Let’s talk art: A foreigner’s role in the Los Baños community

by Angelica Marie Paz and Tracy Ann Quirino

In a town with diverse people, art can have different meanings and purposes. For 23-year old Miriam Kirsten Gummert, art has always been present in her life. Through the art exhibit held last April 24 at Ginhawa Art Cafe, she was finally able to showcase her own art in the form of paintings and sculptures. This new found hobby and passion of hers could be traced back in 2016 when she found herself seeing art in a different way.

Miriam graduated from the German School Manila, and for a while, she spent two years in Cebu for college and work. But with her parents working at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) since 2004,  she already considers Los Baños her home.

Miriam’s art inspiration

Miriam started painting back in 2016. “My dad was very artistic so it kinda rubbed off on me. I don’t know why I started it, it just kinda happened. I was bored one day.” she shared.

Her paintings from the exhibit was inspired by the book by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables. “Victor Hugo is my inspiration. The fictional characters from Les Miserables. They are my inspiration even though they are not real.” Miriam started to pursue painting through fan art. According to her, “it just kinda happened. There’s not a really a plan.”

One of Miriam’s interests aside from art is musical theater. Even though her exhibit was inspired by the book, she still listens to the songs from the play for ideas. “I’d want to be in musical theater but I can’t sing so visual art is kind of my back up.” she also shared.

On being a foreigner in Los Baños

For Miriam Gummert, she faces no barrier or problem in being a foreign resident in Los Baños. “It’s a good place to grow up. I live in south housing and I could go out at three am without any fear of anything.” Moreover, she does not experience anything that makes her feel different from the rest of the community. “There’s not really a difference. I think it’s also because most of the people I live close to are foreigners as well.” Miriam added.

Miriam is a freelance artist. “I’m a freelancer so I just hop from project to project.” Whenever she is unoccupied, she stays here in Los Baños. She feels the town helps her to focus on art. “I think living here and the fact that there’s nothing to do here means I can spend a lot of time painting.” she added.

How Los Banos affects her art

The GInhawa Art Cafe is located at the heart of campus, just beside the freedom park and fertility tree. Several art workshops and exhibits are held at this friendly and homely cafe. And for the first-timer like Miriam, it was helpful that she knows one of Ginhawa’s owners., Yvette Co. “I know Yvette through a mutual friend. She teaches art to younger kids. She invited me to do it and it’s a good place to do it for the first time.” Miriam shared.                                                           

Photo from Yvette Co of Ginhawa Art Cafe

 Yvette Beatrice Co, artist and project director of Ginhawa Art Cafe, invited Miriam to showcase her paintings at the cafe. “Nakita ko na kasi yung paintings sa house nila. Magaling siya mag-render. Kaya ininvite ko siya na mag-exhibit. Nung una nahihiya pero na-encourage naman siya.” she said. “I think this (exhibit) will make people think oh she was able to exhibit then I also can. Her ideas are pretty out of the box, unconventional. So that is very refreshing for the community.” Ms. Co added.

Even though she has lived in Los Baños for almost 14 years, she admits she hasn’t fully-explored the town yet. She thinks LB can somehow affect her art, as she wants to venture to environmental art next. “What I want to do next is about the environment – about plastics and how it destroys the planet. So I think the Philippines in general is a good place to do research on that; because there’s a lot of plastic that ends up on the ocean and on the side of the road here.” Miriam said.

Her desire to pursue environmental art is attributed to other hobbies such as creative writing, scuba diving, sailing, and water sports. In fact, she has traveled across the country to try surfing and compete in sailing competitions. Destinations such as La Union, Baler, and Siargao to name a few.

Miriam considers herself a Los Baños native; yet having the art exhibit for the whole town to see is still a new feeling for her. “What a scary thought because there’s not really a message behind it. It’s just because I have too many feelings behind a book. But I feel like if I could create art about the environment that would be cool if people saw that. If one person could be moved to pick-up the trash, then for me that would be a success.”

Art in Los Baños is not a new concept for its people. Ginhawa art cafe caters many art exhibits and artists for the people of Los Baños. In doing so, Ginhawa Art Cafe hopes for the further involvement of the residents of Los Baños when it comes to expressing themselves in art. The Los Baños community is home to thousands of people with different beliefs, ethnicities, nationalities, and the like; but they all share the same passion when it comes to Los Baños. Like Miriam, people who have learned to adore and love this community, whether foreign or not, use the community as inspiration for many of the work that they do.

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