in our hearts more than it leaves memories in our minds.

Corvera Curato and Marasigan artworks

When we see a piece of art, we are filled with this warm feeling of hope and the tiny sliver of light at the end of the tunnel becomes bigger with each step. The way we perceive art may differ but it creates a positive effect in us all the same.

The longer we look at the subject of a painting, the clearer we see how it reflects our lives. How with each stroke the artist tells us a story of how a world like this can still be beautiful. How we can make it beautiful.

We started the latest online art sale on the last week of April and it went on until June. We called it “Love in the Time of Covid 19.”

Love blossoms in the time of Covid in the most unconventional of ways. Love for the arts, which transforms into hope inside the person who sees the artwork. Love for our fellowmen, which brings joy to those who feel loved by acts of kindness. Love for God, who for His greater glory, we aid those in need. And love from God that gives us strength and hope.

The participating artists included Ariel Sitoy, Banawe Corvera Curato, Bryan Pacanut, Cris Tamis, Goy Candelario, Jeanne Marasigan, Jojo Pablo, Katrina Centeno, Resty Sala, Roland Delara, Ronnie Rudinas and Shem Rojas.

Mother and child by Candelario and Rudinas

Love is expressed in the mother and child paintings of Rudinas, Tamis and Candelario, portraying the warmth brought about by family. Artworks on nature and its flora and fauna depict God’s great love for mankind: flowers by Centeno, birds by Sala, fish by Pacanut and horses by Delara. The artworks speak to us, as if trying to console us that life is still beautiful despite this pandemic.

A total of 72 artworks were sold not just in Butuan but also to buyers in Davao, Bacolod, Cebu, Dumaguete, Ormoc and Manila. Buyers based in Hongkong, Singapore, Vietnam and the US also bought and contributed to our cause.

Sitoy, Tamis and Delara artworks

The art sale raised P75,937 for our cause. The artists’ kindness begot kindness: the amount was augmented by a donation of P15,500 from the organizers (Rudinas and Candelario with Cebu-based artist Celso Pepito) of another art sale called “Hangad”.

A substantial amount of money went to our PPE making project. Along with funding from other donors, we were able to donate 837 PPE suits and 1,500 PPE face shields to frontline doctors and other health workers in Butuan and Caraga region.

The art sale also funded a relief operation for artists and micro entrepreneurs in Butuan, benefitting more than 150 families.

The artists in the midst of this pandemic, despite facing various hardships in their own lives, still chose generosity and helped others. Through the appreciation of art’s beauty, buyers were also able to do charity.

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