Art abounded everywhere. Not only did the exhibit walls and floor of the World Youth Alliance Headquarters clasp and grasp art that traversed many miles across the globe, but the skillful hands that created them were present as well.
Led by Alexis Kende, WYA’s Director of Culture, the International Arts Forum during the first weekend of November assembled together artists from all over, showcasing works conveying beauty in the human experience. Young people had the opportunity to expound upon the significance of their works, disclosing the poignant revelations that compelled their conceptions. The Forum was also an occasion to dialogue about the pursuit of beauty as an innate character of art.
Bringing together artists from different cultures naturally brought diverse perspectives to approaching art and its significance as a medium of human expression. Many artists extolled the inexhaustible creativity in expressing humanity. David Maina stated, “Art is always evolving . . . the only limit is yourself!” Vincent Navarro equally echoed, “We are boundless [in art as] a venue of expression.” Yet, during a frank discussion on the role of art, Quina Baterna was genuinely concerned how not holding certain precepts could turn art into an esoteric interest, dragging it away from being a universal and communicable language. Apart from her work as an artist, Baterna has dedicated her time to ensure all citizens in The Philippines are able to access the cultural wealth of museums across the country.
New York-based actor Nicholas Maccarone extolled the arts as a way to reach out to others, personally confessing, “Marriage of the arts and public service has made me a more compassionate man.” From his own experience, Maccarone witnessed the compelling power of theatre among the marginalized Haitians during his time in Port-au-Prince.
Contemporary artist Wayne Adams, opening his talk with lyrics from the rock band The Flaming Lips, shed off the false perceptions of beauty. At one point, he explained how false nostalgia has been a principle in designing newly-opened New York restaurants that want to evoke a sense of the “good ole’ days” – a marketing technique rather than an aspiration for beauty.
Regardless of the range of attitudes about art and beauty, these young artists were agreeably drawn and connected to each other. For all of them, art is not just an intimate outlet of expression, but one that links the whole human family. Evidence of this was manifested in the Declaration on Art and Beauty, a document drafted during the Forum, which states, “Beyond serving this undeniable need for self-expression, art is intended to communicate with the other . . . the best art communicates by resonating with a vital aspect of what it means to be human . . . anchoring us firmly in what we know so intimately at the core of our being.”
Beauty captivates every human being, and as the Declaration confirms too, “Beauty illuminates the truth about the human person . . . beauty is what best describes this mysterious encounter that we experience through great works of art. In this way, art is not only personal, but universally meaningful.”
Art has been undeniably an avenue to pursue beauty in every culture, and artists continually desire to breach visceral responses and sublime experiences that speak to all. For the young artists present, the International Arts Forum was an exceptional occasion to open up to peers from other continents, linking an immediate, amicable camaraderie among themselves and guests. In this exhibit of collegiality, beauty was not contained within the art on display, but too in the solidarity they shared. The whole experience was alluring with vigorous joy, pleasure and an undying thirst for transcendence endowed in the human spirit. The aura of beauty at the International Arts Form, whether emanating from the artwork or their makers, was ever-glowing.
By Edward Ablang, an intern in the WYA North America Office