I am delighted to open today’s 33rd Ang INK exhibition program here in Ayala Museum, a home next to home for INK, artists and illustrators of children’s books. Ayala Museum has after all hosted a number of their exhibitions and events.
The illustrator is the first interpreter of a children’s story. While publishers’ reviewers and editors may have first read the text, it is the illustrator who visualizes for the world the writer’s story. In the United States, the illustrator is someone the author doesn’t know. No discussion, no consultation. 
What does one do with an idea of the story? That moment is crucial—it is about a child refugee and the artist feels heavy and angry after reading it.
But the artist knows the story is hopeful as this Afghan boy is a weaver whose only refuge and source of joy is weaving lots and lots of roses on his carpet. Then there are other things which temper the artist’s first emotion: illustration can make or unmake a book and as a professional s/he must draw to bring children in, hold their attention, and support their appreciation  of the story. The art must be detailed, but how can it be colorful, right. It all depends on each of you: some of us are born not just seeing, but seeing color so the artist could still put in colors for hope and compassion. Or if you agree that artists are not supposed to just be one with the world but must be able to transform it into a better more dignified and equal space for all, then the art should do that. Maybe suggest a bit more than what the story says? It is always your call and everything that you think, know, and feel will all come in and guide the artist’s hands, as they create worlds within worlds, within worlds.“Both the young and the old are the future of a people. The young, the strength to go forward; the elderly, the memory and wisdom of a people.” Pope Francis said that.
That is why making books for children is such a powerful, privileged, and accountable task. You begin at the beginning, and that’s only right.  You shape the young who will be the strength to go forward, and I hope with clarity of vision and humanity.
I am the elderly with the memory, and hopefully, the wisdom, too. So I shall go back to 33 years ago.
In 1991, the PBBY and Goethe Institut brought over one of the top German children's book illustrators,  Reinhard Michl and successfully conducted a children's book illustration workshop attended by some of our finest young artists who towards the end of that year organized into the Ilustrador ng Kabataan, the very first organization of children's book illustrators. Ang INK marked a watershed  in the history of children's book publishing, and children’s literature. Together, they professionalized children's book illustration, went on to inspire each other to heights of creativity and exponentially increased the production of children's books. It was not surprising that the best and award-winning children's books were illustrated and designed by INK members. 
We remember the pioneers of Ang INK: Bernie Solina, Totet de Jesus, Ouie Badelles— now no longer with us. The late Professor, dedicated educator, and Author Lina Diaz de Rivera called children’s book illustrators “weavers of dreams, seekers of magic.” Generations who were exposed only to art in imported children’s books, were just mesmerized by the work of our very own children’s book illustrators. Before Ang INK, there  was the old Adarna with their own illustrators led by the great Albert Gamos and Ibarra Crisostomo, and Ramon Sunico’s Red Dwarf and Cacho Publishing with Robert Alejandro, Beth Parrocha and Joanne de Leon. 
I remember that time before all the other children’s book publishers were borne. When our children never saw anyone like themselves in books, or read their own stories about their friends and families. And now our children’s books have displaced 50% of the market of imported books.
They need to be in public libraries of communities who cannot afford to choose books over food or medicines. 
They need to be in all the public schools. I recall how one day, Isagani Cruz, department  of Education Undersecretary, required that all public school children read at least one storybook. That was an Aha moment that took place in the first decade of the 21st century. Can you imagine?
Children are all readers before they are tainted— they just have to find that one book that will hook them to lifelong reading. 
But also, children’s book art has to be critiqued like all the other visual arts. 
As Totet understood, to engage and challenge many of our illustrators, 
established and aspiring,  we must have critics to assess its state, its issues and idiosyncrasies, its weaknesses, and find the ways to move forward to richer and more relevant art that would loop in young readers. Children’s book reviewers must also react to the art which is always half of the illustrated children’s book. And don’t we wait for the time when our young people will right away recognize not only a Juan Luna or an Amorsolo but also a Robert Alejandro, a Liza Flores or a Beth Parrocha.
I said it in my 30th anniversary message, and will say it again here, today, that the German link to the navel of Ang INK at birth is one of the many significant events that holds up our Guest of Honor stint at the 2025 Frankfurt Book Fair. We will propose that an Ang INK exhibition, hopefully, be hosted by the Children’s Museum in Frankfurt.
Congratulations, Ang INK.
After a highly successful decades-long career in publishing, KARINA BOLASCO is now an active Member of the Core Group Committee for Guest of Honor Country at the 2025 Frankfurt Book Fair. She has also been a consistent and much-beloved supporter of Ang INK.


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