Interactive exhibit explores the healing power of nature

by Carla Robinson
Posted 4/14/22

“Companions – mas masarap magkasama,” which roughly translates to “more delicious together,” features work by three artists whose culture is rooted in the Philippines.

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Interactive exhibit explores the healing power of nature

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An interactive art exhibition and installation at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, part of the center’s 2022 program designed to embrace nature’s restorative and healing powers, opens this Saturday at the center’s headquarters at 8480 Hagy’s Mill Road. 

Companions – mas masarap magkasama,” which roughly translates to “more delicious together,” features work by three artists whose culture is rooted in the Philippines - visual artist Maria Dumlao and Bahay215, a Philadelphia-based collective founded by Nicky Uy and Omar Buenaventura.

The opening, which runs from 2 to 4 pm, will feature a “foraging” walk with the artists as well as Filipino food.

“As we learn to protect our environment in today’s globalized world and to adapt ourselves to changing climates, Companions breaks down the false dichotomy between nature and culture,” said Tina Plokarz, Director of Environmental Education at the Schuylkill Center. “By blending art, ecology, and food, the exhibition explores how we, as individuals and as a community, define ourselves through food, through plants, and through each other.”

The gallery showcases a series of newly created prints by Maria Dumlao which are bursting with colorful plants, animals and creatures. These prints explore what is omitted or uprooted in colonial narratives, Plokarz said. 

Outdoors at the Visitor Center, two of Dumlao’s large-scale prints are accompanied by a bamboo structure installed by Buenaventura and Uy, which is loosely inspired by stilt houses original to the Philippines called bahay kubo. The viewer can look through the structure’s colored filter panels, which filter light in red, green and blue.

Featuring plants native to Asia which are now also found in Europe and North America, the work tells hidden stories of indigeneity and colonialism, migration and food trades, and how cultures acclimate to new and evolving environments. 

Born in the Philippines, Dumlao immigrated to the US mainland, where she currently lives and works in the Philadelphia area. She works with combined media, including film, video, animation, sound, photography, embroidery and installation. Her work explores individual and collective history. 

Dumlao received a BA in Studio Art & Art History from Rutgers College and a MFA in Studio Art at Hunter College-CUNY. Most recently she completed a commissioned installation for Auckland Museum and Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and was awarded the Center for Emerging Visual Artist Fellowship and the Leeway Transformation Award. 

Omar Buenaventura and Nicky Uy founded Bahay215 in 2020 as a way to connect to their “Kapwa” (shared identity’) and Philippine culture. They continue to collaborate with artists in ways that bring the regenerative practices of their culture to the local environment, working with seed keepers on sustainable planters, community seed libraries.

The Schuylkill Center was founded in 1965 as Philadelphia’s first environmental education center, and this exhibition is part of the center’s “Year of Restoration” program, in which it considers how art can help illustrate the healing and restorative power of nature.

Generous support has been provided by the Joseph Robert Foundation, the Velocity Fund , the Leeway Foundation’s Art and Change Grant, Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award and in-kind repurposed materials provided by Asian Arts Initiative.

The exhibition is free and will run through August 6. Register at tinyurl.com/bdfxk2w4 Find more information about the artists at https://www.mariadumlao.com: @bahay215 (Facebook & Instagram)

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