Teaching art and design: From creative practice to the classroom and back again

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

‘STUDIO research’ is not yet a common term used for arts and design practitioners in contemporary Mindanao art and design. For the word ‘research’ has been most synonymous with outcomes from scientific and social science experiments and fieldwork.

In creating a painting or sculpture; sewing a dress or accessory creation; or producing a short film or full-length movie has mainly been attributed just a means of just expressing oneself, or satisfying to a client's design needs.

However, recent inroads into regional art and design practices in the Mindanao and Southeast Asia has put the act of creating art and design as ‘studio research’ wherein the artist and designer is now more conscious of his/her milieu – the Context (local culture and environment); what medium to use appropriate for his/her ideas – Form (materials to be used); how to go about using the chosen medium or materials – Technique (artistic and other creative processes), and who the art work is for – the Audience (viewing or buying public). The studio now has various configurations – it can be an atelier, or working on a computer, or shoot on location for video.

This is where Philippine Women’s College of Davao’s Fine Arts and Design Department is heading forward to enhance the research capabilities of its faculty and students. The old paradigm in artistic and design learning is not mainly instructional and on-the-job experiences through the local creative industries; exposure in styles houses; hands-on product development, graphic design and filmmaking experiences, and apprenticeship. It goes back to the artistic and design practices of the fine arts and design faculty and students, who are also artists and designers themselves.

Recently, the Helena Z Benitez School of Fine Arts and Design has recently concluded a five-week travelling exhibition in Davao City of Tie Box: Impressions, Expressions, Connections at the major malls showcasing the best outcomes and practices of studio research; material thinking, and exhibition design uniquely showcased in each venue. This is the offering of the PWC’s up and coming young artists and designers at the 2013 Annual Students Art and Design Exhibition (ASADE) from the five art and design disciplines – the Interior Design; Fashion and Design; Visual Communication; Industrial Design; and Painting Programs.

The PWC Fine Arts and Design Faculty also bring back their experiences and involvement into its curricular programs from the creative realms and respective industries that include involvement in Mindanao curatorial work (looking at current art projects and practices) for the Southeast Asian regional event the  Singapore Biennial 2013 in October; creating products from artisanship to consumer and manufacturer satisfaction in the glocal (global and local) setting through mentorship and promotions in the bi-annual Manila Fame; the exposure and unleashing of creativity through style and material in the ready-to-wear apparel to industry players of fashion and retail in the annual Philippine Fashion Week; and nurturing the Davao Independent Film Industry through its continuing education and reaping awards in the regional and national scene.

Truly, ‘studio research’ in Mindanao has come a long way where the artist and designer just create for their personal satisfaction. It has now become a way of learning about our culture; knowing about our locale; improving our way of life; involving young arts and designers; and engaging the wider public in the Southeast Asian region and the world. (Abraham Jr. A. Garcia, Helena Z Benitez School of Fine Arts and Design, PWC of Davao)

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