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Group Painting Sessions: Pedagogical

Tool for Cultivating Peace and Oneness


among Students of Various Ethnic
Orientations at the Polytechnic University
of the Philippines1

by

JOSEPH REYLAN B. VIRAY2


Polytechnic University of the Philippines/
Lakandayang Cultural Association Inc.

1
Delivered in the SEAMEO-SPAFA’s 3rd International Conference on Culture and Development:
Channeling Real Change, National Library Auditorium, Bangkok, Thailand on November 26 to 29, 2008.

2
Mr. Viray is the current Chief of the Visual Arts Office, University Center for Culture and
the Arts, Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He is also the Chairman of Lakandayang
Cultural Association Inc. based in Manila.
Introduction

Painting and Its Functions

Painting is one of the oldest forms of visual expression and communication. It


is used to express and communicate the innermost thoughts, feelings and
sentiments of an individual in a subtle and creative manner utilizing the power
of visual elements like color and lines. The drawings on the walls of
Lascaux Caves (16,000-14,000BC) are testaments of the Paleolithic
communities’ employment of painting as communication tool. These early
nomadic cultures attempted to record the things they see around them and
(perhaps) tried to communicate their experiences to distant generations like
ours. Lascaux images are indications of prehistoric cultures’ sensitivity
towards their surroundings and these drawings serve as surrogates and
objects of contemplation for their most basic experiences of life and their
culture. This particular purpose of painting in the Paleolithic era remains to
be evident until this day and age.

Apart from its being a communication tool, painting, like any other art forms,
has various functions and purposes. Lois Fichner-Rathus (1994) enumerated
the following purposes of art: (1) to create beauty; (2) to provide decoration;
(3) to reveal truth; (4) to immortalize; (5) to express religious values; (6) to
express fantasy; (7) to stimulate the intellect and fire the emotions; (8) to
create order and harmony; (9) to express chaos; (10) to record and
commemorate experience; (11) to reflect the social and cultural context; (12) to
protect injustice and raise social consciousness; (13) to elevate the
commonplace; and (14) to meet the needs of the artists. Among these purposes,
this paper endeavors to focus and stress on numbers (3), (8) and (11).

Firstly, painting reveals truth. Undeniably, a painter can educate his viewers or
audience by revealing truths. Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher, gave
three lectures on ‘The Origin of the Work of Art.’ In these lectures (1950),
Heidegger connects art with truth, arguing that the essence of the artwork is
not its ‘representational’ character, but rather its capacity to allow the
disclosure of a world. Thus the Greek temple establishes the ‘Greek’ world
and in so doing allows things to take on a particular appearance within that
world. Heidegger refers to this event of disclosure as the event of ‘truth’.

With respect to painting as truth bearer, let us consider the Mexican painter
named Frida Kahlo. Kahlo utilized her self-portraits to convey the truth
about human sufferings. She used her own tragic life as a symbol of suffering
(Rathus, 1994). Another image portraying truth is a self portrait by
photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The photo discloses the truth about
Mapplethorpe’s war against AIDS and his inevitable death (Rathus, 1994). It
should be noted that any kind of truth may be conveyed on canvass. In this
way, truths about cultural and ethnic diversity; peace, oneness and solidarity
may be revealed in paintings just as well.

Secondly, painting reflects socio-cultural contexts. Paintings mirror life. They


reflect the social and cultural milieu of the place or community where they
have been produced or the place where the creator/painter comes from. Like
for instance, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks showcases the American city life in
the late 1930s or 1940s. Hopper was able to use specific socio-cultural
context to communicate an unsetting, introspective mood of aloneness
(Rathus, 1994). Filipino painter Juan Luna’s Spoliarium reflected the social
condition during the Spanish period of Philippine history. Spoliarium is an
allegory of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines (Flores, 1998). This is how
Juan Luna portrayed the sufferings and anguish endured by Filipino natives
during the occupation. The oldest surviving three-dimensional depiction of a
woman’s body called Venus of Willendorf, older than the Lascaux images at 25,000
BC, is a depiction of social relations. Anthropologists speculate that the
mystery of child birth elevated the status of women in early matriarchal
communities (Kissick, 1993). Men were then looked down as inferior to women.

There is no other powerful depiction of culture through arts than the


Egyptian artistic traditions. The history, heritage and tradition of Egypt as a
nation may not be possibly learned and studied without having to consider the
Egyptian hieroglyphics, pyramids, tombs, ornaments, clothing, and other
decorative accessories which become vital parts of Egypt’s nationhood. In
exactly the same way, thoughtful and academic discussions about Roman and
Greek civilizations are impossible without taking into consideration the
classical artworks that become synonymous with these civilizations’ genesis,
progress and decay.

