Raul Agner 2005
Acrylic on canvas
Culture and the Arts include all forms of creative expression that fall under any of the so-called seven arts: literature, music, dance, theater, film, visual arts, and architecture. These are distinct from the more anthropological sense of culture as a complex whole that encompasses the totality of learned and shared behavior acquired from being a member of a particular society. The latter, though, is a rich source of inspiration, memory, imagery and abstraction for the former which have been dubbed as the elitist meaning of the term because their artistic and creative output can be appreciated only by a few who have a specialized training or background.
That Culture and the Arts are elitist is however quite a sweeping statement. While there are works that seem esoteric and profound for the ordinary viewer or listener, there definitely are many that people can relate with, enjoy or be moved by. It is important to point out that there are works that are done purely for aesthetic reasons – the art for art’s sake variety - and there are those that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also rich and powerful in meaning and message as far as content is concerned. Just to name a few examples, the poems of Jose Garcia Villa, the paintings of Arturo Luz and the songs of Lea Salonga represent the first kind. But Rizal’s Noli and Fili, Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” and the films of Lino Brocka belong to the second category.
But elitist or not, there’s no gainsaying the fact that culture and the arts in general have the potential, nay, the power to influence our way of thinking and behaving and even bring about a better quality of life. In other words, aside from entertainment, they are effective tools and important components of education. It is within this context that the university has been earnestly integrating into its academic life various cultural performances and activities. One single important step it has taken in this direction was the major makeover of the theater in 2005. Since its completion, the renovated facility continues to reap cultural dividends that have brought about a different and enriching experience to students and the whole community. The buena mano dance drama performed by the Integrated Performings Arts Guild (IPAG) of Iligan raised awareness of certain Mindanao dance forms and environmental issues. The series of screenings of i-Witness documentaries offered object lessons in truthful journalism and painted a clear picture of pressing issues like poverty, environmental degradation and ordinary people’s heroism.
As of late, the doubleheader “Welcome to Intelstar” and “Pragress” of Tanghalang Pilipino were hilarious but deeply enlightening plays, the former a veritable litany of the ironies of a call center job, the latter a sarcastic characterization of corrupt government bureaucrats. And the hip jazz ballet Hi-Skul Musikahan staged by Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s Ballet Manila mesmerized the audience with the endless possibilities of creative fusion of dance forms. If culture and the arts can make one wiser because they open up his eyes to the truth; if they can make one more human and humane because they inspire him to be creative and resourceful, sympathetic and compassionate; if they give one a sense of spiritual well-being because they bring him to an other-worldly dimension of serenity and inner bliss; in short, if culture and the arts do make one a better person, a better citizen and a better Adamsonian, then they should continue to play a major role in the university.
In the face of a stiff competition in the form of commercial entertainment and computer gaming that vie for young people’s attention, the serving up of the best oeuvres possible becomes a great challenge. Done consistently, the appreciation of the real value of culture and the arts will prevail and negative attitudes towards their necessity, including some misguided individuals’ whining about the cultural fee, will eventually sound hollow.
If the Falcon symbolizes the university’s aspiration for excellence, culture and the arts can be one steady wind that pushes up her wings.