Bringing Art to the Community: Ayala Museum’s Traveling Exhibition Programme (Aprille Tijam, Philippines, ITP 2019)

Written by Aprille Tijam, Senior Manager for Exhibitions and Collections, Ayala Museum (Philippines, ITP 2019)

While the first government museum in the Philippines was opened more than 100 years ago, in 1901 during the American period, museum-going in my country is still not as popular as other forms of leisure like going to the movies or the malls.  Out of a population of over 100 million, only an average of 100,000 visit my museum every year. Therefore, it has been a continuing challenge to encourage Filipinos to visit Ayala Museum and museums throughout the Philippines.

One solution my museum has developed to address this challenge was to bring our art programmes to different communities all over the country.  The Traveling Exhibition Program was established in 2008 to reach out to more communities. It provides an opportunity for the public to view artworks from the Ayala Museum Collection, especially for those who live outside the National Capital Region. So far, it has reached 68 destinations nationwide, with more than 50 million viewers. I have project-managed this programme since it started.

Map of the Philippines showing sites of Traveling Exhibition Program from 2008 to 2019

There are several projects under our traveling programme. In 2011, a one-year agreement with Kim Komenich, a Pulitzer Prize winning American photojournalist, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, allowed us to bring 60 black and white reproductions of Komenich’s photos to 12 destinations nationwide. Revolution Revisited: A Photography Exhibition by Kim Komenich traveling exhibition is in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the first EDSA People Power Revolution and displays photographs taken by Komenich in 1986.

While we’re under renovation this year, the Traveling Exhibition Program continues under the Ayala Museum On The Go programme. Together with art workshops and lectures, the traveling exhibitions aim to:

  1. Share Ayala Museum’s exhibitions to a wider audience.
  2. Develop historical and cultural awareness among our target audience.
  3. Initiate the sharing of skills, knowledge and resources within communities in developing plans for local cultural awareness initiatives.

At present, there are four traveling sets that are alternately, or at times, simultaneously featured in various sites. Pioneers of Philippine Art: Luna, Amorsolo, Zobel (developed in 2008); Kisame: Visions of Heaven on Earth, Photographs of Ceiling Paintings from the Catholic Churches in the Province of Bohol, in partnership with the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. (2008); Botong Francisco: A Nation Imagined (2013), and Ayala Museum Dolls Collection (2015). The original sets of these exhibitions were first presented at Ayala Museum.  These were later converted into traveling exhibition sets.

Pioneers of Philippine Art: Luna, Amorsolo, Zobel at the People’s Museum and Library, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. Part of the Museums and Galleries Month Celebration in October 2019.

The dolls in the Dolls Collection are hand-carved 1:4 scale models in 1974. The traveling sets are composed of framed, scaled reproductions tailor-fit to be accommodated in exhibition spaces that are not expected to have the same conditions as that of our museum.

The Kisame and Botong Francisco exhibition sets both comes with a 9 x 9-inch exhibition catalogue. A film by renowned creative director Peque Gallaga on Carlos “Botong” Francisco (National Artist for Visual Arts) and a documentary on the Pioneers of Philippine Art: Luna, Amorsolo, Zobel are screened in the exhibitions. These education components are further supplemented with a guided tour or a lecture by the Curator whenever possible.

Since the project’s inception, we have collaborated with provincial museums, tourism offices, local cultural centers, Ayala Malls, and universities nationwide.

The opportunity to be part of the team that brings art to communities has allowed me to interact first-hand with audiences in provinces that wouldn’t normally have access to what we can offer at the Ayala Museum.

Through this programme, I have personally listened to reactions, appreciation and questions from these audiences. It has become a platform to understand the nuances of dealing with local government units. It has also allowed my team to assess and learn how we can create more pathways for engagement and better appreciation of Philippine arts and culture.

Kisame: Visions of Heaven on Earth Traveling Exhibition at the Casa San Miguel, Zambales (2015).

After the ITP Summer Programme 2019, I attended the International Conference on Cultural Statistics and Creative Economy in Cebu City, Philippines. A two-year study on Filipino Values by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) found that ‘culture, arts and sciences’ ranked 17th in common or shared values by Filipinos.

For me, this news was alarming. It made me realize that our traveling exhibition programme will help to reintroduce artists and their works to students. It will help audiences to understand the relevance of these artists’ works to their lives. Teachers’ knowledge of art and its history will be strengthened and will help integrate visual art into classroom teaching. The programme can help cultivate an appreciation of arts and culture and help elevate arts and culture as drivers for cultural development and nation-building.

This year, my team and I completed presentations at twelve sites. I look forward to continued partnerships with provincial units in presenting our Traveling Exhibition Program in the years to come. This effort will hopefully allow us to inspire more Filipinos to spend their leisure time walking around museums and enjoying art.