Lastly, painters can create order and harmony by combining seemingly


irreconcilable visual elements into one artwork which embodies excellent
composition. Here, painters play god. They create, produce and organize.
Though everything happens on canvas, the same may have realistic impact on
the outside world. The painter himself may extend his artistic inclinations and
talents to real life situations. Possibly, he can create order and harmony in
his personal life by organizing different elements the way he organizes
elements in painting. By extension, he can do the same in his family and
eventually in his community. This could have positive societal impacts.
For one, peace among culturally divided individuals may be achieved through
and by painting. This is because interculturality, which means interrelations and
dialogue among diverse cultures (Demenchonok, 2005), is possible in painting
either through individual painting projects or group painting sessions.
Individual painting projects may be an effective instrument of intercultural
dialogue towards peace. This is by emphasizing the individual works’ cultural
content and highlighting their originality and sovereignty without the
intention of becoming dominant but with an objective of developing cultural
tolerance and coexistence. Like individual painting projects, group painting
sessions also proved to be equally effective, if not better, tool of cultivating
oneness and solidarity of people with variety of cultural and ethnic
orientations. This point is strengthened in the following section.

Group Painting or Collaborative


Painting as Pedagogy of Peace

Group Painting or collaboration painting is not new. In fact, visual images,


both three dimensional and two dimensional art works, from earliest known
civilizations like Catal Huyuk, Mesopatamia, Sumeria, and Egypt strongly imply,
according to their complexities and sizes, that they could not have been
created by single individual artist. But rather, they might have been products
of collaborative efforts of the whole community or tribe with their leaders
or tribal heads at the forefront. Evidently, an individual artist could not
singlehandedly have built the mammoth Egyptian pyramids and intricate wall
paintings. Likewise, the Stonehenge in England, which is built approximately
5000 years ago for some unknown purpose, may not have been a single person’s
manual effort. For one, each gigantic sarsen stone weights fifty tons and to
transport them from Marlborough Downs, roughly 20 miles to the north, is a
feat of greater magnitude. It was estimated that around 600 men would have
been needed just to get each stone in their places. In the middle ages,
churches and cathedrals with extraordinary beauty like Notre Dame de Paris,
Chartes, Rheims, Amiens in France; Westminster Abbey in London, Canterbury
and many others have been products of cooperation and conjunction of skills
of masons, stone cutters, sculptors, woodcarvers, metal workers, painters,
glass blowers and others (Faurot, 1974). These works and structures have
been monuments of common aspirations and they serve as unifiers among the
community of laborers/artists. Hence, it is safe to infer that collaborative
art like group painting is as old as or even older than individual art.

Indeed, group painting may be a tool to forge and cultivate solidarity.


Nowadays, there are a number of organizations and institutions which prove
this point. One, the Philippine Association of Teachers of Culture and the Arts (PATCA)
launched in its 1998 Annual Conference a project entitled “sambayan” which
gathered together teachers of arts and culture to collaboratively produce
an acrylic painting. Because of the positive advantages of “sambayan” to the
relationship of the member-teachers, PATCA repeated it in many of its annual
conferences and other gatherings.

On the Spot Artists Association Inc. (OTSAA), an organization based in the


Philippines, launched in April 22, 2006 its project entitled The Art Miles Mural
Project Philippines Collaboration Session with an end view of promoting peace among
diverse cultures. With a theme, Fishes of the Ocean, this project is undertaken
by seventy two artists who shared their time interpreting the theme. After
painting nearly a hundred meter of canvas, the organization reported that
positive results were achieved and that camaraderie and friendship among the
participating artists of various orientations, gender and age were cultivated.
The spirit of Filipino Bayanihan (cooperation) was also exemplified. This was a
replication of what The International Education and Resource Network of Pakistan did
in 2003.

Another organization named Art and Spirituality Center in Philadelphia USA


initiated a project entitled MasterPeace: Doorways to Peace Mural on November 14,
2004. The project was a collaboration mural painting which aimed at
nurturing cultural and interfaith dialogue among the participants which
included Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, the Arts and Spirituality Center, the Mural
Arts Program, artists Joe Brenman, Cathleen Hughs, and Fadwa Kashkash,
community organizations of Kensington South and community schools.
Participating schools included the Al-Aqsa Academy, LaSalle Academy, Moffet
Elementary Public School, and Hancock St. John’s United Methodist After
School Program. Preparations for this project began in 2003 as the
collaborators planned for ways to strengthen neighborhood relationships
and bridge cultural barriers and to create needed beauty in the
neighborhood. The results were really satisfying. The organization observed
that through the project children of various communities who at the start of
the project dislike one another became friends at the end. There were even
instances where the participants cried over the prospect of separation and
project ending.

