For a while, I wondered if there was anything out there that could bring art/graphic design workshops to the poorer parts of the Philippines. It wasn’t until I came across the Kickstarter project of the Ferdinand Center for the Creative.Their mission: “to provide the finest graphic design education for young adults who can’t afford quality art education” in the Rural Phillipines.
But is the light that is being painted about impoverished young Filipino adults accurate? This is an excerpt from their Ferdinand Center for the Creative’s about us page:
Many join the sex industry. They might not agree with the job, it might feel wrong to them, but they have no choice. They do it not just so they can survive, but so their families may survive as well. If they live in a rural area, they might work in the rice fields, some of the most backbreaking labor imaginable, for only about $2 USD per day—and that’s only during the rice harvesting season. The rest of the year, they’re left to find other jobs, which may or may not exist for them. Things can look pretty bleak if you’re a Filipino artist living in poverty.
What? ALL rural Filipinos are rice workers and sex workers? Who the heck wrote this, and why does the perspective seemed so skewed? It turns out that the head of the board of directors is a young man named Lester Nelson:
“Nelson got interested in the Philippines about three years ago through an Internet correspondence with a photographer who documents life in the country — children living on the street, youth trapped in the sex industry and impoverished farmers in rural areas.”
Yes, the sex industry and working in rice fields ARE occupations young adults who live without much money turn to. But there is a middle ground between both occupations, and it’s certainly not recognized on the website. Maybe it’s left out due to the Philippines Nelson saw in photographs, or the experiences he’s had in person while living in the rural areas; maybe it’s to pull at the heart strings of potential donators. But it’s off-putting to someone like myself — who has cultural ties to the Philippines, with relatives who come from a fisherman’s background.
Being a daughter of Filipino immigrants and having had an opportunity to study Graphic Design in college was a life saver to say the least; it gave me a sense of direction, not to mention the balls to continue pursuing my creative endeavors. When one of my nephews in the Philippines couldn’t get the proper Art education due to lack of art workshops available to those without money and familial pressure to find a job, he decided to stop, and that breaks my heart.
But. It doesn’t feel authentic knowing that the board of directors doesn’t have one person of Filipino heritage on it (The advisory board has at least one Filipino.) Not to say that it’s necessarily worse that the school was not created by Filipinos for Filipinos; it’s great that something like this is being put together because there is a need for quality art education to be available to everyone, and this is a great start to something that will improve the lives of many people. But it does make me wonder though if there are other sides in the rural part of if it is really one-dimensional as how it was presented on the organization’s website.
Am stuck on semantics? Possibly. But these factors could hamper a potentially big opportunity for future graphic designers. What do you think?