“Over the years, I realized that art transcends oneself and can truly create a valuable impact to an entire community.”
In this monthly feature, we shine a light on different individuals in society who are using their voice, experiences, influence, and platforms to spark a positive change. Through these stories of lives lived with meaning, we hope to inspire everyone to make a difference in whichever corner of the world they may be.
In 2012, urologist Dr. Steve L. Lim founded Art Rocks, an initiative to raise and augment funds for the social service patients of the Institute of Urology at St. Luke’s Medical Center. At the time, it started as a three-day exhibit with two galleries.
Initially, Dr. Lim wanted to use the non-profit endeavor to connect art-inclined health professionals with pieces they can acquire. Although the members are seasoned collectors, many don’t have the time to visit galleries to appreciate and purchase art physically.
Today, it features works from 38 “sought-after” contemporary art galleries in Metro Manila.
“Due to the generous reception and burgeoning demand of art networks, Art Rocks went digital in 2014 to reach more audiences,” Dr. Lim shares. “I believe Art Rocks pioneered the art of art appreciation and buying through digital forums.”
Through messaging app Viber, Dr. Lim invited all the art-enthusiast doctors he knew. “The plan was simple: if they are at home, at the clinic, or even in the toilet, they can scroll down whatever art was available and easily purchase it,” he says.
Philanthropy through art
Through word-of-mouth, Art Rocks’ Viber group amassed members beyond doctors and gallery owners, business people, lawyers, corporate executives to join the exclusive invite-only digital exchange.
“What I did not expect was that the [group’s 250 member limit] is always maxed out,” the urologist says. Over the years, galleries learned more about this beautiful charitable movement and joined [the non-profit].”
In March 2020, when COVID hit the Philippines, the organization of medical professionals quickly realized that our nation was poorly prepared for a pandemic. Dr. Lim shares that at the time, only 3,000 on-hand COVID testing kits were available for the country to use.
To tackle the pressing issue, Dr. Lim and fellow “Art Rockers” Senator Miguel Zubiri, Dr. Fabio Posas, and other community members raised P15 million and procured almost 14,000 COVID test kits from Korea.
Art Rocks donated the kits to UP-PGH, St. Luke’s Medical Center Quezon City And BGC, Makati Medical Center, Asian Hospital, Medical City, and the UST Hospital.
Art for Life
While Art Rocks were busy handling and dispatching donations, Dr. Lim’s close friend Chitty Cometa formed a core group to augment their organization. Titled Art for Life (AFL), the platform expanded its charitable activities by receiving donations from collectors, gallery owners, and works from artists to be sold and sometimes auctioned off.
The funds raised from AFL were used to buy PPEs, face masks, face shields, and alcohol for frontliners in smaller hospitals across Metro Manila and other regions such as Bicol and Ormoc.
In addition, around 1,500 food packs were distributed to the harshly hit areas of Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Taguig.
“It was an enormous but humbling effort to have served our countrymen through our small initiatives, and I have the members of both Art Rocks and Art For Life to thank for,” Dr. Lim muses. “Over the years, I realized that art transcends oneself and can truly create a valuable impact on an entire community. To even interact with a young, struggling artist willingly donating their works for the good of many was a beautiful and inspiring act of humanity to experience firsthand.”
Dr. Lim admits that Art Rocks might seem like a “one-man show.” However, he’s grateful to volunteers Pia Hamoy and Prim Paypon, who handled logistics preparation and data collection to collate and distribute pandemic donations successfully.
But beyond helping to gather what the country needed to get through the height of COVID, Art Rocks remained consistent with their duties to their St. Luke’s urology patients to help complete their treatments and surgeries.
During his interview with Lifestyle Asia, Dr. Lim says he felt “pure emotion” while sharing his experiences reflecting on Art Rocks and AFL’s philanthropic deeds in the past two years.
Now vaccine rollouts are advancing; the doctor is looking forward to bringing back physical art exhibitions, even on a limited basis. “Because art appreciation in its actual physical form is still a very important and immersive experience for a collector, we hope to work on this next year successfully,” he says.
“Truth be told, my love for art was kept in the dark until 2012, when I had the privilege to be the urologist of Oscar Zalameda, one of the most celebrated Filipino art masters,” Dr. Lim looks back. “His stories of humble beginnings as a struggling artist rekindled my passion for the arts.”
Photos courtesy of Dr. Steve L. Lim