Despite all the many hurdles, though, the Philippine art scene found itself thriving. One big reason this was the case was the successful online implementation of the Shell National Students Art Competition. A long-established institution in the local art scene, its 2021 run once again led to the creation of countless works of art.

Since its start over half a century ago, Shell NSAC has inspired thousands of student artists to create masterpieces and pursue careers in the arts. Intending to empower the Filipino youth, NSAC has strived to amplify their creative voices, nurture their talents, and lay the groundwork for nation-building and values-formation. As a result, the decades-long tradition is now a respected platform in the industry, having produced an impressive number of locally and internationally renowned art masters. Over the years, it has also mounted numerous exhibits and programs that have benefited budding young artists.

When the pandemic started in 2020, Shell knew that art could be used to uplift the Filipino people. Through the 53rd NSAC’s theme of Hope in Our Art, student artists from all over the nation were motivated to create a body of work that spoke of optimism and resilience in the face of unprecedented circumstances. The milestone year also required NSAC to shift to a completely digital platform, which ultimately proved successful despite the trying times.

But by 2021, a new normal had emerged; people were better at dealing with the pandemic and its restrictions. This time, Shell knew that the youth needed to be pushed forward; to feel motivated about starting anew. Thus, the 54th National Students Art Competition launched with the theme restArt, with the mission of inspiring student artists to create art that challenged the nation to rebuild and restart their lives, industries, and dreams of the future.

Once again, the Filipino youth were up to the task, with the latest NSAC collection full of hard-hitting and timely masterpieces that evoked social change, reflected the generation’s values, and urged the Philippines to keep moving forward.

Because of the continuing global crisis and following the success of the previous year’s competition, the 54th NSAC was again executed entirely online – from the initial announcements to the awarding and exhibit.

Various schools from all over the country were contacted to secure competition participation and ensure support from administrators, teachers, and student organizations. Local galleries and museums were tapped as well, leading to numerous annex schools around the Philippines joining the roster of participants.

In the months after the launch of the 54th NSAC, student artists were invited to sharpen their skills through Virtual Art Interact sessions, a series of workshops led by veterans in the industry.

Secretariats were also deployed to ensure that students received adequate assistance and guidance as the competition progressed. They responded to queries and concerns, as well as conducted periodic check-ins. In addition, they coordinated with participating students in submitting entries and provided necessary updates and news regarding their artwork.

The actual collection of entries was handled with care and followed all safety protocols, using a streamlined process that resulted in the successful submission of 1,185 entries from 146 participating schools.

The competition proper ended with an awarding ceremony on December 10, 2021. Student artists, participating school organizations, and industry leaders tuned in virtually as the top contenders were announced and given their prizes. The Department of Tourism and brand representatives also shared messages of congratulations and encouragement, advocating for Filipino culture and arts.

All winning art pieces were later showcased in a virtual gallery mounted after the competition season.

It was another successful year for NSAC, with the online implementation proving effective and wide-reaching once more. But the 54th run was more than just another competition for Shell – it was a long-awaited opportunity to grow the NSAC legacy into something even greater.

In 2021, Shell launched Juan Art Nation, an all-encompassing art campaign meant to recognize, unify, and empower Filipino artists through various activities and initiatives. In tandem with the competition – now the primary program for student artists under Juan Art Nation – an alumni association for past NSAC participants was established to encourage professional development and networking among artists.

Students and NSAC alumni also collaborated on a mural project at a Shell mobility station – Juan Art Nation’s first step, among many, to provide artists opportunities and help bring art closer to the people. Indeed, more than ever before, Shell has proven its commitment to leading the charge in nation-building through art.