The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts

Heading to Havana

Walter Rivera

In 2011 President Obama announced that the U.S. would roll back certain travel restrictions in place since 2003 such that students could visit Cuba. The historic news was cheered by Cubans and Americans alike, and in the spring of 2012 SVA officials traveled to Cuba to meet with representatives from some of the island nation’s leading art schools and artist organizations. The trip was initiated by SVA Board member Walter Rivera, who was joined by Executive Director of Admissions and Student Affairs Javier Vega and faculty member Gunars Prande in exploring new partnerships and renewing ties dating back to the College’s first official visit to Havana in 2003.

The SVA group found Cuban artists and educators eager to discuss possible exchange programs, workshops and other collaborations. Their itinerary included the esteemed fine arts college Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), which excels in printmaking, sculpture and painting; the Fototeca de Cuba, which offers photography courses, maintains an extensive collection of Cuban photography and exhibits the work of international photographers; and the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV), the widely respected international film school founded by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, Argentinean filmmaker Fernando Birri and Cuban filmmaker Julio García Espinosa. The delegation also reconnected with artists of the Taller Experimental de Gráfica de la Habana, Cuba’s foremost printmaking studio, with whom SVA collaborated in 2003 to mount “Date with the Angels,” an exhibition of work by 40 Cuban artists who manipulated lithographs produced by Prande at SVA’s printmaking studio to comment on the events of September 11, 2001.

While the outlines of SVA’s future presence in Cuba are still taking shape, a new exchange or study program would be a rare opportunity for students to experience one of the Carribean’s’s hidden gems. Rivera says, “The rich and vibrant cultural life, abundant natural beauty and the value placed there on artistic expression all make Cuba a wonderful place for artists to create and to be inspired.”