Art for Social Change

I was a student and a practitioner of Development Communication (DevCom), a science-oriented field of communication which deals with solving development problems using varied communication activities and tools, which includes community participation, research and Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) initiatives. From the viewpoint of DevCom, Art (i.e. painting, sculpture, etc) is not an immediate concern (poverty is), and not the most preferred tool to facilitate development (print, broadcast, community dialogue are).

I grew up believing that Art belongs to a separate plane than Development. That art cannot be used to connect people together for the ultimate purpose of alleviating social and development problems such as inequality, poverty, health issues, and environmental concerns. That development (communication) work deals only with the lower tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and that art belongs to the topmost tier, hence the least of everyone’s concern. And that art belongs to the finer cultured fellows that snob at the face of dilapidated school classrooms, malnourished children, victims of abuse, and sick citizens. And that art belongs only to the museums and galleries and cannot influence the general public opinion and their desire for change.

I went over to art studies with that belief. I have accepted the fact that art and development do not merge in a Venn diagram. That I can become either a pure development communication practitioner or an art scholar. No hybrids. No in-betweens.

I used to have that belief, until one day, at the Lopez Museum and Library (Manila), I heard Ms Alma Quinto‘s talk, entitled FROM WOUND TO WOMB: ART FOR CHANGE.


Ms. Alma Quinto is a visual artist with a purpose. That  purpose is to alleviate the pains of the afflicted. She uses art as a tool to help physically and emotionally wounded individuals and communities recover from their sufferings and traumas. By engaging her participants in various art-making workshops, she lets them express their suppressed thoughts and feelings through creative outlets, such as dance, storytelling, illustration and collages.

Alma was a social worker first before an artist. She already has the heart for social work when she was young – volunteering in various non-profit organizations and church ministries. Perhaps this heart for service was her fuel when she took on the brush and clay.


“Grounded [exhibit] is a literal and metaphorical take on notions of rootedness, engagement, and mobility in scapes and interventions within and without these referenced sites.” (Lopez Museum & Library Exhibit Guide)

Alma Quinto’s piece on the said exhibit is entitled “Jutay”, a Visayan term for “small”. Upon entering the museum, Gallery 1 holds the Jutay piece. The upper half of the walls are painted green, resembling a classroom chalkboard. Jutay is an interactive work; it provides raw materials (i.e. dried leaves, paper CD cases) by which a viewer can participate and engage themselves with the work. Some of the art products in the work were produced by Ms Alma’s workshop participants, such as River Warriors Volunteers, public school teachers, development workers, and students.

Jutay (1) Jutay (2)

Courtesy of Lopez Museum channel from


Grounded still runs at the Lopez Museum & Library until August, 2013. The museum is located at Benpress Building, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Metro Manila.

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I have not had the chance to talk with Ms Alma Quinto after her talk later that day. But I believe, soon, our paths will cross again. I think she is a very rare kind of artist. She personifies what I have always wanted to do – an artist and, at the same time, a development worker.

Related Articles on the Web:

Alma Quinto: Artist as Cultural Healer (