Art for Urban Change

The British Council in the Philippines and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) launched the ‘Art for Urban Change’ partnership last 23 November at the First United Building in Escolta. The partnership aims to contribute to more liveable and creative cities and it includes the creation of site-specific artworks on pumping stations found along Pasig River, a traveling art exhibition, and the creation of a public art advisory group. 

The first work was unveiled during the partnership launch, located at a pumping station on Burke Street corner Muelle del Banco Nacional. Leeroy New created the artwork alongside collaborator, Janno Abenoja.

Pumping stations are vital in the city’s flood management as they regulate the water levels of Pasig River and sewers. Pasig River is historically an important transportation route and water source in Metro Manila but has since been declared overly polluted by ecologists. 

‘As countries around the world grapple with the complex challenges of urbanisation, the evidence is clear that culture and creativity can play an essential role in making cities more inclusive, sustainable and economically vibrant. We are delighted to be working with MMDA on this new project along the Pasig River.’ Nick Thomas, British Council Country Director, said.

The traveling exhibition features works from Rivers of the World, a project that enables young people to explore their local environment. Six art pieces created by students from Marikina and local art collective, Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan, will be displayed in selected Pasig ferry stations from November 2016 to 2017. The artworks were first shown at the Totally Thames Festival in London last September 2016.

With problems such as traffic congestion and lack of public spaces, cooperation and creative ideas on improving urban liveability are more needed than ever. 

‘MMDA welcomes the British Council as a partner in our effort to revive Pasig River as a place that people can enjoy for commuting, recreation, and leisure. In addition to restoring ferry transport and preserving environmental quality, it’s important to celebrate the river as part of our city’s culture. We are excited to offer artists an opportunity to inspire citizens to return to the river,’ shares Julia Nebrija, MMDA’s Assistant General Manager for Operations.

Leeroy New is an artist-designer whose works address the issue of art and art practitioners’ (in)visbility in the Philippines through cultivating a language for large scale public art. New, originally trained as a sculptor, tried everything from production design for film to working with fashion designers, to creating 3D mock ups for commercial purposes. He was able to integrate this inclination to move from one mode of creative production to another as the spine of his creative practice.

For more information about this project, please visit