Enlarging the space for craft: Carlomar Daoana's role as the new Fine Arts department chair

November 10, 2021
Aletha Payawal

Contributed photo "Part of the initial vision is to further enhance the connections between the degrees in Fine Arts—how they could work with each other, how they could interface with each other in terms of projects and shared courses we do have," says Carlomar Arcangel Daoana, the new chair of the Fine Arts (FA) department.
Daoana is no stranger to seeing and treading the connecting lines between the arts. In art writing, he had won the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma (PKL) Prize for Art Criticism of the Ateneo Art Awards in 2014. As a poet, he has published four poetry collections and was a back-to-back recipient of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (2013 and 2014). He also writes for a regular column in the Arts and Culture section of The Philippine Star publication.
The starting point for craft
Daoana recalls his time as a Literature major at the University of Santo Tomas, recognizing it as "the initial seed" of his interest in poetry. He was already writing poems at the time, but his then-professor—renowned Filipina poet and editor Ophelia Dimalanta—influenced him to pursue the craft.
By his mid-twenties, Daoana was already honing his art writing. Still, he only came to terms with it when he encountered the call for submissions for the PKL Prize for Art Criticism, pursuing it professionally.
It was this experience that Daoana was eventually brought into academia. Upon invitation from the FA, Daoana started teaching art writing at the Ateneo. For the last six years, his teaching has expanded across other courses, such as Creative Writing, under which he has taught poetry.
The space where writing and teaching meet
This space where Daoana situates is where writing and teaching coalesce, where both crafts influence and reinforce. In this regard, Daoana's creative work is shaped by his teaching experience.
When asked about what it is like to teach Ateneans, Daoana points out that there is already a high level of discourse that students put into writing their essays or papers and how they would speak up or recite in class. He adds that this can be attributed to the fact that the subjects of Philosophy, Theology, and English are integrated into the Loyola Schools core curriculum.
Recognizing this, Daoana is constantly on the lookout for materials that would further engage and interest students—contemporary and even unfamiliar forms of expression.
"Because there's that impetus for me to research and look for new books or articles, what I read for my classes, for instance, inevitably feeds into the storehouse of what I may eventually write in the future, he adds. His interactions with students allow him to feel the pulse of what interests and concerns them.
"Now, I fully understand how teachers learn from their students. [...] I'm not just someone who's waiting for the right answer. I want to converse—to have an exchange, to have a back-and-forth with my students. I think that's part of my pedagogy."
Reciprocally, much of Daoana's practice of his craft defines his teaching. "I think writing and teaching go in tandem. I see them as a practice—in a singular sense because they inform each other.”
No matter how unique the creative process may be, the pitfalls that his students encounter with respect to their craft can be universal—Daoana himself has already undergone and overcome. This shared experience serves as fertile ground for him to better understand and empathize with his students.
What further deepens Daoana's engagement with his students is imparting knowledge as an active writer. As he continues to write for art galleries and institutions while also teaching, he’s able to provide input on how the art gallery system works, how to interview artists, how to navigate deadlines, how to request remuneration for one's work, among others. These are practical things which, to Daoana, one can only learn on the ground and from the field.
"Those things may not necessarily be within the ambit of books, but I get to teach that to my students. I take pride in that—the fact that I could negotiate things from the outside world and into my classroom."
FA as interdisciplinary—an enhanced and enlarged space
Moving beyond the classroom, navigating the larger world outside of it—these remain essential to Daoana as a teacher; hence he intends to carry these into his new role and institutionalize them on a departmental level as the FA department chair.
One way of developing so is to build studio arts practice, complementing the already existing and well-established informative design and art management programs.
"I'm looking forward to developing studio arts electives, wherein we will invite practicing artists who will talk about their craft, who will show us the practical and theoretical side of artmaking," Daoana explains. "I'm titillated by the idea of the next generation of Ateneans who will become visual artists. It would be great to see practicing artists from the Ateneo who see the visual arts as a viable option for them."
Daoana says that he is primarily interested in how fine arts could further develop and emphasize certain strands. There exists a need to strengthen and insist upon the department's identity as interdisciplinary. In concrete terms, he wants to increase ‘contact points' for Creative Writing, Information Design, Theater Arts, and Art Management to interact with and inform one another.
"The connecting lines are already apparent on a conceptual level. Perhaps my role is to make the lines more formal and institutional so that it would be easy for students to see taking certain courses outside of their own major to be something rational and definitely practical."
With the FA department handling the Art Appreciation (ArtApp) classes for the entirety of the Loyola Schools, Daoana also intends to increase the current faculty profile. By including part-time teachers who are also practicing artists, the ArtApp classes can be imbued with various perspectives from the field; creative practice and expertise can thus illuminate the way the subject is taught.
Considering the current setup for online classes, the department is constantly  finding ways on how to enhance  virtual modality as a learning space. He mentions looking into the successful approaches and practices of other fine arts institutions.
And in enlarging the space for craft within the department, he envisions students' works with the potential to grow and be communicated across courses. Daoana shares that he challenges himself with these questions: "How could the life cycle of these works be extended outside of the classroom? How could the possibilities of these works being a part of a larger conversation be explored?"
Daoana adds that the department faculty members could partake in that discussion outside of the university through webinars or conferences that involve them and other universities and institutions.
"It's important that we talk not just among ourselves, but also with other practitioners, other experts, other artists—therefore enlarging our sense of space, of where our practice is located, of how our theories are grounded."
"So that once you say Fine Arts department, it's out there—it's part of the bigger conversation about arts, about culture, about heritage. The faculty already do this, but what if we systematize it?" Daoana concludes.
For more news and stories on Loyola Schools, visit http://www.ateneo.edu/ls/loyola-schools-bulletin.