Cradle of top class artists, designers

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Friday, April 11, 2014

PRODUCING globally competitive artists and designers is the forte of Philippine Women's College of Davao's Helena Z Benitez School of Fine Arts & Design.

What with a faculty composed of experts in their respective fields and a program that has been tested over the years, every student is assured of a world-class education that will make him or her ready for the world.

Program chair Brenda Z. Barba herself holds a Masters degree in Fashion and Design.


Emi Alexander Englis, head of fashion design program, said the Helena Z Benitez School of Fine Arts & Design is a pioneering and interdisciplinary school of art and design in Mindanao. It features painting, a program that has been launched 27 years ago; interior design now on its 14th year; and visual communication, industrial design and fashion design that are going into their seventh year.

But Englis assured that theirs is a program that doesn't duplicate those in Manila or Cebu, saying: "We're very rich in culture here in Mindanao. We maximize on the fundamental culture of the island and make it a global identity."

Englis, an alumnus of the Fine Arts Program with a major in painting, was among the country's representatives to the World Costume Festival in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and a featured Asian designer to the 1st International Fashion Week in Anchorage, Alaska, USA in 2013.

Fine arts faculty Jun Rodino O. Ortajo, also an alumnus, was also featured in the Anchorage event and as well as in the Manila Wear International Fashion Week last February in London. He also romped away with the best fashion accessory designer award in the Look of Sytle Awards 2013 sponsored by Britisch Council & Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Another alumnus, graphic artist Ryan Ayuste ranked second among other top eight international graphic designers by Designclue 2013 while visual artist Julius Adrian Yu who topped the Mindanao qualifying made it to the prestigious Philippine Art Awars 2013-2014.

Shiela Marie A. Damalerio, fashion accessory designer, and Rodney Yap, Fine Arts faculty, also made us prouder as Dabawenyos and Mindanaoans. Damalerio got a P500,000 contract for designing bamboo-made bags of Sarangani Province Jail inmates while Yap was a featured Asian designer in the exhibit entitled "Primeval-Scenes from a Primordial Past" that was showcased in Poland, Germany and South Korea.

Englis said art and design is not just for the elite. "At PWC, we make it accessible with affordable rates in tuition and miscellaneous fees. We have progressive facilities and industry exposure. We are not teachers but facilitators since our students don't just learn concepts in class, 90% of their education come from the industry. Ours is an industry-based curriculum."

Once or twice a year, fashion students are sent to Hong Kong Fashion Week, which is the second most prestigious international fashion event after the New York Fashion Week. PWC students also get to represent the Philippines in the Indonesian Art & Culture Scholarship 2011.

The Helena Z Benitez School of Fine Arts & Design has indeed more than lived up to expectations as it continues to make an impact in the art and fashion landscape not just of the country but also in the international arena.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 11, 2014.


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