Exploring curiosity, celebrating diversity in art

De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde is spearheading an innovative project for its 35th anniversary. This endeavor, aptly titled Benilde Open Design + Art, celebrates the diversity of creative practitioners in the Philippines, from composers and web developers to artists and architects, who come from all backgrounds.

Benilde Open explores the boundaries between craft and technology, the merger of the virtual and the real, and the relationship between movement and sustainability, all of which are centered around the theme of curiosity. The program also seeks to produce inventive and cooperative ventures by inspiring creatives to push the frontiers of knowledge and continue innovating.

Facilitated by a team of esteemed convenors, including Ayi Magpayo, Rita Nazareno, Gabby Lichauco, Joselina Cruz, Dindin Araneta and Br. Dodo Fernandez, Benilde Open is dedicated to shaping the landscape of art and design within and beyond the school. The initiative seeks to provide a platform for Filipino creatives to propose and realize their ideas, fostering a vibrant and dynamic creative community.

Nazareno, who serves as creative director of Zacarias 1925, and Lichauco, as founder of Open Studio, along with another Benilde Open key figure Yeyey Cruz, as director/curator of Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, traced the origins of the initiative in a recent conversation with the DAILY TRIBUNE.

Benilde Open was born out of the school’s aim to make a positive impact on the Philippines’ artistic scene, according to Cruz. With the aim to generate ideas for the project that would benefit the local creative scene, a varied group of conveners had been invited. In contrast to conventional design events, Benilde Open emphasizes creative concept proposals, promoting a wider and more inclusive participation across many creative fields.

“There were a lot of ideas coming around and we landed upon the idea of an Open, which is basically a proposal of creative ideas which allows for a wider set of participation from across the field,” Cruz said. “We thought it would be more generative if it was about allowing for ideas and projects to be given some life rather than ‘Congratulations!’”

Nazareno added that Benilde Open is looking for submissions from Filipino creatives in various fields, including music and architecture. Ten chosen proposals will receive funding from the program, with a maximum of P300,000. The month of May has been eyed for the presentation of these creations, giving the general public a chance to interact with the wide range of artistic pursuits.

The convenors talked about their responsibilities in the project and the distinctive strategy that Benilde Open employs during the discussion. They emphasized that creatives may receive funding without having to submit lengthy applications by concentrating on “proposals of realized projects.”

Benilde Open, launched in December, remains an ongoing project, with the aim to stimulate creative thinking and curiosity. Nazareno emphasized the initiative’s openness to “all ages, ideas, and creative fields,” with a focus on collaboration and breaking the boundaries of traditional disciplines.

The convenors also discussed the present situation of the design industry and stressed the need of maintaining a local perspective while keeping an eye on worldwide trends. They encouraged people of all ages to follow their passions and acknowledged that creativity blossoms at different phases of life.

Cruz remarked, “It’s local always, for me… But to think from a local perspective and being aware of that, but also not forgetting that we are part of a larger global community. There are larger factors, discourses going on from the rest of the world… And Benilde Open is an initiative that we are using as a space to encourage creatives to think through possible worlds.”

Nazareno then noted, “There are different ways of learning. Everyone has different timelines, that’s why it’s great that Benilde Open is open to all ages because there are people who find their passions so young, and some at a later age where creativity flourishes.”

The organizers expressed optimism about the current situation of the creative business, pointing out its growth and flexibility. Benilde’s adaptability and reactivity to the changing creative world were highly applauded, as she fostered an attitude of questioning the status quo and thinking beyond the box.

Cruz and Nazareno emphasized that, in addition to receiving funds, selected projects would be shown on the Benilde campus in May, offering an inspiring display of creativity for anyone hoping to take part in Benilde Open 2024. This is indeed a shining example of how to promote creativity and innovation in the thriving Filipino creative community, thanks to its innovative and inclusive approach.