The National Art Schools in Havana have been at the center of Cuba’s changing history. Established as part of the utopia Fidel Castro and Che Guevara wanted to create, it was later nationalized in the mid-1960s, when art was seen as an extravagance Cuba could not afford.
The school came back to prominence in the 1980s and 90s, and the Cuban government now considers it a National Monument. KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley routinely takes groups here, where they meet students in music, pottery, painting, and more.
One of the most architecturally famous places in Cuba, the building itself is also art with its brick domes, undulating hallways, and circular buildings, placed on the site of a former resort and country club.
Some of the architecture is designed to resemble a woman’s body.
“The architect formed the building as a woman, because in the body of a woman, a human being is formed, and in this building that is a woman too, an artist is formed,” said Sonja Ortega, who is the head of the international relations department, and was a dance teacher before that.
Visiting the campus requires prearrangement because it’s a functioning college-level school. It attracts students from all over the world, some for the complete five-year course of study ($15,000 for foreigners, free to Cuban citizens) and others for the occasional workshop, seminar, or semester’s worth of classes.
"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, is co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel to clients including KNKX. Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Going Places with iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.