Pandemic fuels creativity at Bacolod Art District

Something good has happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has heightened and intensified the creativity of artists in Bacolod City.

The 8,000-square meter Art District in Barangay Mandalagan, Bacolod City, is now bustling with public art, which includes murals and sculptures, about 60 percent of which were created during the pandemic.

Among the 24 art installations that are collaborative works of about 50 artists at the Art District are two astronauts seen floating on the side of the wall of the Orange Project Art Gallery building.

Artist Charlie Co, who created the astronaut sculptures with Neil Benavente, said “they symbolize that the sky is the limit for artists and we will move forward despite the pandemic.”

“The artists never stopped creating…and we saw that our public art was like a beacon of light amid all that has been happening in the country and the world,” said Co, who runs the Art District owned by businessman Bong Lopue, said.

The pandemic restricted people from travelling to other places, so visiting the Art District became a place to visit for local residents.

The Art District enables visitors to encounter real artwork for free in an open space and not virtually, which has become the near norm since the pandemic, Co said.

“I think in a way we have given hope for this generation not to give up despite the challenges of this pandemic,” he said, pointing out that one sees young people smile as they view the art pieces.

Art brings hope and heals the viewers and the artists in these trying times, he said.

Co said with a grant from a foundation they have been able to provide honorariums to artists who have participated in creating the art installations during the pandemic.

The Mercedes Zobel Foundation has given them a grant to mentor more projects for many young artists and to assist them during the pandemic, he said.

The COVID lockdown has also led to more people buying artwork, Co said.

Perhaps this is because people have more money to spend since they cannot travel, and since they have been locked down they want to beautify their homes, he said.

Co, a co-owner of the Orange Project Art Gallery, said their artists started painting murals in open spaces at the Art District in 2005.

The Art District now has four other art galleries – Block 17, Grey Room, Studio 57, and the Art Association of Bacolod.

It is also home to the Safe House that is a mini theater for locally produced films, art talks, and poetry, a tattoo studio, ballet studio and eateries with festive murals by local artists, making it a one-stop place for art lovers.

There is also an Orange Project residency program for visiting artists, Co said.

And the creation of more art installations at the Art District, where even garbage bins and flower pots are works of arts, are ongoing, he said.

Among the art installations that catch one’s eye on entering the Art District is the Corazon del Arte (Heart of Art) by artists Megumi Miura in collaboration with Brandon Braza, Zabiel Caro Nemenzo, Zander Lopez and Zanna Jamili.

Painted in vibrant colors, the Corazon del Arte that has a grotto of Santa Muerte is described as “a testament to the cycle of life and death, and the assurance that things continue to go on.”

On almost every wall of the Art District murals with varying messages abound, as well as sculptures and vintage cars where visitors pose for selfies.

At the Project Orange Art Gallery, there is also a sculpture garden where a red carabao is attached to the side of a wall “defying gravity”. It depicts the resiliency of the sugar industry despite its many trials, Co said.

The red carabao is a collaboration by sculptor Rafael Paderna and artist Charlie Co.

Co said all their programs at the Art District are focused on helping the younger artists.

“What I am doing now is putting the infrastructure so that when I retire it will be ready for the next generation to continue,” he said.

He reminds budding young artists that when they succeed in their careers, they should not forget to support and mentor the next generation of artists to create a ripple effect.*

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