Sanctuary Gallery

The Sanctuary Gallery is a venue for artists and artisans to exhibit works that provide imaginative and spiritual sustenance. The exhibitions educate the public on various art mediums and inspire viewers to understand earth-based traditions, to honor life and history, and to celebrate the diversity of cultures.

“The most successful exhibition space is The Sanctuary Gallery at Maryknoll. Established in 1999, The Sanctuary must be credited for professionalizing the gallery system in the city. Careful planning, attention to detail and competent publicity work have ensured the success of its shows. It has become a regular venue for local artists but more important is its success in educating its public.” Delfin Tolentino Jr.,” Sanghaya 2002, Philippine Arts & Culture Yearbook, NCCA: 2002, p. 97

“The former kindergarten room converted into a gallery has shown varied exhibit programs. Better lighting systems and exhibition designs have made this space in demand among local artists and those from elsewhere. It is also appealing for its neutrality since no one artists’ group in the fractious art community up North has any claim to it.” Ana Labrador, “12 Best Art Spaces for 2002,” Sanghaya 2003, Philippine Arts & Culture Yearbook, NCCA: 2003, p. 65

The first show opened on September 1, 1999 with CITY OF PINES, a preview exhibition of archival photographs that appeared in the book of the same title by R. R. Reed launched in October 1999.

Just a month earlier, in August 1999, Sr. Ann Braudis, director of Maryknoll Sisters Center for Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation (MSCJPIC) was approached by Erlyn Ruth Alcantara, photographic researcher and publisher of the book regarding a possible preview and an exhibition of archival photographs including five large panoramic views of Baguio in July 1900 and in the 1920s.

Unaware that she was playing a role in “a happy accident,” Sister Ann found the only available space was a storage room [also formerly a kindergarten room].  Like breathing new life into the space, the storeroom was transformed into an exhibit area: former chalk boards were converted into panels and the walls given a fresh coat of paint. When it opened in September 1999, it was not a “gallery” in a formal sense – it had no track lights, no official name, and no definite plans of continuing as a gallery.

After the September 1999 exhibition, it just seemed natural to continue as a space for art exhibitions. Maryknoll friends in Hongkong donated the first eight track lights. On its second show a month later, it already carried the name The Sanctuary Gallery at Maryknoll. From 1999 to 2003, the gallery mounted 30 shows or about seven to eight shows a year under the curatorship of Erlyn Ruth Alcantara. On its second year, the gallery had a full lighting system donated by friends.

The gallery has succeeded in making students and the general public appreciate gallery visits as a friendly experience, especially for those who do not see art as part of their cultural life.

The gallery would mark its “birth” every September with exhibits of archival photographs. These educational-historical shows draw in at least 3000 students, mostly intermediate elementary grades, high school, some college classes from local universities. 

The photographic environmental history exhibitions were intended to encourage other communities in the Cordillera region to mount their own community historical exhibits. 

Its historical exhibitions grew larger and extended beyond Baguio history. With its recent show Life & Work in the early 20th century Philippines, it has expanded to archival photographs of scenes of everyday life in the Philippines in the early 1900s, with a core of photographs on the early history of education in the Cordillera region.

The Sanctuary Gallery has featured a lot of Baguio-based artists and artists from Manila and artisans from Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Palawan, Cagayan de Oro, many of whom were exhibiting their works for the first time. 

Cited in Sanghaya 2003, Philippine Arts & Culture Yearbook as one of Twelve Best Art Spaces in 2002, The Sanctuary Gallery’s calendar of exhibitions “was proof of the gallery’s openness to unconventional and even non-commercial exhibits.”

All of the gallery’s exhibitions since 1999 have contributed to establishing a tradition in Baguio’s art community. Its future shows are geared towards continuing this tradition.

Today, the Sanctuary Gallery, moved to the “Grade Six” room of the former Maryknoll Convent School. Under the leadership of Sister Virginia Fabella, the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary (MES) underwent major renovation. The gallery opened on May 1, 2013 with Unscene 2, a photography exhibition by Ric Maniquis. Returning as gallery curator was Erlyn Ruth Alcantara. When it opened its second show, Vintage Baguio,  in August 2013, it had an extensive lighting system, an exhibit panel was built and a set of perforated panels were acquired for the gallery with the assistance of Rudy Furuya and the Filipino-Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc. 

MES resident artist Clemente Delim assists in exhibit installation. Ompong Tan of Colorworld provides technical assistance and does the photography and computer graphics. The Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary staff takes care of promotions and its administrative operations and maintenance. ERA/16 May 2014