People who know me have long accepted the fact about my love for the arts as an advocacy that I encourage every Filipino to take on and embrace.
Look around you and you’ll be surprised to see how every corner of your own space translates into a resounding statement about your sense of style and your individuality. Step out into the world and you’ll find even more compelling examples that make urban art more than just mere aesthetic elements. Beyond the awe-inspiring form of urban art structures, the main point that we can take away would be how we can all draw inspiration from these elaborate installations and the set of values they reflect and espouse.
Whenever the idea of urban art ideas that truly stand out is brought up in a conversation, one of the finest examples that come to mind is always The Book Stop Project by Arch. William Ti, the principal architect of WTA Architecture and Design Studio. A few months ago I had the opportunity to pick Architect Ti’s brains about this project—an exchange that made a significant impact on how socially relevant architectures become instrumental parts of our everyday lives.
The Book Stop champions the concept of a pop-up library and encourages the public to bring a book to leave on designated space and, in return, get to enjoy the company of another one that they could take home. “It is a way of bringing people together,” explained Ti, as featured in the same article by yours truly back in June last year. “Also, we’ve found out that the Book Stop has been helping kids get off the streets, even for just a little while.”
Here in the Philippines, the urban art movement has spread from the busiest central business districts of Metro Manila (Makati and Bonifacio Global City, primarily) to other major urban hubs like Cebu, Iloilo, Davao and even Baguio up north.
Art outside the urban setting
Art has also been used by urban renewal champions as a highly efficient platform to reinforce the underlying message behind their pioneering initiatives.
Last year we had the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of the biggest street art project in La Trinidad, Benguet. The project—spearheaded by La Trinidad residents, government officials, artists and police enforcers—saw people come together to create a large mural covering over 180 houses and spanning 18,000 square meters. Designed by the Tam-awan Village artists, the colorful canvas of homes has been a major component of the region’s CAR Rev-Bloom urban-renewal campaign.
I’ve written about the value of integrating art into every significant corner of our surroundings several times in this column, even highlighting key insights about how urban art and design help transform the character and the culture of various areas from the point of view of respected thought leaders and experts like Julia Nebrija. “Urban design is a necessary investment for real-estate companies and urban developers because it is what will make their projects work within the context of the rest of the city,” said Julia, an urban planning and development consultant who’s also a cofounder and executive director of Viva Manila, a nonstock, nonprofit organization that aims to revitalize Manila through arts and culture. “Urban design helps bring their developments to life by integrating it into a larger system and enabling them to respond to people’s needs over time, beyond the amenities listed in their brochures.”
Urban art and social media
Without a doubt, the Internet and the growing usage of social media has helped inculcate a greater and profound appreciation of art outside of our very own zip codes.
Instagram, for one, has constantly become a dynamic platform that showcases the unique brand of artistry and creativity from artists, developers and urban design advocates from various parts of the globe. From New York City, Singapore, to London, Basel in Switzerland, or Copenhagen, people from all over the world are now able to “flock” to wherever majestic urban art structures can be found to admire the mastery and craftsmanship that went into every distinct piece.
With this thought, I remember the parting words that Swiss artist Not Vital left us and other emerging Filipino artists when he conducted an art lecture at the College of Saint Benilde last January. “It’s always a challenge to build things, but it’s also great,” Vital explained. “To be able to build something that has not been done before, to push your mind and your body to the extremes to make a thing of beauty, those are the things that makes the experience and the journey a lot more beautiful.”
Good design may not be found everywhere, but there’s definitely good art that surround us on an everyday basis. We all just have to look beyond the superficial to be able to appreciate the beauty that often go unnoticed.