Amidst the social isolation brought about by the pandemic, art continues to bridge us closer together.

For more than half a century, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC) has inspired Filipino youths to showcase their artistry and creativity through the annual Shell National Students Art Competition (NSAC). At the forefront of championing arts in nation-building and values formation, Shell NSAC has continually mounted exhibits to showcase the works of young Filipino artists to reach more audiences and recognize the talents of these students.

It has long been the goal of the competition to inspire student artists to create art that could evoked social change; for them to dig deep and produce masterpieces that reflected the collective consciousness that we should all protect and nurture as a nation. And despite the trying times, the 2020 batch of participants proved to be yet another batch of stellar artists ready to step up to the challenge.

Because of COVID-19, mounting the 53rd Shell NSAC was no easy task. But the organization knew that art – and the hope it could spark – was needed more than ever. To overcome the many risks and limitations brought about by the pandemic, Shell NSAC had to innovate and recalibrate the entire competition experience to continue the legacy that paved the way for many National Artists and other renowned artists.

For the first time in its history, the competition was done entirely online. From the launch of the year's theme to the submission process, to Art Talks and mentoring, to screening, judging, and finally the awarding, the competition maximized every online opportunity and platform to reach young artists from all over the country.

The first step was the competition launch, which kicked off the months-long event. Traditionally, this was done through various on-ground channels but because of pandemic restrictions, the 2020 NSAC was instead announced across Pilipinas Shell’s various online channels and platforms. Different art organizations on social media were also tapped to reach even more student artists.

To get schools on board, professors and student representatives were invited to attend a pre-competition launch so they could learn more about the new NSAC experience and what it aimed to achieve during a pandemic year. Brand representatives, program partners, and industry masters were also in attendance to show the organization’s commitment to its students, sharing many messages of encouragement and hope in the uplifting impact of art in times of trouble.

Because of the implemented restrictions and new virtual school set-ups, the 53rd NSAC campaign was primarily purely digital. Interactive online campus blitz materials to substitute the bulletin announcement posters were produced. There was a digital museum that simulated actual museum tours to further engage the audience and participants.

Through a hardworking team of community managers and secretariats, all competition information and guidelines were cascaded to audiences. To ensure continued participation and to aid students who were struggling through the steps of the competition, there were regular check-ins and work-in-progress digital submissions. A seamless and organized system for submission of artwork was also developed and executed, resulting in the successful collection of hundreds of entries from all over the country.

In total, there were 1,764 submissions from 259 schools. This blew the previous years’ average ratio (1000 entries from 30 schools) out of the water, with the massive increase in participating schools a major achievement for the milestone run.

After an extensive screening and judging process headed by some the country’s most celebrated artists (please provide names of judges), three (3) winners were chosen for each category: Digital Fine Arts, Oil/Acrylic, Sculpture, and Watercolor. These winners hailed from all over the Philippines, namely: Rianne Aldercy Dumagan Abucejo, Bea Therese Llorando Musni, and Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Pacquing Nadera II (Digital Fine Arts); John Mhar Sacdalan Santos, Ranier Angelo E. Bolivar, and Gyles Maverick O. Abac (Oil/Acrylic); Bea Camille Barroga Cortez, Jao Eugene Pelaez, and John Alexis Faller Lirio (Sculpture); and, Wendel J. Candawan, Mark Angelo Manggol Lagrana, and John Peter Tamayo Magbuhos (Watercolor).

The 53rd Shell NSAC provided a new platform for the participants to experience the competition without the leaving their homes. It overcame the number limitations caused by the pandemic, steadfast in its pursuit of nation-building and discovering artists to deliver messages of hope. This is the commitment of Shell, National Student Art Competition.

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