Alyssa Stromberg and Professor Robert T. Barrett, Illustration Department
The purpose of this project/art show is to illustrate the simple, humble lifestyle that is found in the Philippines in a way that affects viewers’ outlook on life and their core values.
Status of the Project
I have been working on this project for a little over a year. In receiving this grant, I was able to travel to the Philippines last May and get over 1000 photo references and several sketches in order to complete my senior project. Now that I have the references and around 20 stories and quotations for this project, I am currently working on turning these into paintings with quotes to illustrate the unique lifestyle found in the Philippines. One of my favorite quotes came from an old father about his family, “You know, Sister, I have never been rich, nor will I ever be rich. I have 6 children I am responsible to raise, feed and teach. I don’t have worldly things to give them. I can’t buy them nice clothes, toys, or phones. I can’t take them to special places, or I can’t even buy them gifts. But what I have to give them is more special than all of that. What I will teach them about the gospel of Jesus Christ will bring them lasting happiness, a happiness that riches can’t buy.” My hope is that eventually my pieces and stories will be made into a book that will inspire many to simplify their lives or at least to find gratitude for all that they have.
It was such a blessing to go back to the Philippines last May as a start to this project. As most are aware, last November 8, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) trampled the Philippines leaving 6,340 fatalities, and 1,061 Filipinos missing. This was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, which devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines. In returning to Manila, being so far away from the island where the storm hit the strongest, I thought there would be no opportunity to be involved in the relief efforts. By surprise I was asked to help with a “national day of service” while working on my project. I traveled to a part of Cavite I wasn’t familiar with, where we helped build houses for families who had been reassigned from Tacloban to safer areas closer to Manila. While I was laying cement walls, there were kids all around us. I started taking pictures to use for my project when a particular little girl approached me. We started to talk, and she excitedly told me, “It’s my birthday tomorrow! I’ll be turning 9!” After I asked what her plans were, she replied that they didn’t have any money to do anything. Their family had just been reassigned to Manila. Sadly one of her siblings had passed away and her father left their family because of problems they faced as a result of the storm. As I handed her a handful of tootsie rolls, all I had to give her for her birthday, she thanked me with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she looked me in the eyes and said, “All I want for my birthday is for my family to be whole again.”
One other unforgettable day was when I visited a small group of huts built right next to the Manila Bay. This particular “beach” was not what you would call picturesque; garbage everywhere, definitely not the cleanest place to live. This area was known for families who just didn’t have much money. Many of the children here didn’t have shoes and even a handful went without clothes. Living conditions were very sad, but you would never guess that by the smiles that were on all the little kids’ faces. I was able to capture these in some of my photos. I went and watched them gather 1 in a big group, pick up a large stick/log, and play baseball with it. Then another group of kids found a long vine and played jump rope with that. They all ran around laughing and joking and smiling, and this was just one of the moments I sat and recognized, “Wow! They really know what happiness is all about.”
Stories like these bring everything into perspective. All these amazing Filipinos really care about is their family which matters most to them. I was blessed to have the opportunity to obtain references for my senior project. I recently read an article from a traveler that just got back from the Philippines. She shares, “I was thinking about my first world problems, about my friends and my family who live in the Western world. We’re complaining about who knows what every day and having no idea how lucky we are to have a shelter, a bed to sleep, clothes to wear and something to eat in the fridge. Seeing their joyful faces has changed my mind and enlightened me. Happiness has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with wealth. Humanity shines even brighter amidst poverty. These kids can bear more difficulties in life than we can ever imagine…”2 This is exactly what I’m trying to share with those who will come see my show (and read my book in the future).
Plans for the Completion of this Project
I am graduating in December 2015 so in order to gain the most experience and create the most effective show, I am scheduling my show in November 2015. I wanted my show in November right before Thanksgiving because a big part of the meaning I hope to convey is that we need to be more grateful, and that would be an appropriate time to share this message. Last semester I was enrolled in a sketchbook class that helped me realize the importance of sketching. I also took a class about contemporary art and gallery work where I learned what could make a gallery show more successful and what was most important. Both of these classes will contribute to my preparation for this show. Also I will be taking more art classes from now until my show in order for me to improve specific painting skills. This next semester I am enrolled in the class “Painting the Human Head” with our department head, Robert Barrett, as the instructor. This will only help my paintings of Filipinos to look more real and portray their beautiful smiles and the happiness in their eyes. This summer I plan to complete all of the pieces for my show and then with the help of my advisor, Robert Barrett get his feedback fall semester to make sure it’s the best show that I can produce.