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In Cuba Artistic teaching A Revolution inside the Revolution
“Without culture there is no freedom possible,” said Fidel in October 2002 during the opening of the XVIII Havana International Ballet Festival. Already in June 1961, for the closing of some encounters in the Acts Salon from the National Library, in which a nurtured representation of Cuban intellectuals of the time took part, he outlined different items of creation and cultural life. In that historical speech, known as Words to intellectuals, he predicted the plans of the very young Revolutionary Government on artistic teaching.

In that encounter the Commander asked artists and intellectuals “the highest development in favor of culture and very specifically for the Revolution, because the Revolution means, precisely, more culture and more art.” He talked about the need to create conditions to develop culture in its every aspect and to promote the development of artistic, literary and scientific development.

After the literacy campaign where more than 700 000 Cubans from all over the country learned to read and write, there began a system of artistic teaching in 1962 with the creation of the National Art School (ENA in Spanish).

On the foundations of that academy, when it stood just in dreams, the Commander in Chief announced in the already mentioned speech:

“Cuba will have the most beautiful Art Academy in the whole world. Why? Because that Academy will be found in one of the most beautiful residential neighborhoods in the world, where Cuba’s most luxurious bourgeoisie used to live: in the best neighborhood of the most ostentatious and most luxurious and most uncultured, by the way, bourgeoisie, because even though all of these houses had a bar, its inhabitants never worried, with few exceptions, about cultural problems. They lived in an incredibly luxurious way and it is worth it to go around there in order to see how these people lived; but what they didn’t know is the amazing Art Academy they were building and that is what will be left from what they made, because the students will be living in the houses that used to be the residences of the millionaires. They will not live as if they were shut down, they will live as if they were living in a home and they will attend to their lessons in the Academy; the Academy will be found right in the middle of the Country Club, where a group of architects-artists have designed the constructions that will be made.”

“Imagine yourselves how different will be the conditions now and tell me whether the creative spirit will be able to find now the ideal conditions in order to develop itself. Education, housing, food, general culture… There will be children who will start studying in those schools from the age of eight, and they will soon receive, together with their artistic education, a general culture… Will they not be able to fully develop there their talents and personalities?...”

In a second the answer to Fidel’s question was multiplied through every corner of the country.

Today, we may feel proud of having a strong artistic movement around art. In Cuba people look everywhere for talents that might be lost in other countries simply because artistic education is private. In our art schools we might find a student from the capital, the son of an engineer as well as another from the Sierra Maestra, the offspring of a peasant.

Indeed, the space of creation has always been very stimulated in our country. On a big picture, we may notice the diversity of institutions founded after 1959 in order to preserve our culture. The ICAIC, the Casa de las Américas, the support of the Revolutionary Government to the Cuban National Ballet, the creation of the public libraries, the National Print, art schools in every province and more recently the Art Instructors School.

It is no secret how expensive it is the formation of a single artist.

“In music, apart from the individual preparation of the students, a good piano, a flute, a guitar, any instrument at all is very expensive. And in our art schools, even with many difficulties, all of these material means are available to the student for free. We have always tried to have all of our schools filled with the basic instruments for the formation of an artist,” says Roberto Valera, musician, composer and also a great teacher, when we asked him questions for a few minutes.

No one can hide the beautiful result of our artistic movement throughout these fifty years of the Revolution. It is easy to realize then that it has always been a worry of our government the education not just of our artists, but also of the general Cuban public.


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