AT Resorts World Manila on August 21, contemporary Filipino artists gathered to exhibit at least 20 paintings and artworks for the benefit of non-governmental organization Yes Pinoy Foundation Inc., led by celebrity actor and former National Youth Commission (NYC) Head Jose Sixto “Dingdong” Dantes III.
Dantes, who champions disaster resilience initiatives at Yes Pinoy, beamed at his wife, actress Marian Rivera, exhibiting her art collaboration with artists Carlo Saavedra and Mark Padernal at the event. The flower painting took her three days to complete and it’s innate for Marian to put things together, Dantes shared.
More than celebrating the work of the power couple alongside some contemporary local artists, the event, “I Am Super: An Art Exhibit for Resilience”, showcased the passion of Stan Miao, a 33-year-old Chinese entrepreneur who dreams of changing the world, one act of kindness at a time.
A better world through art
Miao founded Acts of Kindness (AOK) to help charities and nonprofits with limited or no marketing budgets. The art exhibit, for instance, was a venue to launch Yes Pinoy’s fund-raising web site and tap wider support.
“It’s about enabling Yes Pinoy to have a global reach and receive donations from all over the world. You have Filipinos abroad who would love to help their homeland, and now have that easy access—at the click of a button—to donate to the foundation,” Miao said, citing that 50 percent of the proceeds will go to the participating artists while a significant portion will directly go to Yes Pinoy programs.
Born in 1984 after the Cultural Revolution in China, Miao has a journey ignited by a single act of kindness: his father, a tour guide for the Terracotta Army, was sponsored a trip to the US after helping out a gay couple who fell ill during a tour.
His knack for business came about almost naturally, but not without a string of challenges, including getting kicked out of college due to lack of interest. At 24, Miao returned to China and embarked on a period of self-rediscovery and ventures that ultimately led to AOK.
His AOK Art Gallery is an online art gallery where artists from around the world can sell their artworks and see proceeds go toward the advocacy of their choice. This is a far cry from the typical model where half of the earnings go to the artist while half goes to the agent or the gallery—nothing left for charity.
AOK, with its thriving lineup of passionate artists, earns through surplus gained by the auction format, or whatever is gained from selling more than the artwork’s indicated value.
Picture of a fulfilled artist
In Miao’s art-driven system at AOK, one wouldn’t witness the typical “starving artist” image, as it values artists first and foremost and seek to transform them into “superheroes” whose work fuels great social causes.
One of them is 45-year old Benedict Abigan, a Masbate native, who showcased his work along with other artists at the Yes Pinoy event. He has been engaged in painting, favoring abstract and the acrylic medium, since his elementary years. Abigan, whose paintings, such as “Infinite Prosperity” reflect a stark Buddhist influence, met Miao a year ago through Facebook and started to introduce his artist-friends to the AOK platform.
“I’d say this decision to do things for a cause is deeply rooted in me, as well,” the father of six recalled. “While I was riding a jeepney at a time when I was still far from being established in my craft, I saw children out on the streets, soaked in rain and the cold. That picture has always stirred something inside me to use my skills for the greater good even as I manage to earn for my family.”
At present, AOK has artists, such as Patrick Cabral and Albrecht Behmel, in its prestigious roster. It has catered to charities, such as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), Smile Train and the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
Miao said there’s no stopping AOK in its mission, having raised at least $11,000 for charity, so far. For its “I Am Super” online campaign for Yes Pinoy, the goal is to send this message across: be a noncape-wearing superhero for children by purchasing a Go Bag emergency-preparedness kit to protect Filipino children from disasters that frequently hit the
The bags, made of waterproof materials designed to protect children from torrential rains and even from the sun’s scorching rays, contains compartments for emergency survival items and basic school supplies.
A dedicated microsite set up by AOK features a live countdown of the bags produced for the program, as well as acts as the fund basin for digital donations made via GoFundMe, DragonPay, iPay88 and similar methods.
Miao and Dantes seek to collaborate further and bring AOK artists to war-torn Marawi City, where they can teach arts to affected children to get their minds off the horrors of the war and receive much-needed assistance.
“It will be part of [the children’s] psycho-social debriefing. They will be taught by artists and their output would be auctioned for the benefit of their own families,” explained Dantes, adding they are also eyeing a sweepstakes-type fundraising in the near future.
“We respect traditional ways of raising charity funds but we believe those have to be mixed with innovative ideas,” he said.
For Miao, founder of multiple businesses, author, and young dreamer, it’s about lending a hand to the world’s poor and disenfranchised by pooling the world’s kind souls together.
“There’s never a shortage of fun and innovative ways to fund-raise for charities. At the end of the day, it boils down to resolve and passion to change things—and the world, while you’re at it.”