In February 22, 2008, in Savannah, Georgia paintings done individually and


collaboratively by sixty one children from Israel and Palestine were exhibited
in “Children of Jerusalem: Painting Pain, Dreaming Peace”. The exhibit showed
how two communities can come together and dream for peace. The project was
sponsored by Jewish Educational Alliance and Savannah Jewish Federation.
These are only few collaborative painting projects which promote peace and
solidarity among cultures and ethnic groups. There are still a thousand of
these sorts of projects around the world.

Group painting is used as pedagogy. In fact, group painting session as pedagogy


may be classified under a larger category that is—cooperative learning.
Cooperative learning (CL) is an instructional paradigm in which teams of
students work on structured tasks (e.g., homework assignments, laboratory
experiments, or design projects) under conditions that meet five criteria:
positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction,
appropriate use of collaborative skills, and regular self-assessment of team
functioning. Many studies have shown that when correctly implemented,
cooperative learning improves information acquisition and retention, higher-
level thinking skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and self-
confidence (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991). Cooperative learning is a
response to traditional curriculum-driven education. Here, students interact
within a structured heterogeneous group to generate individual and
collective learning.

Cooperative Learning is identified with Célestin Freinet, a French thinker and


educator. In 1928, this methodology was known as ‘Freinet Pedagogy’ or
‘Freinet Movement’. Cooperative learning is characterized by social
interdependence. In CL, high levels of interaction are achievable and each
group is considered as a dynamic whole. However, members still maintain their
individual freedom despite the nurtured solidarity. It must also be
emphasized that learners, in cooperative learning pedagogy, must work
together in order to succeed and that personal success only springs from
group success. This is entirely different from Competitive Learning whereby the
failure of one means the success of other learners.

Like any other activities associated with Freinet, group painting sessions are
mainly undertaken and utilized in educating children. Mostly in the primary
and secondary levels; and during the child’s development stage. This pedagogy
has several proven benefits to children such as (a) Increased Self Efficacy;
(b) Increased Retention; (c) Higher Motivation and (d) Preference for Future
Coop-Learning Episodes. (Freinet Organization, 1999)

Undoubtedly, group painting sessions or collaborative painting may be an


effective pedagogy for cultivating peace among diverse cultures. I will
attempt to present to you the experiences we have about group painting; and
how it can be utilized as a pedagogical tool towards cultivation of peace and
oneness among the students of various ethnic orientations at the Polytechnic
University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila. But before doing that, I will
present to you the Research Setting—PUP in the following section.

PUP and
its Role as Catalyst for Peace

Polytechnic University of the Philippines is the biggest university in the


Philippines in terms of its number of enrolment. With PUP’s more than 62,000
students enrolled in all 16 campuses, 10 of which are in the provinces, it is a
home to students of varied ethnic and regional orientations. It becomes a
meeting place of various students from different regions from the northern
most part to the southern most part of the territory. Students from foreign
countries like South Korea, Republic of China, India, Bangladesh, Taiwan,
Singapore, and some other neighboring countries also go to PUP to earn their
degrees in the arts, business, technology and engineering, languages and
linguistics, education and law, and sciences.

The University’s resolve to create an atmosphere of friendship and peace is


reflected on the policies and writings of its President. Dr. Dante G. Guevarra
(2007), PUP’s president, stressed the role of the universities towards
intercultural dialogue. He believes that universities bridge peoples and nations
across oceans towards unity and understanding (Guevarra, 2007). He further
pointed out that universities should lead in the promotion of world peace. He
said:

In view of the major complexities in the world today,


Universities has to take its international role of promoting
world peace. The universities should take the cudgels of
laying the groundwork for understanding the dynamics of
multicultural diversity which is a very significant key in
solving differences among peoples of nations. Wars or
international conflict could be avoided if only universities
of the world would initiate the moulding of international
opinion. Every university must establish its own Center for
World Peace. (Guevarra, 2007)

