98B: Reviving Manila through collaborative art

When in Manila digs deeper into the metro’s art scene, as 98B COLLABoratory aims to unite our local artists and revive the places that used to highlight our cities’ beauty and legacy. Read on to know more about how art can save our beloved Manila.

98B

Some of the world’s most riveting authors had strange habits when they wrote their literary masterpieces. John Steinbeck had a lunacy for pencils and used more than 300 in “Grapes of Wrath.” Vladimir Nabokov, the author of “Lolita,” loved soaking in a bath tub as he wrote. Jack Kerouac taped more than a hundred feet of paper for uninterrupted typewriting, which took him around 3 weeks only to complete the draft of “On the Road.”

However, these writers were not the only ones to have the need of satiating their weird methods in order to get their jobs done. All right-brain dominant people, who are scientifically known to be creative, also have to have their own familiar settings so they could become more imaginative and productive.

In Manila today, the places where creative people could connect, converse, and cooperate are lacking. Most artists resort to the comfort of their own lairs and the “just-a-few-clicks-away” luxury of being connected to the Internet. Everyone’s safe zones gradually diminish the importance of being physically and socially interactive.

It works differently with Mark Salvatus. To him, great minds think alike and go best with curious hands. He wanted to address the scarcity of such venues so he opened his residence with support from his close artist friends.

Thus, 98B was born.

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Salvatus and the artists who run 98B described it as a “multi-disciplinary art COLLABoratory” that aims to provide a venue where artists, curators, designers, educators, film makers, musicians, performers, researchers, students, writers, and other creative individuals can brainstorm, collaborate, and interact.

Today, 98B holds office at the mezzanine floor of the First United Building, formerly the famous Berg Department Store. Designed by Juan Luna’s son, Andres Luna de San Pedro, the building is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year.

“98B also serves as a community [that has] a kitchen, a library, a network, and a shop,” they said.

Through its various programs, 98B promotes diversity in art expression and art form. It stimulates communication among its collaborators and encourages projects, making art more accessible to the Filipinos.

98B holds bazaars, garage sales, and thrift shops as part of their Future Market program to support artists, craft makers, designers, and even assist hoarders dispose and earn from their stashes of artworks, bags, clothes, stickers, toys, zines, and other pre-loved items.

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Recently, 98B resuscitated the fashionable spirit and vibrancy of Escolta, Manila by organizing the first “Saturday Market @ Escolta.”

To revive the old school feel of Escolta— known as Manila’s Queen of the Streets for its best art deco architecture— the bazaar was held at the basement of the First United Building.

In an attempt to renew Escolta’s old character and historical attraction, 98B will launch projects that would unravel its past and nurture its present condition.

“With everyone’s help, we can all help breathe new life to Escolta,” they said.

Currently, the 98B team is working on “Hola! Escolta,” coined from Jane Jacob’s seminal book on urban planning where she stated that, “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Asked why they chose Escolta, they further explained: “By some twist of fate, an opportunity came before us.  Maybe Escolta chose us.   We have started to grow our roots here and it is an ongoing love affair with the area, the community, and its history.”

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