A Travellerspoint blog

New Art for the People

At noon we got into a bus. And drove. And drove. And drove. And then we got off to use bathrooms.

Then we got back on, and drove. And then we ate lunch.

Lunch was pretty good. Some people were being eaten alive by mosquitoes, but I was barely bitten.. I

think I felt one on me, but that never itched. So I managed to get lucky. In terms of food, we had soup,

salad, fish, and fruit. In separate courses. It was very good, even if the grapefruit is very tart in Cuba.

The plantain chips and rice with black beans that are served at many meals make up for it.

Then we got back on the bus and drove.

We stopped at an artists colony (“Art,” meaning music, dancing, theater, design, etc.). Its not quite a

school, but it's more than just a group of artists living in close proximity. The purpose is to give some

training and preparation to young artists who may have never received formal schooling. The people

there are around 24 or 25 years old, and 95% of them have never been to school for their art. They live

three for 11 months out of the year, and can stay for however many years they want. During that time,

they receive a professional salary.

The first room we went into was a dance studio. The first thing to strike me was how dissimilar their

clothing was. Every time we've passed Cuban students, they've had identical uniforms. But in the dance

class, which is mostly about uniformity, they were wearing all different colors and styles of shirts,

leggings, and leg warmers.

Some of the students had been there for as little as two days, but they were still willing to show us

something that they'd been practicing. So they all came onstage, turned on the music, and started

dancing. At the beginning it was hard to tel; where to pay attention because there were four pairs of

people all doing lifts and bends and jumps. But then they settled down into all doing the same or

similar things.

It was a beautiful dance, and stunning for only 2 days of working together. (Obviously, the students

there had both motivation, and also varying amounts of prior experience.) Then two students said they

anted to show us something else that they'd recently been practicing. So they put on the music.

“One two three o''clock four o'clock rock. Five six seven o'clock eight o'clock rock. Nine ten eleven

o'clock twelve o'clock rock. We're going to rock around the clock tonight.” It wasn't what I was

expecting, but the dancing to accompany it was amazing. Lots of energy, and several times where the

girl would be lifted high into the air only to bend backward until her head was almost on the floor.

From there we went into a design room. On the table there were a lot of drawings, some in color and

some not. Most of them looked vaguely architectural, though a few were clothing, and some just

seemed to be drawings. They were all designs for theater. So most of them were set designs, but some

of them were costumes. Once they were finished, they would submit them for approval, and if they

were approved they would be built.

Again, a lot of people had been there for two-ish days, but since they didn't need to perform, they didn't

have it as hard. One of the people there discussed how much he liked the turnover. “It's about new

ideas. New people, new ideas.” Given the lack of formal education, I imagine there is a lot of variety

among the people when they first start. I'd be curious as to how their art changes during their stay.

Finally, we went to listen to some music. It was very loud, but very good. First there was what felt like

a full band- piano, drums, brass, etc. The next song had only four people. 2 guitars, one box which was

used as a drum (I can't describe it better than that because I only saw it from a distance) and a violin. I

think that was my favorite song, just because the combination of sounds were unique and interesting.

Finally, there was another song that had the same instruments as originally, plus four singers. The

performers had been there anywhere from three days to five years.

Overall, it seemed like a very interesting place. When I was talking with the professors after dinner, we

discussed how even if they hadn't had formal training, they had a lot of motivation. With art, and

especially with music, I feel like there are a lot of people who would say “the music is in me, and I

needed to share it.” And so it seems like the artist's community is good for getting people from that

need to the realization of it.

The person who I believe was the director of the program was very proud of Cuba for having it. They're

also working to extend it by encouraging other Latin American countries to start their own programs

like it. When the piano player was introducing the band, he said “It's important for us that people in other countries have the opportunity to know what's going on here.”

Then we got back into the bus and drove.

Posted by Soseki 13:57

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