With Dr. Guevarra at the helm, the University becomes more favorable and
conducive to multiculturalism. It is a policy of the University to accept
students who passed the University’s entrance examinations and interviews
regardless of their religious affiliations, gender, disability, race, political
beliefs and opinions, and economic status. There are more than a hundred
accredited student organizations of different nature ranging from academic,
brotherhood/fraternity, athletic, cultural, religious, civic, political, etc in
PUP. The University even provided a separate structure to house all these
student organizations. To avoid conflict between and among these student
organizations, the University would always conduct conferences and fora
involving the leaders of these organizations. Consultations are also
undertaken to polish some regulations which affect the studentry in general
or specific organizations in particular. Students, like in other State-run
universities, have their representative in the highest policy making body of the
University, that is the Board of Regents. The student representative, who was
voted by the students, may participate in the deliberations and debates about
the policies that are formulated to air the student concerns. By doing this,
the University cultivates camaraderie among the students; and develops
rapport between the University administration and the studentry.

And to nurture cultural tolerance among its students, the University


undertakes programs towards this direction. The University helps the
students understand multiculturalism through the courses it offers
(Carague, 2000). For one, it provides courses such as but not limited to the
following: Philippine History and Government (HS 110), Philippine Literature (LT110),
World Literature (LT210), Anthropology, World Civilizations, Asian Civilization, and
Humanities (HU 110). All these courses are meant to educate and inform the
students that their immediate community, their country, and the world are
places where seemingly conflicting cultures are abound. And to harmoniously
co-exist with other cultures, one should tolerate and recognize this reality.

Among all these courses, the University highlights art and humanities studies.
PUP included these courses in almost all its curricular degree and non-
degree programs. The University, through the Department of the Humanities
and the Graduate School, offers Humanities and other related courses to
almost all the eighty two (82) undergraduate and graduate academic degree
programs. With its faculty members numbering about forty seven (47), the
Department of the Humanities continuously elevates human artistry and
creativity. Similarly, faculty members from the Graduate School undertake
programs to propagate culture and arts. With these efforts, the University
allows the flourishing of humaneness in the students. It continuously
provides its students a kind of education which is imbued with international
humanism.

Arguably, Polytechnic University of the Philippines values the study of the


Humanities3. PUP shares this with other world universities like University of
California Davis, Harvard University, University of Toronto, and other
members of Association of American Universities (AAU).4 To be faithful and

3
Humanities include, but are not limited to, the arts of literature, painting, music, sculpture,
architecture, and dance, and the discipline of philosophy that permeates all the arts and unites them all
(Lamm, Cross 1993, 6).

4
In 2004, AAU conducted a research about the Humanities and education. The research concluded that
there is a need to reinvigorate humanities courses in universities (Mathae and Birzer 2004). The
importance of arts and humanities to education was stressed by the former Harvard University President
Neil L. Rudenstine in one of his talks at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998. “The arts
and humanities are essential to a liberal arts education because of their direct connection to human
experience”, Rudenstine remarked (The Harvard University Gazette, 1998); In his study of Philippine
universities, Samuel Wiley of Gregorian University in Rome stressed the importance of the humanities in
the academe. Wiley quoted Samuel C. Florman to drive his point, Florman enumerated five reasons why
liberal arts education is important. These reasons are as follows: (1) to improve intellectual
competence and expand imaginative powers; (2) to develop those qualities of character and personality
that make for leadership and successful careers; (3) to enrich our personal lives with new knowledge
truthful about the university’s commitment to the humanities, it is only
appropriate to allow its faculty members to devise their own specific
methodology on how to teach the courses in the arts and humanities. In this
way, the faculty is given free hand to choose the best suited pedagogy,
however, with a pronounced condition that the very objective of the courses
that is international humanism, among others, would still be on their agenda.

Part I:
Assessments of Group Painting as Pedagogy of Peace

As to Content

Content is sometimes used synonymously with theme. But this is not exactly
correct because content is broader than theme. It refers to the thing/idea
being represented in the painting. It is that which makes the painting what it
is. In Understanding Art (4th Edition), Rathus (1994) said that the content of a work
of art is everything that is contained in it. The content of a work refers not
only to its lines or forms, but also to its subject matter and its underlying
meanings or themes. There are three levels of content which we have to
consider. These are as follows: (1) element and composition, (2) subject
matter, and (3) underlying or symbolic meanings or themes (Ibid, 68).

