Val Laigo, Seattle U. Art Professor, Was Active In Filipino Community

Near the end of his life, his paintings were brought together.

Titled, "Val Laigo Paintings, 1950-1992," the display of 42 paintings was shown from Oct. 6 to Nov. 19 at Seattle University's Kinsey Gallery.

Less than a month later, on Dec. 11, Val M. Laigo, associate professor of art at Seattle University, died at his Seattle home after a long illness, complicated by a congenital heart defect.

His death marked the end of a career that had produced an astonishing array of artistic works, ranging from paintings to murals to mosaics.

"It has been my good fortune to have known Val for 43 years, of which we have served 20 years as colleagues . . . Val was a humble person who had every reason not to be," said Marvin Herard, professor of art at the university.

"He had a marvelous imagination and an equally amazing ability to make visible the images inside his head."

Nick Damascus, professor emeritus of fine arts at the school, said Mr. Laigo had a marvelous ability to create from chaos. "Val's creativity grew out of a passionate life - his love for his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his family, his friends," he said.

Mr. Laigo was born Jan. 23, 1930, in Naguilian, La Union, Philippines. His full name was Valeriano Emerenciano Montante Laigo,

and he came to Seattle when he was about 6 months old.

His career included being a dishwasher, busboy and pantryman, beginning in grammar school. He graduated from O'Dea High School in 1948.

He served in the Merchant Marine during the Korean War and worked as an Alaska cannery worker during summers from 1951 to 1953. He graduated from Seattle University in 1954.

Post-graduate work was done at Mexico City College, now the University of the Americas, in 1956 and 1957, and he received a master of fine arts degree from the University of Washington in 1964.

His professional career began as an artist in the editorial department at the Post-Intelligencer in 1952.

From 1959 to 1963, he was art director and staff artist for the Boeing Research Laboratories and in 1965 he became a faculty member in the Department of Fine Arts at Seattle University.

Other teaching positions included work at Puget Sound Junior High School, Evergreen Senior High School and the Seattle Creative Activities Center.

While at SU, he was course designer for arts of non-Western cultures in a Global Studies Project; organizer of the exhibit, "Many Colors," in 1970, and creator and director of the Community Art Program, sponsored jointly with the city of Seattle in 1972. He had been on medical leave since 1985.

It was in 1964 that he was asked by then-university president the Rev. Albert A. Lemieux to create a painting for the new Lemieux Library.

Mr. Laigo created a three-piece mural stretching 65 feet in the library reading room. For many years the mural was the city's largest. It depicts the meaning of life in terms of the Jesuit ethos.

Other public art works by Mr. Laigo include having a painting chosen as the first of a series of contemporary album covers of classical music by RCA Victor in 1954 and a mosaic mural for the Dr. Jose Rizal Park at 12th Avenue South and South Judkins Street, titled "East is West."

In addition, he created a mural for Boeing in 1960; a painting for Harborview Medical Center in 1984; had exhibits in museums, art and campus galleries in Mexico City, Los Angeles, Tucson, New York, Portland, Santa Barbara, Spokane, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Bellevue, Kirkland, Auburn and Seattle, and did demonstration lectures in polymer painting.

He was a member of Artist Equity from 1951 to 1957; the National Education Association, 1954-1957; the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters since 1963; the American Association of University Professors, since 1965; the King County Arts Commission, from 1972 to 1978, and the Washington State Arts Commission from 1974 to 1978.

Community activities included work with Filipino Catholic Youth; the Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc.; being publisher of Orientale, a magazine, in 1950; work at the Seattle Youth Service Center, 1952 to 1954; being a patron of Filipino Youth Activities of Seattle; and working in the Art Mobile Project for Educational Service District No. 11 from 1972 to 1978.

He also served on the Asian American Education Association in 1973; was chairman of the POSH auction at O'Dea High School in 1974 and 1975; and worked with the Filipino American National Historical Society.

Survivors include his wife, Austreberta Garrido (Chata) Laigo; two sons, Rene and Adrian Laigo; his mother, Bibiana Castillano; four brothers, Gerald, Ben and Edward Laigo, and Michael Castillano; four sisters, Dorothy Laigo Cordova, Marya Castillano Bergstrom, Jeannette Castillano Tiffany and Frances Castillano. Except for Edward Laigo, who lives in Renton, all the family members are from Seattle.

Services were held last week. Burial was at Calvary Cemetery. Bonney-Watson was in charge of funeral arrangements.

Remembrances are suggested to the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound Central Hospital Cardiology Department and/or the Seattle University Department of Fine Arts.