Erotic form of Cuba’s National Art School

Imagine our leaders sitting around saying – “Let’s take the prime real estate and let’s develop a series of the best art schools possible.”

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

When the Batista supporters fled following the 1959 revolution, a beautiful country club and golf course surrounded by mansions were empty. Legend has it that following the take over, Che and Castro were playing golf at the deserted country club, playing golf and deciding the fate of the area. It was decided to build a series of five art schools to make Cuba the destination for arts education in Latin America. Three out of the five were built and we visited one of the three. The art school architecture was designed to be like a woman’s erotic form. The individual art studios are divisions of round rooms lit by skylights in the domed ceilings. Each artist can leave their belongings out and the space is generous.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Here is a pdf with pictures of Porro’s place in ruins and a detailed article by John A Loomis on the subject.

“Architect José Antonio Choy declared that the National Art Schools were the most important architectural work of the Cuban Revolution. Furthermore, he stated that the schools represented the best of the creative forces of the Revolution and, that with recent international attention, had become the most renowned work of Cuban architecture abroad. Moreover, he noted that there was growing concern internationally about the declining state of the schools. Eusebio Leal, Historian of the City of Havana—known for his successful restoration of much of the historic core—confirmed Choy’s position and declared his support for the restoration of the art schools.” says John A Loomis.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Our guide at the art school was Universo Garcia, architect, and the man who was responsible for the restoration of the school. He said the school was as overgrown as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the jungle overtaking the natural forms. He says he makes 30 US dollars a month for his role at the school and he does do other jobs. This is one funny man.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Universo Garcia architect

 

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

The National Art Schools, former Country Club entrance.

Says Wiki: “Cuba today is the only remaining communist state to receive a “very high” human development ranking from the United Nations, and ranks well in measures of health and education.” There is a price for all the fabulous free education and that is two years of service to your country. Now the fabulous thing about the revolution is that somehow if you drop out of school early you can get out of this and the other thing is that the service often stays in your field and not into the military. The artists waiting to greet us were smart and they made some sales. I was impressed by the level of business skill as well as talent in Cuba – from student to professional artist – the work is solid.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Public space at the art school.

When you look at the plan from above the shape of the buildings is like a woman’s reproductive system and from the ground there are lots of erotic forms and references to women.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Art school

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Art school

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Litho stones in the printmaking department, art school.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Printing press, printmaking studio, art school

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Cuba’s National Art Schools.

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Printmaking studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Printmaking studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Painting studio

Havana Cuba by Keri Pickett

Universo Garcia architect with Orestes Del Castillo architect, advisor to historian office & former teacher at school

Keri Pickett

Keri Pickett is an author, photographer and filmmaker telling the stories of life, family and community with intimacy, honesty and impact. Pickett is Producer, Director and Camera for the award-winning feature documentary film ‘The Fabulous Ice Age’, about the rise and fall of the great American touring ice shows and one man’s quest to save the history, available on Netflix and Amazon. Her short film, 'Steel // Spirit' premiered at MSPIFF and won certificate of excellence in India. Her award-winning books include Love in the 90s; BB and Jo, The Story of a Lifelong Love, A Granddaughter’s Portrait (Warner Books, 1995); Faeries; Visions, Voices & Pretty Dresses (Aperture, 2000); Saving Body & Soul, The Mission of Mary Jo Copeland (WaterBrook, 2004). The recipient of a Jerome and Minnesota State Arts Board grants, three McKnight Foundation Photography fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and a Bush Foundation Fellow, Pickett’s work is in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.