Tof Zapanta: Helping Artists ‘Bloom’
“Doing it well beats doing it fast”, says painter, illustrator, designer and art director Tof Zapanta. These are wise words to live by, but most importantly it describes his passion to change the circumstances that engulf independent artists in the Philippines and with that determination, the Bloom Arts Festival was born.
The Bloom Arts Festival started out in 2012 as Tof’s personal project. It attempts to solve particular obstacles that informally trained artists often face in trying to get a foot in the door of the art world. This is realized by showing their works beside the works of more established and represented artists, in the hope of giving more opportunities and visibility to those with great potential.
The unique experience is an avenue for emerging and independent artists to be discovered, and new ideas to be ignited. In the course of 3 days, over 100 artists will show their work in over 10 pocket venues in the neighbourhood of Poblacion. It is a celebration of creativity in the form of collaboration, discovery and discussion.
The Be app is proud to partner with this year’s Bloom Arts Festival that returns November 10-12. We had a chat with Tof and discovered that, when work, commitment and pleasure all become one, nothing is impossible.
What makes Bloom Arts Festival different?
There are several events and festivals that support the development and strengthening of arts and culture in the Philippines. But Bloom aspires to play a role in the growth of an independent and informal art economy that is removed from the hype and white heat of the auction houses and large scale art fairs, while still nurturing highly creative ideas, competitive nature, skill development and excellence.
It had great success in the past, why did it only return now?
It did have great success in the past; that is if you measure success with the number of attendees, testimonials on having a great time shared on social media, spreading of photos of the artworks everywhere online, and more importantly, an improvement in the status of the young artists who were part of the exhibition.
It only returned now because that is not the only way we measure success. From a different perspective, Bloom has always had a problem of sustainability. Even though it looks like a huge production, Bloom is still run as a personal project. It takes a lot of our time and voluntary contributions with little to no compensation. At best we break even, but to break even means we still have to shell out a lot first from our own pockets.
It also took time for me to commit myself to do it and I probably wouldn’t have, without the encouragement of my girlfriend who was a real inspiration in terms of doing what she loves and making things happen. She saw how much I wanted to do this and convinced me that there is no better time than now. I knew I’d have to commit myself to Bloom full-time while actually having another full-time job. But it’s really something I believe in and have been itching to do again, especially, after seeing some artists who had their first exhibit at Bloom move on to become established artists themselves.
What changes have you made for this year?
There is more focus on the emerging artists and creatives who are exhibiting for the first time. This is what Bloom is all about and so we decided to really emphasize that this year, with almost half of the total artist count being emerging artists.
Why did you choose the neighbourhood of Poblacion for this year’s festival?
Poblacion is the perfect location. After the previous Bloom Arts Festivals in Cubao X and The Collective, we thought it was time to move on to a different format and see where it takes us. In previous years, the smaller, more collective places featured one concentrated space where it all takes place. This year, Bloom has partnered with different establishments dotted all over the neighbourhood that are turned into different “galleries” and venues for numerous events. We encouraged all the partner establishments to create their own Bloom event.
Above all, Bloom is a perfect collaboration with Dulo, the restaurant/bar/café and arts event space that is located in the heart of Poblacion. I met the owners of Dulo when I helped them become part of Fete de la Musique through my work with the Alliance Française de Manille. Now, they help make Bloom happen. They share my vision for the festival and provide the perfect platform. The Bloom Arts Festival is the outcome of that sense of community we have in Poblacion. It’s really inspiring.
What do you hope to achieve this year for the artists?
We want Bloom to be a platform for the artists to share their works to an inclined audience, and to improve and learn. Conversations with fellow artists both emerging and established will happen, contacts will be made, sales and collectors might be acquired, and everyone ends up inspired and itching to get started on more.
What are you most excited for personally in this year’s Bloom?
Everything. From having works up at an amazing venue like Dulo to having New Media works from artists who have started and flourished with Bloom. Clarissa, one of our team members, has been growing by leaps and bounds in terms of talent and reach since the last Bloom Arts Festival. She has now been given the opportunity to paint artworks on the walls of Lokal Hostel. Above all, I’m excited to be working with all of these amazing and community-driven people of Poblacion.
How do you select an artwork?
We select artists, and then the artists are free to submit whatever work they feel represents them or represents ideas that they want to share and explore. Since some of the emerging artists are still finding their style or still looking for that voice, we don’t want to limit this growth that should take place naturally through continuous creation. We always try to expand our reach and discover artists both emerging and established who we haven’t heard of before but are simply amazing. We visit galleries, places, and even consult with people who know more than we do, as we understand that the selection process is limited to our own “radar”. However, we always try to broaden our own knowledge and experience and are open to people keen to volunteer their artworks.
Is being an artist yourself an advantage or disadvantage in running Bloom?
It’s definitely an advantage. We know the ups and lows that come with being an artist. For example, with Bloom we were able to facilitate towards the struggle one may have in getting formal training being outside the established arts scene. We try to reach out to these young artists who are going through the same struggle that we experience and who have a voice that needs to be heard.
Were there any unique challenges this year?
The challenges are the same – funding, sustainability, a business model, support, manpower, and finding time. Although we always try to improve on all of these points, it’s proving to be a slow and steady progress. Since it is a comeback, it’s like starting from scratch. But I’m already looking forward to next year’s Bloom.
Download the Be app to know more about the events happening at this year’s Bloom Arts Festival. You can also follow our coverage via our FB and IG social media channels @thebeappcom.
About Tof Zapanta
Tof Zapanta has had several shows since 2006 in prominent galleries, including Art Informal, Altro Mondo, Manila Contemporary, Pablo Gallery and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. You can see his current exhibition at the Alliance Française de Manille and he displays 63 murals in the rooms and hallways of the Veterans Affairs office of the US Embassy in Manila.
As an illustrator he has worked for top magazines through the Illustration Room, an agency in Australia that represents his illustration work around the world.
Tof has worked as a Senior Art Director for Design for TBWA-SMP and as a design faculty member teaching advertising design in CSB. He is the Art Director and Curator at the Alliance Française de Manille, the French cultural institution.