THE University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu College is deemed to be the first formal institution outside Manila to offer a degree in art. It s tarted its fine arts program in 1975. The initiative was proposed by the late national abstract artist Jose Joya, the man behind the reputed annual painting competition, the Joya Awards. Four decades later, the legacy lives on.

On June 10, Qube Gallery officially opened The UP Fine Arts 40th Anniversary Exhibit, a celebratory group exhibit for the founding of UP Cebu’s fine arts program.

The exhibit gathered more than 30 alumni, young and seasoned, currently scattered across and outside the country, most of whom are active in the art scene. The creative roster includes professors Dennis “Sio” Montera, Jose “JV” Villacin, Dulz Cuna, the late instructor Jethro “Pappu” Estimo and art icons Celso Duazo Pepito, Mariano “Mar” Vidal and Jojo Sagayno.

Also in the list are familiar names like Arlene Villaver, Benedict Climaco, Boboy Buenaventura, Dexter Besa, Evar Rafael, Gerald Ismael Pongase, Halei Marmol, Janine Barrera, Jeffrey Sisican, Jorge Lao, Leopoldo Aguilar, Michael John Edpalina, Paul Arenas, Sandra de la Serna and Stephanie de la Cruz.

Rounding off the cluster are the rest of the young breed of artists, who, according to professor Villacin are the new gems in the industry—Flaime, Avenom, Michelle Agbay, Jiyun Kim, Ronyel Compra, Ruther Danno Villalba, Kenichi Wani, Thomas Jopson, Wyndelle Remonde, Gian Angelo Arcaya and Lhee Taneo.

Villacin said it’s the first collective celebration via an exhibit after all these years. There’s no defining theme. The heterogeneous set manifests the UP signature—uncensored, wild and intellectual portrayal. Given the academic freedom the university encourages, UP fine arts graduates are notorious for profound concepts and contemporary musings in sync with social issues.

At present, the UP fine arts program offers a three-year certificate and bachelor courses either in studio arts or product design. Villacin shared that the program would come up with an estimated yearly count of around 80 students and only about 40 to 45 percent of batch graduates are involved in the art scene. On being contributors to the progress of local art, there’s no question that UP products are significant players.

“The scene is headed toward a direction. Through all the changes, UP products survive wherever they are posted. Their influence is contagious,” Villacin lauded.

The UP Fine Arts 40th Anniversary Exhibit runs until July 7 at Qube Gallery at the Crossroads in Banilad, Cebu City.