Grassroots: One Cloudstaffer’s Mission to Cultivate Angeles City’s Art Scene

15 January 2017 -​ Walking around the hundreds of homes, vacant lots, and establishments of Balibago’s Diamond Subdivision; a village known more for its constant revelry of drinking and karaoke; it’s simply too hard to fathom that one of the homes here serves as Angeles City’s ground zero for the cultivation of the arts. But here I was at Cule Cafe, a project owned and founded by Cloudstaffer – Ann Bernadette Aquino (BernadetteA).

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Ann Bernadette Aquino (right) with local artists Mark Lander Garcia & Crisha Mae Sagun

House, turned home (for the arts)

Not knowing where the cafe was, I spent a few minutes walking around Diamond subdivision’s main street. After ten minutes of walking I see a house with a modest sign reading “Cule Cafe.” Unlike most houses in the area the gates of the cafe were wide open, invariably hinting at what the night had to offer.

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Cule Cafe houses art in all shapes and sizes. Edible or otherwise.

Entering the cafe I could see that it can house thirty or more people. I sat down close to the makeshift stage and took my time absorbing what I saw: Hand-crafted trinkets line one wall of the establishment; art pieces and murals, the rest; extending from the garage-turned-lounge and going all around the house, tables and chairs are set up. I look down on my table and it was adorned with tape in the shape of a number sign / hash (#), initially bemusing, its purpose then become apparent when you see the painted stones with Xs and Os on them. It is here that Ann Aquino is hosting her latest exhibit, the Mask Depiction Arts Exhibit.

 

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The inspiration for the Mask Depiction is to showcase the message and story behind every face we meet.

But who is Ann Bernadette Aquino? She is an employee of Cloudstaff. Starting at Cloudstaff on 1 August 2016 under an Australian Account. Ann spends her days preparing financial reports and tax reports for her client. And while Ann is an accountant by profession, she also has a deeply rooted passion for the arts. I had a chat with Ann to find out more about what she intends to achieve in her cafe / art institution.

Inspirations and Aspirations

Stemming from her youth and her experiences in the myriad art scenes all over the Philippines, Ann craved to see more active art communities here in pampanga. But with no beginning in sight, what was there to do but start it yourself?

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Aeta Portrait Series by Mark Lander Garcia.

“My friends and I own Cule Cafe…” Ann said. “We wanted to provide a place for artists and art enthusiasts. It’s a venue for arts exhibit and other art-related events.”

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Kasama kang Tumanda Series by Crisha Mae Sagun.

I wonder why the name? Why “Cule”? I mean how do you even pronounce it? Is it a funky way of spelling Cool or something different altogether? Ann reveals that it is deeper than that “We named it Cule, from the Kapampangan word Kule (ku-leh), which means Color. We wanted to give color to the art community by providing the artists and their artworks a home.”

Of birth and challenges

“What we wanted to create is a movement of active artists helping, hand in hand, to boost the arts and culture in Pampanga. I was really into arts when I was young, I can say that it is my passion.” Ann said.

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A past exhibit featuring WIRE SCULPTURES by Don Reich Sumang De Dios

Admirable as it may be, Ann Aquino is not the first to kickstart the art scene in the region. In fact, art scenes have been popping in and out of the region and some are still active today. But despite there being multiple art scenes in the region, the truth is they are usually very inclusive and the barrier to entry, very steep. How do you start a movement that lasts beyond a moment? How do you plan to kickstart an art community that is both inviting to newcomers yet relevant in the long run?

Passion

“My passion was enough to fuel me to kickstart Cule Cafe. My trusted friends helped me materialize this dream, the young artists kept me motivated… When I see that more and more people become aware of the artist or artworks/crafts, it drives me to push and work a little harder for these artists.”

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Cule Cafe aims to create a space of cultivation and growth and comfort for artists and those aspiring to be artists.

Aspiring to one day grow the art scene here to rival that of Manila and Baguio, Ann invites artists to showcase their work in her cafe. “We invite artists to fill our gallery with their exhibits monthly. We also invite them to share their knowledge through art workshops.”

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But it doesn’t stop with just the visual arts at Cule Cafe, Ann reveals “We also have acoustic night and poetry night monthly where artists can perform for free.”

Ann then reveals that the exhibit is not only open for those established in the art industry, and that anyone and everyone, has a chance to showcase their work. “It’s open for everybody who wants to share their crafts. They could also have a chance to meet other artists and maybe get a chance to collab with other projects.” Ann said.

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Chuck fear out the window. Grab a cup of coffee. Create.

Is this the start of Angeles City’s art scene? It’s too early to tell, but with an active youth, and the support of the community, it sure looks promising.

Cule Cafe​ is located at 20-26 Junior St., Marlim Avenue, Diamond Subdivision, Angeles City. Their Mask Depiction Arts Exhibit, which features local artists Mark Lander Garcia & Crisha Mae Sagun, runs until 17 February 2017.

For inquiries and partnerships reach out to Ann Bernadette Aquino at bernadettea@cloudstaff.com For more information visit their website  http://www.culecafe.com/ or facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CuleCafe

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