The contents of the paintings produced by the students of art and humanities
in PUP manifest a variety of techniques used by the teachers in doing the
activity. I interviewed faculty members of PUP who used group painting as
pedagogy.5 In an interview with Prof. Guillermo Bungato, a faculty of PUP
handling the subject, he said that he lets the students decide how they would
do the painting and what subject matter it would contain. The composition and
the meanings attached to the painting are likewise decided by the students
themselves. He likewise pointed out that the content of the painting is
deliberated by the students through their interaction. However, sometimes
students would not even sit down for short planning and just face the canvas
and do the painting without any discussion among the group members. As Prof.
Bungato observed, works which are well planned are better than those which
are spontaneous and unplanned.

Prof. Nelson Baun, a faculty member of the same Department, shared this idea.
Prof. Baun said that the contents of the painting should be deliberated by the
students. He discouraged doing the activity without any prior planning. He
emphasized the importance of group discussion to agree on the theme of the
and insight, with keener appreciation of beauty; (4) to elevate the standards of our profession; and (5)
to contribute to the common good (Wiley, 1981, 10).

5
The interviews were conducted from November 2 to November 18, 2008.
painting. Prof. Baun believes that without planning, it is impossible for the
work to generate intelligible meaning.

Prof. Baun likewise, stressed that to cultivate peace among students of


diverse cultural backgrounds, intercultural communication should start to
occur prior, during and after the activity. It must be underlined that
intercultural communication is a process where exchange of information
between and among students who are culturally unalike (Rogers & Steinfatt
1999). Hence, this is a process where the participants/students would come to
a common understanding and unanimously agree on the particular content of
the artwork despite their cultural differences.

Like Prof. Baun, Prof. Agnes Sunga-Oblefias gathers her students and motivate
them to first have initial interaction and exchange of ideas as to what would
their painting be like. She imposes no specific rules in doing the interaction.
It is enough that students would come to an agreement as to the content and
that agreement must be well embodied in the painting work.

A senior faculty, Prof. Pacelli Eugenio also prefers that his students would
talk first about what subject matter and composition would be utilized; and
what meaning of the work should be articulated before they would execute
the activity. Prof. Eugenio, however, explains thoroughly the aims and
specific objectives of the activity before the preliminary phase of the activity
starts. Prof. Eugenio makes sure that his students understand first the
reasons why the activity is undertaken. This way, according to him, students
can execute the activity much better.

There are some faculty members of the College like Prof. Kriztine Viray, who
on the other hand, prefer that the subject matter of the painting must be pre-
imposed. This means that the teacher himself or herself imposes the subject
matter before the students even start to interact. This, according to her, is
very convenient because the students would just execute the work. In her
classes, she would give the students a broader theme like ‘social relevance’,
‘nature’, and ‘basic emotions’. Correspondingly, another advantage is that it is
easier for the teacher to evaluate and rate the works when there is a common
theme.

Prof. Racidon Bernarte, a part time faculty of the Department of Humanities,


shares the opinion of Prof. Viray. Prof. Bernarte provides the students with
themes like ‘fear’, ‘friendship’, ‘family, etc. Interestingly, Prof. Bernarte
imposes themes which start with common letter in the alphabet.

Prof. Raul Roland Sebastian differs from the rest of the group. Prof.
Sebastian gives focus and emphasis on the visual composition. How the
elements are put together and organized. He also underscores the
significance of the process of doing the activity and how the students
interact with each other either verbally or otherwise.

There is really a big difference between planned paintings and unplanned


ones. I will show to you some of the works done by our students. So you may
understand the difference.

(Plates Viewing)

Plate No. 1 (unplanned): There is no


specific intelligible theme and meaning
contained in the work. It should be noted,
however, that the splattered paints all
over the canvas suggest some powerful
emotions. Though the meaning is not
comprehensible, the painting is not without
any value. Note that the painting may
generate varied responses from its viewers.
The visual elements and composition
contained in the work conform to the
tradition setforth by Jackson Pollock—
that is abstract expressionism.

Plate No. 2 (Theme: Pre-imposed):


Here is a work done by Communication
students of PUP Open University under
Prof. Kriztine Viray. Notice that the lines
seem to direct the eyes of its viewers
towards the center. That’s how the
students manipulated the visual elements.
Try looking at closely the center figure
and you would realize that it is an
unspoiled island surrounded by clear sea
waters. The image seems to have popped up
from a state of environmental disorder and
chaos surrounding it. The message
conveyed was really very clear.
Environmental issues were addressed.

Plate No. 3 (Planned): This painting


was done by teachers of culture and the
arts who came from the different regions
and provinces of the country (Philippines).
The theme of the painting as agreed upon by
the participants is ecology and
environment. There is an apparent disorder
in the composition. However, this artwork
produced in 1999 was united by three (3)
realistic objects: Leaf, shell and a coke tin
can.

