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Paying it forward through art

People express gratitude in many ways, but for former winners of the Shell National Students Art Competition, they do so as artists naturally would—by using brushes, canvasses and colors. However, this time, they are not creating their own masterpieces, but are teaching eager schoolchildren how to use these tools of their trade.
Shell Art Workshop

Such is the scene in this year’s art interaction sessions organized by Pilipinas Shell as an accompaniment to its renowned and long-running annual nationwide contest for college student artists. Through a workshop format, the competition winners have an opportunity to give back to society by engaging younger kids—and especially those in underserved schools and communities—to develop their innate artistic abilities.

“At their young age, we would like to encourage them to start exploring their talents and creativity in the visual arts,” says Jackie Ampil, social investment manager of Pilipinas Shell. “We hope to make them conscious of their talents, and to keep on molding those same talents. Perhaps one day they will become one of our masters in the visual arts.”

At the same time, the interaction gives a different sense of fulfilment to the Shell National Students Art Competition winners. After having been given the opportunity to be recognized by art experts and judges, they too, somehow participate in the tradition of paving the way for even younger and more budding talent.

“It’s a privilege for me to teach the children in the Shell Art Workshop as one of the facilitators,” says Mark Lester Espina, who garnered an honorable mention in the watercolor category of the 44th National Shell Art Competition.  “It’s a very memorable experience, even if for a while. You can see who has the potential in becoming a great artist someday.”

Similarly, Hyacinth Lyn Laoke draws a different kind of fulfillment from being a mentor even just for a day. “I felt happy and satisfied. As an Art History major, my dream is to teach. I was able to practice that and show my passion in the arts.” She is a second placer in the digital arts category of the 45th National Shell Art Competition.

“It’s a learning experience for both of us,” says Laoke of her fellow mentors and the kids. “We taught them things we learned through lessons from school, and they also taught us to remember how it was like to be a child even for just a short period of time.”

Now on its 46th year, the Shell National Students Art Competition is a legacy project of Pilipinas Shell, providing support to youth development as it continues to invest in building a sustainable energy future as well. “Aside from our focus on environmental management and protection, developing new energy sources, promoting road safety and awareness among others, our nationwide arts program is one of our innovative methods in developing the potentials of Filipino youths to become productive individuals while helping the country move towards progress,” explains Ampil.

In previous years, Shell’s art interaction program entailed bringing an established Filipino art master to fine arts students in the provinces. “The outreach was meant to augment the students’ lack of exposure to museums, art galleries, and books. The artist relates his journey in life, inspirations, training, and artistic development. He was likewise able to show off his body of work, as well as impart important methods in painting,” says Ampil.

While such exposure was extremely helpful with its didactic approach, today, Shell has decided to take a more grassroots method by bringing art awareness to younger and underserved children who may not even have a chance to develop innate talent altogether. Also, by involving the competition winners, the social investment aspect of the interaction program gains added meaning. “The concept of ‘paying it forward’ on the part of the young adult winners becomes more pronounced, and the multiplier effect more far-reaching,” muses Ampil.

Indeed, during the first art workshop for the year held at the Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon City, the energy was vibrant as the young art champions related in a fun but meaningful way to their wards. The kids were taught and encouraged on how to draw using different types of media, from pastels to watercolors.

The interaction workshop is also held in partnership with DZMM’s “Teaching, Learning, Caring” caravan, which helps effectively identify the communities where such activities are most impactful. Art gains both practical and idealistic meaning in the young children’s lives, helping dispel the notion that art is of secondary or little importance in developing societies such as the Philippines.

As illustrated during the workshop, the creative exercises centered around the theme of “hopes and dreams.” The children were asked, “What do you dream for yourselves?” It was a basic yet symbolic way to elicit artistic expression, which the children enthusiastically took up and answered through the work of their own hands.

In the same way, the Shell National Students Art Competition continually hopes and dreams for a brighter future for Filipino artists, not just locally but internationally. What started out as a simple competition to create Shell’s first corporate calendar in 1951 has become a most influential event in the Philippine art scene. Through programs such as the art interaction workshop, Shell reaffirms its commitment in nurturing, developing, and bringing out the best in the Filipino artist.

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