Creative Cities: The Solution to the Plight of Today’s Young Creatives

Since the adjournment of the ASEAN Creative Cities, what are colleges and universities doing right in terms of investing in their creative courses?

The verdict is out: creativity is in.

April’s Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Creative Cities Forum saw the appeal for the new Filipino’s economic future, one that values our own culture and creativity. In the forum, Professor John Howkins, the man who coined the term, “Creative Economy,” urged the Philippines to declare that “Creativity is a natural resource for everyone.” Where the Philippines now thrives on BPOs that offer young professionals’ skills to foreign corporations, the ASEAN summit observed that investment in the creative center spells growth both economically and socially.

“We want to be free to manage our relationship to ideas. Freedom to say yes, say no, express, explore, discover, question, follow, interpret, control, reject, twist, hype, produce, package, perform, frame, borrow, copy, steal, develop, research, test, test again, know, share, exchange, prototype, promote, sell, buy Ideas,” insisted Howkins.

When the United Kingdom declared creativitity as a priority for grown and cultural development in 1998, it legitimized the role of creative industries asa contributor to the nation’s well-being and economic welfare. “We want to be free to manage our relationship to ideas. Freedom to say yes, say no, express, explore, discover, question, follow, interpret, control, reject, twist, hype, produce, package, perform, frame, borrow, copy, steal, develop, research, test, test again, know, share, exchange, prototype, promote, sell, buy Ideas,” insisted Howkins.

Besides highlighting the need for the government to formally launch a Creative Economy Policy, panelists agreed that the country’s potential ASEAN Creative Clusters and Creative Cities should be recognized. Collaborations with other ASEAN countries in fields such as creative education and content co-production would benefit the regional economy as a whole. ASEAN’s conclusions light a fire under the creative Filipino’s proverbial derriere, prodding us to pursue regional dominance. The Asian creative market, unquestionably dominated by K-Pop and Japanese visual media, could very soon be claimed by Filipino creative. ASEAN highlights an opening for the country’s artists to redefine the Filipino economy—but first, we have to graduate. For the nation’s creative schools, what exactly does all of this mean?

Meridian International College (MINT) in Taguig sees this as an opportunity to integrate Filipino creative professionals into the international sector. Hendrik Kiamzon, MINT’s Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Admissions, notes that MINT’s methodologies “have always been aligned with that of  established creative institutions in the US and Europe. This further enhances our reputation as a creative institution in the Philippines with an international approach.”

Meridian operates on a western school calendar, much like other ASEAN countries, allowing a seamless transition to studies abroad.  Students are also required to complete a portfolio class, ensuring a professional portfolio when seeking employment, and are assessed on the “crit” method, in which evaluations are determined by a jury presentation. Such alignments to western methods are simple yet effective, as MINT boasts an international faculty attracted precisely because of this globally-minded approach.

“Ours is a mix that molds students into the ideal creative who is tech savvy and has business sense,” says Kiamzon.

The college has been adjusting its Information Technology and Computer Science programs, leaning towards a media-centric approach that works hand in hand with the creative programs. “Ours is a mix that molds students into the ideal creative who is tech savvy and has business sense,” says Kiamzon. In a similar development, De La Salle University’s Science and Technology Complex announced its partnership with gaming giant UBISOFT. Per the recommendation of the Game Developers Association of the Philippines, UBISOFT teamed up with DLSU to pioneer a new initiative in local game development: in exchange for a production studio on the university’s Santa Rosa campus, UBISOFT would reupholster La Salle’s game design and computer science program. This provides a unique opportunity for students to access state-of-the-art resources and valuable mentorship from leading professionals. UBISOFT’s insight on the academic side ensures that the Philippines develops a strong programming force, joining the country’s plethora of established game designers and writers.

Another topic highlighted by the ASEAN summit is the importance of centralizing creativity in designated areas, i.e. creative clusters. Appointing distinct creative hubs can generate a unique ecosystem of collaboration as artists are given a common space. An upcoming example of this is Ateneo de Manila’s Areté, currently under construction. Located on the frontlines of the ADMU campus, the Areté creative hub is projected to be a modern facility for Ateneo’s fine arts students to practice and perform in their respective fields. The hub will feature a new theatre hall, several performance studios, a new home for the Ateneo Art Gallery Most notable are the ‘sandboxes,’ experimental classrooms where students and teachers from any field or  university are invited to collaborate.

It seems simple enough, but formalizing a dedicated space for creative endeavors, rather than working in scattered areas, can effectively stimulate a rise in marketable creative content. Merely providing such opportunities can help build a creative reputation in an area, as seen with De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s ‘Palabas’, the moniker given to the College’s mounted productions. The Palabas follow regular thematic stimuli, such as 2016’s theme “The Filipino Mythic”, and 2017’s “Food”, and are presented to the general public as examples of Benilde’s creative prowess. These productions are notably performed using Filipino language and motifs, making classic stories by Shakespeare or Dante more relevant to Filipinos.

“It is about time to think out of the box of being servile, and merely following orders—we create the box, or just ‘unbox’,” says Dr. Mukhi.

Dr. Sunita S. Mukhi, Associate Dean of Benilde’s Arts and Culture Cluster, explains that both “BACC’s students and faculty are active contributors to the soft capital of the Philippines”, as Benildeans are notable innovators in their fields. Graduates have forefronted Filipino Hip Hop, held a conference on how dance can help survivors of human trafficking, and set up restaurants with galleries. “It is about time to think out of the box of being servile, and merely following orders—we create the box, or just ‘unbox’,” says Dr. Mukhi.

In truth, a creative industry dominated by Filipino content is entirely achievable. With effective guidance and nurturing, the country’s already ambitious creative youth are set to redefine the Filipino economy. “The Filipino is brilliantly creative!” expresses Dr Mukhi. “Let’s harness that and elevate it in importance as a national treasure.”