Plate No. 4 (Planned: participants


grew up together in the same orphanage):
This was done in September 2008 by PUP
Rondalla members who grew up together in
the same orphanage—the Children’s Joy
Foundation. The group members carefully
planned the theme, content and composition
of the artwork. Because of this, the art
seemed to have been done by a single
person or artists.

All of the faculty members who were interviewed for this paper agree that
students can possibly learn the basic elements of visual arts by experiencing
‘painting’. Moreover, students also learn how to correctly analyze a
particular work of art according to these elements. Apart from this,
students can have intercultural understanding and communication by
discussing the theme, elements, composition and meaning of the work prior
to, during and after the activity.

As to Process and Method

As pointed out, PUP allows its faculty members to utilize their own method in
delivering the courses assigned to them. As earlier established in the paper,
professors of Humanities in the university usually conduct group painting
sessions. However, though they have similar pedagogy, faculty members may
still differ as to the approaches they apply.

Their choice of methodology depends on the following factors: (1) Goals; (2)
Participants’ Profile; (3) Mediums Used; and (4) Knowledge of the basic
elements of visual arts; and (5) timeframe.

Goals

Prof. Eugenio highlights and discusses the aims and goals of the activity first
before it actually starts. For instance, if the activity’s goal is peace
cultivation, the same should be explained to the participants. The participants
should know the fact that group painting sessions may be a possible avenue by
and through which cultural differences would be tolerated and
intercultural understanding could be developed. True, teachers should not
leave their students innocent about the things that would transpire in the
activity. Moreso, it is a capital sin for a teacher not to tell the students
about the meaning and importance of the activity.

Prof. Segundo Dizon, Director of Cultural Office of PUP, shares this opinion.
Prof. Dizon identifies two goals: one, learning the elementary concepts about
visual arts; and two, cultivating peace, friendship, and camaraderie.
According to him, discussions on the basic concepts involved in the visual arts
should be given more emphasis. This is to be true about the idea of using group
painting as pedagogy. He claims that the second goal of group painting activity
—that is peace,etc—would be realized by the participants/students along the
way.

Aside from the goals of the activity, Prof. Dizon would also discuss to his
students the possible benefits that can be derived from the activity such as
the enjoyment it could spawn; skills that could be developed and honed; and
of course, grades, accolades, and admirations the art work could earn.

Prof. Josefina Parentela, Chairperson of the Department of the Humanities,


likewise tells her students first of what the end points of the activity are.
Usually, her discussions about the goals of the activity are undertaken side
by side her discussions on the history, basic elements, and understanding of
visual arts. This way, according to her, the students would know that the
activity should be a learning activity and not only for enjoyment purposes.

Prof. Racidon Bernarte, Prof. Kriztine Viray, Prof. Agnes Sunga-Oblefias, and
Prof. Raul Roland Sebastian are also unanimous in saying that the goals of
the activity should be put across and explained at the very onset. Through
this, the students would have a clear direction; would feel and realize the
value of the activity; and would contemplate on the impacts the activity could
generate even at its inception.

Despite of the variety of reasons, there seem to be a unity of opinions on the


matter. Majority of the faculty members agree that the goals of the activity
should be first laid down before the activity would start.

Participants Profiling, Mediums Used

During the interviews with the faculty members, I discovered that most of
them do not profile their students before constituting the groups for the
session. Most of them would just divide the class into several groups and the
number of members for each group is dependent on how big the class is. The
faculty members do not mind at all the cultural orientations of the members
in a group; their regional affiliations; gender; religion; age; and other dividing
factors.

I submit that if the activity is to be utilized as a tool to cultivate peace and


oneness among them, it is important to profile the students carefully, though
this is very tasking on the part of the teacher. Groups should have members
of varied, if not conflicting cultural orientations or other factors. Teachers
can only do this grouping with justice by giving the students a short survey.
After the survey results are gathered, the teacher can easily constitute the
groups with a primary design to join together students of different
backgrounds and orientations.

If all the members of the group are from the same cultural background, the
activity would be in vain and worthless. Why? This is because there is already
a presumption that peace between and among these members exists. No
conflict to settle. No differences to forge. No intercultural dialogue and
communication is possible. At the very least, what can be nurtured is
interpersonal communication and relationship.

