Janet Eason's Art Room at St. Mary's School in Sagada, Philippines
About the School - St Mary's is an old school, built and staffed by the first Episcopalian missionaries who arrived in Sagada in 1902. For many years, the standard of education was very high with English widely spoken. After direct American involvement ceased, the school slowly and gradually became run down, badly staffed and administered and student numbers dwindled. In 2004, Dennis Faustino, who had been Vice Principal of the International School in Manila for 12 years, stepped in to rescue and revitalize the school. This he has done and now it is one of the best secondary schools in the Cordillera.
Teaching Art in Sagada - I joined the school at the same time as Dennis and he has inspired me, financed me and encouraged me to build the Art Department of St Mary’s School into one of the finest in the region. In Sagada I work with children and young adults who are funny and fun-loving, helpful, considerate, excited by art and very respectful. I watch as their faces show the surprise of discovering tracing paper and symmetry, as they lift the finely balanced mobile and watch it bob and turn as it should. I love my work.
The six pictures below were the work of 1st year students (year 7 in the 12 year education system), 2008/2009. The exercise was to create a fantasy animal from bits and pieces of real animals and then create the world in which it lives, what it eats, etc. The character of the children and their sense of fun was very apparent in this project. (click on any picture to see a larger image)
The eight paintings below were by 2nd year students, 2008/2009. The work is titled "Crash", and the project was to work on concentric circles creating shapes and colors that moved toward or moved out from a vibrating centre.
The four drawings below were by 3rd year Art/Design Elective students, 2008/2009. During an intensive drawing course they were to plan and execute a pencil drawing to be used as an image to advertise an exhibition of Igorot artifacts. Preparation drawings were done at the Ganduyan museum - across the road from the school.
The Students - Almost all of the students who first come to St Mary’s have never painted, never seen oil pastel, or tracing paper. Everything is new to the students who have come from remote villages or other small towns in the mountains to live in the dormitory. They are shy and don’t talk to me, but they are very excited when a big piece of paper and the paint comes out for their first ever painting, titled ‘A portrait of my family (or friends)’. First year students are always embarrassed and cover their work as I go around, but now, 9 weeks later, they are singing in class, answering questions and having a good time. This is a teacher’s paradise.
Various Artworks (below)
An Ordinary Day - Today, while one of my 1st year classes was working with pattern making, they broke into singing the school song. There is a particularly high note to hit halfway through, which always makes me laugh at the school assemblies. This time, the usual note brought the whole class to a laughing standstill. When they resumed, they came to the line “and closest friends must part”, to which someone called out “yeh, seeya Ben”. So it went on, laugh after laugh, until the song was finished.
Box Design and Construction (below) - 3rd year Art Elective, 2006/2007
X-ray Still Life (below) 1st year, 2006/2007
The School - the magic of St Mary’s has many sources. Firstly, the visionary Dennis Faustino guiding the way and inspiring others to join him in his quest to make St Mary’s the centre of educational development in the region. Secondly, the students are a delight to work with and the student population of around 200 insures that everyone knows each other. Thirdly, the school is set in the most beautiful pine forest surroundings right in the centre of town. All of this comes with a supportive parent community, a very strong Alumni Association in the US and lots of other outside support.
Kaleidoscope Project (below)
What a Woman! - Dayle Elsseser, a retired art teacher from the US, was introduced to me a few months ago via email. She has since sent the school some 900 books. I have been in constant communication with Dayle, as I pass on faculty ‘wish lists’ and announce the arrival of another 2 balikbayan boxes. Opening the boxes has thrilled me as I discover wonderful books about art, piles of new novels and old classics, science, biology, social studies, all gathered by this wonderful woman and her husband with the help of benevolent donors. She haunts the book sales and knows what she is looking for. The art library section has grown from a dozen or so books to well over 100 and that does not include the Technical Drawing volumes. What can one say about such generosity of spirit? Dayle Elsseser is in the process of bringing the St May’s library up to date, furnishing us with the best Art library in the region, furnishing me with some of the most useful books I have ever had in my classroom. What a woman!
Paper Mache Sculptures (below)
Further Education - After 4 years of High School our students graduate at 15 or 16 years of age. Now St Mary’s offers a 5th year for those students unclear of direction or just too young to leave home and go to college. Many will not go on with education, most of those having families that cannot afford such a sacrifice. Living away from home is expensive. Some students excel and recently a graduate was offered a full scholarship at one of the most prestigious education centers in the country, to study Psychology. Another has gone to the national university to study Chemical Engineering. I know of three graduates who have pursued a direction related to their experiences with art. Two are studying Civil Engineering (thanks to the technical drawing teacher) and one has entered university on her way to becoming a fashion designer.
Click here for information about Sagada Back to Janet's private art lessons>>