The Atria Park District in Iloilo City has become an example of how a busy estate can become an artsy neighborhood.
The effort is a product of a collaborative community engagement which started in 2016 when Ayala Land partnered with the Ilonggo artists who was then organizing as a host of one of the Philippines biggest art biennale – the Visayas Islands Visual Artists Exhibition and Conference (ViVa ExCon).
While galleries big and small were mushrooming around the town, the township created a public art hotspot by commissioning some of Iloilo’s best artists and muralists to work on transforming some seemingly neglected spaces into an attractive work of art.
It became a neighborhood gallery which stirred public interest into art and it stimulated a dialogue between the developer, the artists, and the public.
When it started, Ilonggo artist PG Zoluaga described the effort as an “effective method of educating the community about art.”
“It is a socializing art,” Zoluaga explained in an interview way back 2016, “for public art are like alternative canvasses that could reach more audience.” And indeed, it roused public interest and interaction as passersby make pauses to see the large wall art. They lingered on to take photos, selfies, and discuss their own interpretations of the works.
This concept of a ‘socializing art’ was translated into a community engagement called Art at Atria. It was developed as a public art program which serves as a platform of bringing contemporary art to alternative outdoor spaces so that the public will have a free access and view the artworks on display anytime of the day.
The first batch of works in 2016 were illustrations of Iloilo’s people, places, and flora and fauna by artists Kinno Florentino, Kristoffer George Brasileño, Ronnyl Bulahan, Andrea Bagarinao, and Marrz Capanang, among others. In 2017, additional murals were created with the works of AJ Lavilla and the ScratchPaper Studios.
In November 2019, the Atria launched new works and it introduced Art Walk, a self-guided tour within the 21-hectares walkable mixed use development.
An art map was produced to guide visitors into a leisurely stroll starting at the Donato Pison Avenue and snake into meters apart murals which can be viewed by a stopover from one mural to the next until all of the 13 pieces is completed.
The murals were integrated on its facilities and it converted empty walls, pump rooms, cisterns, and benches into works of art. The approach enhanced Atria Iloilo as a business center into a preferred art tourism destination among the youth, creative groups, urban planners, and travelers.
They will see mural works done by artist and academic Mia Reyes (Binanog) at the back wall of 7/11 convenience store and by US-based Ilonggo artist Aj Lavilla (Dream Big) at the Qualimed Hospital side walk.
At the back parking space and pump room of Qualimed features the traditional assemblages with tableau depicting Iloilo streetscapes, religious icons, and institutional histories.
These were illustrated by artists Kyle Dominic Sarte (Bugal Ko, Banwa Ko Bilang Ilonggo); Jester Macabanti (Lin-ay); and Andrea Bagarinao (Lady in the Mangrove).
Environmental activist and intuitive artist Marrz Capanang also shared numerous murals with his Artivism group, entitled: “Durudalhay.” The mural conveys a message that the human body and the ocean are similar given that both is characterized by water; hence, protecting the ocean is essential in securing the future of humans.
The piece was completed by a team composed of Nicole Fernan Caminian, Andrea Jo Aurea, Mating Namo, Mello Camohoy, Regine Espinosa, Russel Joy Suarez, Grace Tan del Pilar, Ann Bianca Berrez, Myka Therese Villaflor, and Huskyjane Villaflor.
Another piece by Capanang is entitled: “Like Nature, our Love Thrives.” It is dubbed as a Valentine’s [Day] Mural which depicts the artist’s musings about love.
Numerous works is signed under the name of muralist Ronn Bulahan. Prominent among his pieces are the Bike Parade which was among the original murals in 2016. The artist has added new pieces like the Dinagyang Warrior, Iloilo City of Love, Paraw Regatta, and Local Animals at the open space of the Ayala Technohub.
Bulahan has become a synonymous name in mural making and public art in Iloilo City with his works that are displayed both outdoors and inside prominent restos and cafes in the metropolis.
The Atria Park intends to sustain the public art engagement by doing a rotating series of murals. It envisions to expand to other forms of pubic art like conceptual art, performance, large-scale sculpture, lights and sound, and other emerging genres that are educationally engaging to the public.
Harnessing the power of public art
“Public art,” explained Anne Chan-Climaco, “does not only serve to beautify spaces or mark important moments in history. It is now being embraced by Ayala as an innovative direction by capturing the local creative energy and translating them into programs like Art at Atria so that they can be supported.”
“Promoting cultural preservation and supporting artistic excellence is consistent with our vision,” intoned Chan-Climaco, who is one of the program managers for Cebu Holdings and Ayala Land.
Ayala aspires to harness the power of public art by creating a community with a strong sense of culture and history.
The company possess the integrity in managing art programs through the Ayala Museum and by implementing initiatives like the Bravo Filipino Series and Art Fair Philippines. It has brought Philippine music and literature to public spaces and the Ilonggo community is up for these types of events soon.
“We believe that these types of interventions can shake up the art scene of Iloilo City and it will inspire the Ilonggo artists to pursue a much bolder forms of creative expression,” added Reynard Buga-ay, project development manager of Atria Park District Iloilo.
If you happen to stop by at the Atria Park District in Iloilo City for a bowl of La Paz Batchoy at Netongs or a cup of coffee at Madge Cafe, or you happen to stay at the Seda Hotel, have some time to walk around. You may enjoy a photo or two on one of the murals and have it posted on your social media account with your comments.
The Art Walk map is downloadable from https://www.facebook.com/AtriaParkDistrictOfficial/