As to the medium, the majority of the faculty members do not require the
students a particular medium to use, rather the students are given liberty to
choose from among all the available mediums.6 This is because the students
would know what medium they are comfortable using. Students usually use in
their art works three common mediums. These are: dry pastel, watercolor,
and acrylic.

By looking at the paintings, I realized that when the medium is imposed upon
the students, there seems to be discord in the organization. But when the
students choose their own medium, beautiful artworks are produced. I will
show some paintings done in different mediums chosen by the students
themselves. We can observe the aesthetic value of each work. And show you
one painting done in a medium imposed upon the students.

(Plates Viewing)

Plate No. 5 (Pastel): These three pieces of


artworks by the students of Prof. Racidon
Bernarte are mistaken to have been done by
professional artists. The organization in
each of the painting would indicate that the
6
Prof. Rodolfo Divino, who is on leave, differs. He imposes on a group a particular medium.
One group is assigned to use oil; other group in the same class would use pastel, another
would be water color, and so forth. The idea of Prof. Divino is to let the students learn the
advantages and disadvantages of the different mediums. And that at the end of the activity
the students would discover what medium that can fit their needs and their skills.
students who collaborated to paint them
possess artistic talents. True, the students
who did the paintings are art students and
that they have pronounced artistic
inclinations. Try to observe the blending of
colors in these 3 artworks and you would
realize that the students have mastery of
the mediums they employed. Notice the
harmony in the paintings, they seem to have
been painted by individual artists.

Plate No. 6 (Acrylic): Undoubtedly, this


artwork done by marketing and business
students of PUP has soaring artistic value.
The use of vibrant colors and the masterful
manipulation of geometric shapes suggest
that the artists comfortably handled the
medium —that is acrylic--well.

Plate No. 7 (Acrylic): This artwork is done


by the students of Prof. Rodolfo Divino, a
PUP professor of Humanities who is
currently on leave. The students obviously
mishandled the medium. There was no
harmony in the artwork.

Knowledge of the Basic Elements of the Visual Arts

About 95% percent of the students who take Humanities courses are not
enrolled in courses like architecture, interior design, and fine arts.
Understandably, a teacher of humanities must explain and orient his /her
students about the basic concepts about visual arts including but not limited
to elements, history, appreciation principles, art theories and other
elementary lessons on visual arts. This is to make the students well
informed.

Although psychology and psychoanalytic theorists would assume that artists


unconsciously reflect their psyche and personality in the art works, it is still
important that the artists know the elements of the art work and what
underlying psychological meanings do these elements represent. Expectedly,
majority of the students do not have the skills yet but when they are well
informed about visual arts, a certain liking towards it would be nurtured.
Hence, it is incumbent upon the teacher to teach the theories first before
going to any activity.

Timeframe

During the interviews, I gathered that the faculty members only allow their
students to finish the artwork within a period of 3 to 4 hours. This period
refers only to the activity itself. This does not include the time spent for
initial planning, discussions and lectures on the elementary concepts,
gathering of materials, and post-activity sessions like understanding the
artwork, interpreting the works by the students and assessments.

I will show to you some paintings which are doubted to have been produced for
a short span of 3 to 4 hours because of their intricacies and complicatedness.

(Plates Viewing)

Plate No. 8 (Intercultural Marriage)

Plate No. 9 (Garden Paradise)

Plate No. 10 (Vortex)

As to Facilitation and Acceptability

Group painting sessions in PUP are being facilitated by the teacher of the
course himself or herself. At times, if the class is big enough, the teacher
will invite other facilitators who are most usually visual artist or other art
teachers. There are no hard and fast rules being followed by the teachers in
facilitating the activity. They do not follow strict guidelines and approaches.
There is also no common objective and goals set. This is perhaps the reason
why there are some group painting activities which fall short of the
expectations.

On the other channel, in terms of the level of acceptability of group painting,


I would say that it is well accepted by the faculty, students and university
administrators. Albeit, there was no actual baseline study yet that
determines the acceptability of group painting session as pedagogy in PUP. We
can only infer this to three things: (1) the continuous patronage being given
by the University and College administrators to the activity; (2) the positive
reactions of the students towards the activity; and the (3) incessant
employment of this type of pedagogy by the faculty members. All these
suggest that group painting is acceptable PUP community.

As to Effectivity to forge and cultivate oneness and


peace among students of various ethnic and regional orientations

I tender the following observations which all point to the basic argument
that group painting is an effective tool to forge and cultivate oneness and
peace among the students of PUP of various ethnic and regional orientations:
(1) Cultural exchange and intercultural communication occur; (2) Cultural
dominance is avoided; (3) Democratic participation is encouraged; and (4) the
art work virtually unites the students.

