Roni Wuson helps art group build a tahanan of its own

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Roni Wuson helps art group build a tahanan of its own
The AAP Tahanan is a two-storey building with a roof deck designed by Fidel Sarmiento and facade sculpture to be done by Sam P
STAR / File

A few weeks ago, my mom asked me if I was free to have dinner with David and Roni Wuson. I’ve known them both for several decades because they’ve been mom’s friends since I was in grade school. Occasionally, I’d see David for lunch when mom would invite me to join their eating group, which was made up mostly of Chinese businessmen.

Roni, on the other hand, I’ve known since she was still writing for The Times Journal when mom worked there in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Their office was in the former Benpres building near St. Paul Pasig, where I went for grade school. I used to regularly hang out in Times Journal after classes ended and wait for mom to finish work, so we could go home together. That was the last time I saw Roni.

One of the paintings that sold in the fundraiser for the AAP Tahanan in 2019 and generated P4.5 million was done by the Female Art Addict group. An interaction (9 feet by 5 feet acrylic on canvas) was by Inka Madera, Monet Alvarez, Flor Baradi, Ida Flores, Shelay Tan, Addie Cukingnan, Jeanette Kamphuis, Marge Lim and Kathy Mas.

I was therefore surprised to find out that in the decades since that last meeting, Roni had become a painter, and a very good one at that! When I saw photos of some of her paintings, I was very impressed!

All throughout dinner, we talked about her artworks and how she’s helping to “pay it forward” by helping the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) raise funds to build its AAP Tahanan Office/Gallery through auctions and other activities.

Just one of the paintings done by Roni Wuson, entitled Mayhem in my Garden (48x36 acrylic).

When I asked Roni to tell me the story of how she got into painting, “curiosity” was her one-word reply. She elaborated that whenever she visited museums and came upon a painting that caught her attention, questions would swirl in her head as to how the artist achieved the effect. And then, after living in California for some years, she joined a Japanese-American arts and crafts group that made all sorts of decorative pieces. The members of that group, she says, “learned from each other how to do lacquered washi art pieces, apply gold leaf, and paint art cards.”

The next phase in her development as an artist happened six years ago, when Roni came upon a “healthy” restaurant along Jupiter St. in Makati. Sunshine Place was a senior recreation center that espoused and fostered a rounded lifestyle that was centered on arts and health. She considers it serendipitous that Sunshine Place offered semi-formal painting classes, and that the instructor was no less than master visual artist Fidel Sarmiento, the president of the Art Association of the Philippines. “Through Sarmiento and his assistant, hyper-realist artist Robert Fernandez, my curiosity on painting was piqued. Circumstances waned and waxed for this closet artist, until COVID propelled me to use my paint brushes more than my golf clubs,” recalls Roni, who is also an avid golfer. “And so, Sunshine Place became my refuge on rainy, non-golfing days,” she laughs.

As for her style, Roni describes it as “impressionistic.” Everything that surrounds her, whether it’s the sky above her, a golf course she visits, a book she’s reading, a painting she’s gazing at or a garden she finds herself in — all these are potential sources of inspiration.

That said, however, she doesn’t believe that it’s easy for even our most talented artists to make good money from their creations. Hence, the need for an AAP Tahanan to sharpen the talents of the local artists we have in abundance so that they can attract a global clientele.

Throughout dinner, she repeatedly steered our chat back to her “mission” to help hasten the completion of AAP Tahanan. Roni explains that the AAP is the oldest umbrella group of artists and was founded in 1948 by Purita Kalaw Ledesma.

Though it started as a social club, it evolved through the years with such luminaries as National Artists Vicente Manansala, Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Jerry Navarro, Frederico Alcuaz, Botong Francisco and living legend BenCab as members.

The AAP now has over 2,000 active members (out of 5,000) across the archipelago. And though the AAP has been in existence for 74 years, it has no home of its own. Hence, the need to finish the rising, two-story with roof deck “tahanan” of the AAP, designed by Fidel Sarmiento with a façade sculpture to be done by Sam Penaso on a 200-square-meter lot in Barangay Ulat, Silang, Metro Tagaytay sooner rather than later.

According to Roni, many senior and not-so-senior student artists have benefitted from the resident artists of Sunshine Place (established by the Felicidad Sy Foundation), and she is one of them. This is why she’s helping the AAP’s current set of officers to complete the office/gallery asap, so that those who do so much to nourish our minds and souls with their imaginative imagery will have a place to call their own.

(Donations for the AAP Tahanan/Home can be forwarded to ART ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC., Acct. # 122-124181-2, Chinabank, SM Megamall Branch.)


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