The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the world in unimaginable ways. While entire nations struggle to meet their most basic needs, art may appear to be like an unnecessary luxury. However, many people struggling with the virus and the quarantines it has triggered have turned to art to cope with the daily isolation and stress, whether through online community events or personal projects. Art and its creators will always be needed, especially during a crisis. Shell is addressing this collective hunger through its 53rd Shell National Students Art Competition (NSAC), which recently launched with the theme of “HOPE IN OUR ART.”

One of the country’s longest-running student art competitions, NSAC is once again calling on student artists from all over the country to showcase their talents in various mediums such as digital arts, oil and acrylic, watercolor, and even sculpture. Aside from the competition, the virtual event included an Arts Talk where thought leaders and industry insiders like curator Con Cabrera, Andrei Pamintuan of ‘Fringe Manila,’ and multi-media artist Riza Romero shed light on the challenges and opportunities of the art sector during this precarious time.

“It’s an important time to see new creations,” stated Cabrera. With many artists out of jobs and projects, events such as NSAC show that there are still opportunities where art can thrive. “We’re not just artists. We’re problem-solvers too.” True enough, art is an effective means to spark dialogue. “How relevant is NSAC really during the time of COVID? Well, [art] is what allowed us to make the most difficult conversations,” shared award-winning digital strategist and arts advocate Amor Maclang, who moderated the Arts Talk.

“Art can inspire creativity, provoke thought, and empower people to make a change---and that is how it gives hope,” said Pilipinas Shell Vice President for External and Government Relations Serge Bernal. “Young artists often have a fresher vision and an untarnished idealism. We believe that they can influence the country towards a better and brighter future. Shell continues to invest in programs that promote social development because we believe in the power of the Filipino youth.”

For over half a century since its start, Shell’s NSAC has been instrumental to the growth of thousands of artists, including abstract artist and National Artist of the Philippines awardee Jose Joya, Expressionist painter Ang Kiukok, applied sculpture practitioner Leeroy New, and realistic oil painter Ivan Roxas. This year, more than 1,250 students are expected to participate. Winning contestants will be awarded with cash prizes, medals, and plaques, with the 3rd placer getting Php30,000, 2nd placer getting Php40,000, and 1st placer getting Php60,000.

Shell NSAC will be giving the NSAC winners new innovative platforms to unveil their talents while inspiring their countrymen. Though numerous galleries and museums have shuttered all over the world, the visual artwork created in the 53rd NSAC will be highlighted in digital displays and promoted to the online communities.

“Art is needed now more than ever and we will see to it that it continues,” said Bernal “It is crucial to acknowledge the industry’s struggles, amplify their voices, and support them now during this time. By providing a wider platform for Filipino artists, curators, and collectors, we are giving the next-generation art sector a better chance to thrive. The young artists who emerge from them will be the first to lead us to a brighter tomorrow.”

Indeed, the future of art is in the hands of the youth, as long as they are given the tools and platforms to succeed. “I have confidence that the Filipino youth will prevail. They’re resilient, and they’re digital natives who can quickly adapt to technological progress,” added Riza Romero. Speaking to artists everywhere, Pamintuan said, “Do not stop expressing yourselves. Let’s embrace this digital world for now. The pandemic is temporary but your art and your contributions to society will always be a lasting legacy.”

Applicants may submit their entries from August 25 to October 11. For more information on the mechanics, <>.

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