Celebrated Cuban artists, such as ballet dancers Carlos Acosta and José Manuel Carreño, jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, painters Pedro Pablo Oliva, Roberto Fabelo and Flavio Garciandía, all have something in common. All of them attended, at some point in their lives, Cuba's art schools, discovering the subtle mysteries of artistic creation.
Every day in Cuba, there are 10,000 students in 47 art schools. These include 21 professional postsecondary schools and one university, the Higher Institute of Art (ISA in Spanish). For the 2012-2013 school year, new paths have been envisioned for transforming and updating teaching methods across the country.
The Cuban government's priorities include the training of new generations of artists, artists who will not only shed new light on the future with prestigious individual work, but also preserve the levels of creative skills attained by art as a whole on the island. Let's not forget that Cuba's arts have won international recognition: its music, dance, sculpture and painting virtuosos.
Still, all educational systems need some adjustments from time to time to keep them in sync with contemporary trends and to put them on the path to new horizons. That is why, since the very beginning of the 2012-2013 season, new experimental initiatives have been mandated at the Eduardo Abela Provincial Art School in Artemisa, southwest of Havana. It will serve as a pilot assessing the relevance of a set of changes, before its general application throughout the rest of the country's art schools, said Rafael Bernal, Cuba's Culture Minister.
During a conversation with Cubaplus, Bernal said that the purpose of the experiment is to look for the ties between each of the specialties, basing itself on a “comprehensive” conception of culture and art as its expression.
“That was the model at ENA (National School of Art) at its origins in the 1950's. Many renowned Cuban artists have said those were the best times for art education in Cuba. That is why art should be conceived comprehensively, not in a fragmented way. The various manifestations should complement one another”, said Bernal.
According to Bernal, these changes will comprise more rigorous curriculums, to achieve increasingly better and more cohesive results. This need for greater coherence goes hand in hand with an even greater need for optimizing the use of facilities and resources. The Cuban government spends a large part of its budget each year to finance these schools. Many supplies, such as paintbrushes, canvas, dance shoes, musical instruments must be imported, which is very costly for a country that is not rich.
The Eduardo Abela Provincial Art School, with an enrollment of 228 students in music, dance, ballet, painting and sculpture, is at the centre of this experiment. There is another school in Bayamo, in eastern Cuba, which also links together different artistic disciplines. “We are trying to gather the best experiences to implement them in the future. I wish it could be next year, but I think this should be a slow and well-thought out process”, Bernal added.
A total of some 1,200 art school students graduate every year, and Bernal said he is extremely satisfied with the availability of qualified teachers for maintaining the level of quality attained by Cuba in its art education and for further changes for the better in the future.