Studying at San Alejandro Art School

Regina Cano 

Until death makes us part by Cuban artist Francis Fernandez Trujillo.

Registering for the beginning of the next year as well as having to take exams bring more than a little stress to the entire Cuban family.

I could see this in the plaintive face of one girl whose mother wouldn’t stop talking.  A soldier, the mother wanted to impress upon us with her daughter’s story and get us to sympathize with her plight.

I was visiting Rolando, a friend who works in ceramics and who I met 18 years ago through that woman.

The mother and her daughter were there on the recommendation of a painter who my friend knows.

They wanted Rolando to teach the girl (15) to model clay in preparation for the entrance exam at the San Alejandro Fine Arts School, located in Havana.  As there were only a few days left before the test, this was going to be something difficult to accomplish in such little time.

The exams at this school include drawing (lines and shaded) and three-dimensional modeling, in addition to some knowledge of art history and other more common subjects.

Having a child who is gifted in realistic drawing — at least according to the young person in question and their family — generally carries with it the hope that the youngster will pursue formal academic training.

It’s supposed that this gift or preference appears at an early age and becomes a yearning as well as a life goal of a talented student.

It turns out that studies in the visual arts are also carried out in schools that welcome those who are interested and at different levels of training.  Many begin at casas de culturas (neighborhood cultural centers) or at San Alejandro; they then continue on to the National Art School (ENA) through the intermediate level and subsequently to the Superior Institute of Art, which as its name indicates provides instruction at a higher level.

These studies in many cases mean previously having had private teachers or self-taught instructors.

The fact is that administrators have reduced the number of students being accepted into the entering class and increased the types of tests applicants must take.  The impact of all this has been to reduce the aspirations for personal realization of many youth in an area where creativity and spirit are living materials.

And if you add money problems to all of that, this poor young woman probably won’t being going to art school this year.