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ART GALLERY: Legacy of a Philanthropist

Chrisse Martha B. Gillesania | News Writer

What started as an exhibition of artworks at the foyer of Luce Auditorium is now flourishing inside a newly built art gallery inside Silliman University (SU).

This collection of artworks is the legacy of Silliman Alumnus Dr. Romeo P. Ariniego, a cardiologist and philanthropist who donated a sum of P10 million for the establishment of the new building.

The Romeo P. Ariniego Art Gallery, inaugurated last Aug. 23, will serve as an art display for Sillimanians, locals, and visiting artists.VP Development Jane Belarmino said the new gallery could present the Silliman community with the possibility of looking at art not only as something beautiful or engaging, but as a way of promoting the civic values we believe in as Christian witness to the world.

“This [Romeo P. Ariniego Art Gallery] is an important step in establishing the cultural value of the works that lie in the care of Silliman University. As objects of cultural value, these works have the great potential to inspire and to inform,” Belarmino said.

Fifty-seven paintings from his collection were donated by Ariniego for the new art gallery, all of which are works from Filipino artists like Jose Joya, National Artist Hernando R Ocampo, and Manny Garibay, except from one Australian visual art icon.

Kitty Tanaguchi, curator of the exhibition of collections, said these works are relevant in understanding each period they represent. Marcel Antonio’s figurative blue nude holding a watermelon, for example, is a way for the artist to bring to life magic, mystery and mythology.

Another is Manny Garibay’s use of political and social colors which touches on human individual conditions and issues on religion and justice.

Furthermore, the art gallery is envisioned as a moving gallery as it will hold artworks by students from the Fine Arts department of SU.

VP Finance Atty. Fe Marie Tagle said during the inauguration, “It [Romeo P. Ariniego Art Gallery] could be a window through which everyone in the community can appreciate art and equate it to their innermost feelings, their dreams and aspirations in life and the joys and struggles that rise daily.”

Resembling an artist’s mind
The structure of the building looks like a box opening, resembling an artist’s mind. This idea was from SU student architects Mary Vail Lunor, Cay Louise Kirit, and Shaira June Rubia who have won in the design-making competition for the building last March.

The art gallery’s huge dome-like structure represents freedom and the vastness of an artist’s mind, while the plane colors of its walls signify an artist’s empty canvasses.

A skylight at the top of dome makes paramount use of natural light. The two-storey building contains at least one 10-foot high wall that could hold large paintings and an adequate floor area to allow viewing of all wall works. Massive glass doors for the first floor were built to allow for a scenic view of the outdoor greenery and for easier transport
of musical instruments, such as grand piano, into the building.

The building complies with the idea of maximizing space for storage and preparations for artwork on display. There is an open floor containing at least one movable wall for each area. Moreover, all walls are filled with art-hanging and installation-friendly panelling and supported by a grid of vases behind the walls to allow for flexibility when putting up the artworks.

The construction of the new building began last October 2016 and will be fully functional by the end of September this year. At present, 86.54 percent of the building has been completed.

A Story to Tell
Many of SU’s benefactors and donors stories to tell, tales of how they ended up bequeathing some of their most valuable possessions to their well-loved alma mater.

As for Ariniego, his curious tale began in 1964, when he came across an SU brochure on a free work-and-study program.

At that time, the young Ariniego was working at a factory in Pasay. But after chancing upon the advertisement, he hastily resigned from his work in order to go to Dumaguete to pursue his studies.

During his stay at SU, Ariniego did numerous jobs- janitor, messenger of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), dormitory desk assistant at Doltz Hall, and weekend yard gardener and helper of the late Dr. Hubert and Harriet Reynolds- before acquiring his Bachelor’s Degree in Science (Pre-Medicine) in a span of three years.

Ariniego believes that he would not be where he is now if it wasn’t for Silliman University, and for that, he is happy to do something for SU as an alumnus.

The famed doctor from Dasmariñas, Cavite is not an alien when it comes to leaving behind legacies for his past universities, however. To De La Salle University, Ariniego has donated his house in Dasmariñas and a medical library he has built for the school.

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