Cultural exchange occurs in group painting (Rogers, 2006). There are two
ways by which this cultural exchange happens in group painting sessions in
PUP. During the preliminary phase of the activity, students would normally
converse with one another as to the content and theme of the artwork to be
painted.7 Through these conversations, the students would unconsciously
unfold and reveal themselves to each other. They would share their ideas
with each other thereby giving them chance to assimilate each others
cultural orientations. This also happens during the activity proper. Here,
students would meet minds as to the execution of the artwork albeit non-
verbally.

Consequently, cultural dominance (Rogers, 2006) is avoided. How? In group


painting, the students are considered of equal footing. No leader to speak of.
No dominant and subordinated culture. Only common aspiration—that is to
come up with a beautiful art work. For instance, a student from northern
region who has a different culture with that of a group mate who hails from
the south, ideally would set aside for a moment his/her orientations just to
work collaboratively with his group mates. Avoiding cultural dominance in
group painting, however, does not prevent the members of a particular group
to assert and speak up. It just encourages the members to learn how to
compromise towards the direction a particular goal.

Democratic participation is encouraged. In group painting, every member of the group


is encouraged or even required to contribute to the completion of the art work.
Here, when we speak of contributions we don’t refer to those which are financial in
nature, like monetary expenses, but rather those which refer to efforts exerted, ideas
shared, emotions invested, labor, and other intangibles that are necessary in the
completion of the work.

7
These type of conversations occur even if the theme is pre-imposed. However, in which case,
the students would only talk about the process by which the theme is to be articulated.
Accordingly, when a student contributed to the art work, he/she identified
herself/himself to it (art work). This is how Karl Marx looked at labor. Labor
relates the individual to his creation (Hooker, 1996). Hence, virtually all the
participants in the activity would identify and relate themselves to the single artwork
despite the perceived heterogeneity (Scheufele, Hardy, Brossard, Waismel-Manor, &
Nisbet, 2006) that exists among them. This way the participants are united by the art
work they collaboratively produced.

Part II

Helpful Workshop Plan/Outline

In this section, I outline a basic plan for group painting activity. I divide the
entire process into three, namely: (1) Preliminary Phase; (2) Actual Group
Painting Session Phase; and (3) Post-Activity Phase.

Preliminary Phase
1. Discuss the history, elements, and functions of painting
2. Motivate the students by showing them images of collaborative painting
activities and their positive results
3. Identify the objectives of the activity
4. Determine the Profile of the Participants as to their cultural
orientations by giving them a Cultural Questionnaire/Survey 8

5. Based on the results of the survey, constitute the groups by making sure
that the members are not coming from the same orientation
6. Give the members, time to talk with each other about the activity; and
time to plan for the painting’s content, organization and visual
composition.

Actual Group Painting Session Phase


Prerequisites:
8
Refer to Appendix a (Reynolds & Valentine, 2004).
1. The facilitator/teacher should possess the following competencies
during the actual painting session:
a. Solid verbal communication skills
b. Ability to work with a variety of people
c. Common and good judgment
d. Willingness to play and share a sense of adventure with the
participants; and
e. Good sense of humor
2. Should also possess the following skills:
a. Basic understanding about the visual arts, the benefits and
objectives of the group painting activity
b. Ability to explain the rules and consequences of the activity

Things to be considered by the facilitator:

1. Position the groups distant from each other to avoid intermingling


of ideas and plans.
2. Set the timeframe.
3. Make sure that all the students are doing the activity. If there are
some students who do not participate, call their attention.
4. Do not allow the students to cross group lines.
5. As they do the activity, do not leave the activity area. Stay.
6. Roam around the activity area at times in order that the students
would feel the seriousness of the activity.
7. Be firm in your decisions.
8. Once the time allotted expires, stop all the groups regardless of the
status of the work.

Post-Activity Phase

1. Ask one group to interpret the works of other groups.


2. Ask the students to explain their own works.
3. Ask them to explain the experience.

Concluding Remarks
There are one thousand and one ways by which peace and solidarity among
diverse cultures can be achieved and nurtured, group painting is comparably
just a single spec. I hope that our experience in PUP, though admittedly so
simple or uncomplicated, be a notable contribution towards the attainment of
universal peace. Hopefully, as students in group painting did, nations of
varied cultures can come together and exchange ideas to forge solidarity and
oneness.

Thank you.

Bibliography

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