DNX Art and Culture | Love, life, art

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Hannah A. Papasin
Writer. Critic. Professor. She started writing since primary school and now has two published textbooks on communication. A film buff, she's a Communication, Media Literacy and Journalism Professor of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, and has a Master's Degree in English.

Tanya Lopez is an institution in the national and local art scene.

An actor, an artist, and now the Executive Director of the Negros Museum, Tanya has seen intimately how art and culture has helped defined the city, even the entire province.  She has been breathing, living art – and not just through lip service.

The Negros Museum, after all, has been known for its book tours, exhibits, art galleries, the massive archive of displays of what was life once was, of murals by local, national, even internationally-acclaimed artists, fluvial trading vessels, and doll collections.

The Museum under Tanya has been a happening place, with art exhibits and workshops and tour sometimes happening all at once.

"Art  can be used for healing, to bring people together," Tanya Lopez, Executive Director of Negros Museum says. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan
“Art can be used for healing, to bring people together,” Tanya Lopez, Executive Director of Negros Museum says. | Photo by Banjo Hinolan

It is, as Tanya tells DNX, a reflection of the arts and culture scene of Negros Occidental.

Tanya describes what the arts and culture scene is like years ago.

“There were so many things happening almost monthy,” she recalls, adding, “We had all the festivals at Panaad, we had the taltal, concerts… and then during the pandemic – ching.” She gestures with her hand to signify a puff of smoke, as she visualizes how CoViD seemingly stopped everything on its tracks as though by magic.

The Museum, for instance, had a lot of things lined up for 2020: Panakayon, Ang mga Istorya ni Bao (Tales of Bao), book tours from schools from within and outside of  Bacolod, with a lot more museum tours booked for January and March, not to mention an upcoming concert plus summer workshops in the Museum and in its partner institutions, summer workshops here, and in La Salle, cultural tour of Pagsaulog: A Celebration of Visayan Culture, collaborative production that Tanya herself conceptualized.

It could have been, Tanya says, a full house.

But the pandemic struck.

THE DAY THE TIME STOOD STILL

“It stopped.”

The pandemic, Tanya says, had effectively stopped everything that the Museum has been preparing.  Even live theater performances are out since gatherings are a no-go.

Before the pandemic, schools have already been cancelling book tours.

But the crunch time started last March 15, up at the time when Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia signed an executive order putting the city under general community quarantine, which was the start of the series of quarantines.

This is compounded by the fact that the Department of Trade and Industry has classified museums as a non-essential industry.

Museums according to the DTI, fall under Category IV, which under the National InterAgency Task Force are the last to operate, belying an apparent systemic treatment towards arts and culture in general, a dismissive attitude towards an industry that is not deemed as important as education, food processing, and medicine.

“It makes us feel frustrated and sad at the same time,” Tanya admits.

But, she insists, the grotty, unpleasant debate of how art is an essential part of life aside, art and culture really is contributing to the economy. 

“If we have festivals and fiestas, that provides income to communities, and a lot of people benefit from it – from trisikad drivers, to the hotels, transportation, everything,” she says.

And more than that, art has also a specific purpose during the pandemic: art can be used for healing, to bring people together.

LIVING ART, LOVING LIFE

What was the thing that most of us turn to when the going gets tough?

Some develop a hobby.  Some cook.  Some were scared of the rising cost of commodities plus the uncertainty of employment and thus turned to sustainable farming.

Most turned to art be it music, movies, or a musical streamed online.

Negros Museum has done its share, using art as a tool for healing during the pandemic.  For instance, when Locally Stranded Individuals were quarantined in the University of St. La Salle, the Artists’ Hub – which Tanya also heads — came up with mandalas for those quarantined.

The Museum itself has adjusted, bringing theater to the people through a digital platform, or through really limited seating.  So there were live poetry readings but only at 12-people capacity, with chairs physically distanced, and everybody wearing masks. 

Readings are also done via Zoom meetings which, Tanya reveals, is a trend that is quickly catching up. 

https://www.facebook.com/DNXLifestyle/videos/420273925657534/

Art, after all, does not have to exist in a vacuum.

It has a purpose, a relevance.

And, with the pandemic irrevocably changing lives, it has a much deeper meaning now more than ever.

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