UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Title of Proceedings: 
2009 De La Salle University (DLSU) Arts Congress, Manila Philippines
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Month of Conference: 
February, 2009
Name(s) of Author/Editor(s): 
Jaime Oscar M. Salazar
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Occasioned by “His Art, Our Heart”, the ongoing multi-venue retrospective exhibition of Fernando Cueto Amorsolo, this paper poses the question: How can art educators make Amorsolo relevant to a contemporary audience of students?

Amorsolo was, is, and will no doubt continue to be one of the most prominent figures in Philippine painting, if not in all of Philippine art. Certainly he would seem to be the only artist thus far to be identified with an influence that is institutional in character—the so-called Amorsolo school, based in the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts, was the very entity against which modernism in art, led by Victorio Edades, directly rebelled.

This paper argues, however, that the present hegemonic discourse on Amorsolo tends toward the sacralization, if not the deification, of the artist and his vast oeuvre, leading to the deadening of his legacy. “His Art, Our Heart” is a timely example of this sacralization. The title is supposedly indicative of the aim to connect Amorsolo to a wider, younger audience, but because the retrospective merely replicates the already oft-repeated gesture of homage, the audience ends up estranged, rather than engaged.

There is a need, then, to re-view and re-vision Amorsolo, however sketchy the results may initially turn out to be. Informed primarily by Suzi Gablik’s theory of “connective aesthetics”, this paper proposes a framework with which Amorsolo’s work—as well as the work of other artists—can be re-read in order to help students develop an abiding sense of place, a fuller awareness of their role in the all-too-urgent task of communally preserving the environment. This paper suggests that when learning is grounded in the lived experience of students, the power and relevance of both art and environmental education increase, and provides the educator with opportunities to change not only students’ attitudes, but also their behavior toward vital ecological issues.

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