Everything is Grace

Negrense artist Ihvonie “Tey” Sevilleno

Though already working in Manila, Negrense artist Ihvonie “Tey” Sevilleno stayed close to her real passion. While there, she devoted whatever extra time she could spare to her watercolors and soon staged her first exhibit. It was an intimate opening, by invitation only, and only if you mattered to the artist. Convinced and encouraged, Tey packed her brushes and returned to her roots – Bacolod and art, full time. 

In October 2022, at a free workshop at Virlanie Faith Children.

She was in for a big surprise, because suddenly, life decided to throw in a monkey wrench. A phenomenon so great as Covid-19 had to leave a mark. When the lockdowns struck, most everyone struggled, and not just physically. Staying indoors took a toll on people’s mental health, especially children. It was during those dark days that Tey realized the value of her calling to teach art, a selfless gesture that paved the way to coping and healing. Hard to believe, but the pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Indeed, everything is grace.

“I thought I was the most impatient person in the world, and I never really saw myself as a teacher,” the artist shares. And yet, Tey quickly became a familiar face in public spaces holding art workshops. Undaunted by restrictions of the day, it wasn’t long before she opened  Artfull Gallery & Café, right on main street. The concept was a clear mixture of their shared love for food, art, community, and a safe space for budding artists. Still, the sporadic manner by which the Enhanced Community Quarantine restrictions were imposed required the cancellation of face-to-face workshops. But no matter, by mid-2021 regular exhibits and art classes were once again in full swing.

Artfull Gallery & Café is a gallery cum coffee shop, cum art workshop, cum library that Tey Sevilleno and a sibling opened in Bacolod City.

Artfull Gallery & Café was more than just that. At the height of lockdowns, Tey, her sister, and the entire Artfull team organized a community pantry where people can line up to claim their basic needs. A week after opening the pantry, volunteers and donations started pouring in. Of course, the love for art was not far behind. A sub-pantry for art supplies fed the needs of those who simply wanted an outlet to express emotions. 

It’s no longer just art for art’s sake. It is now art answering a higher calling. Free workshop for public school children and teachers of Occidental Mindoro in November 2018.

Tey rolled with the punches, so to speak. She ran online classes mostly for kids to help them cope with pandemic restrictions. And she did that free of charge. While at it, she also stressed the value of resourcefulness, challenging her locked down students to use household staples for art materials, from coffee to vegetables, anything was game. These online sessions proved essential for survival. At the very least it kept them busy. But it also kept them excited and it eased their anxiety.

Teaching art taught Tey as well. She initially figured that sharing her skills will only benefit her students. But Tey quickly realized, she also had a lot to take in. Patience, for one. And helping out, reaching out not knowing the heavy burden carried by those lining up for art materials, smiling though their agony, all the while itching to be heard and seen. Tey teaches her students the way she was taught by her older brother Edbon, a renowned artist. She allows her students to learn on their own terms without any rules. Because there couldn’t be any at a time of unprecedented distress, when the wheels felt they were coming off and the center would not hold. What a consolation though teaching children gave Tey, a chance to educate them about the history and beauty of Bacolod and Negros Occidental. 

Tey Sevilleno’s watercolor and gouche artworks explode in vibrant colors.

Tey Sevilleno has come a long way since she decided to return and pursue her passion as artist, and then as teacher of art. She’s back preparing for exhibitions again, her ninth edition, MONO | POLY, scheduled to run this February till March. And she’s added more work to her calendar, now that she’s president of Art Association of Bacolod-Negros (AAB). And why not? Tey’s had good practice reaching out and helping out.

Text by: Abbie Uychiat
Photos by: Bem Cortez

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