Meet kids from the Compania a la Sombra de un Ala, a community project that helps children develop their theatrical talents.
The Compania a la Sombra de un Ala is a children’s community project within an art gallery. Here, theater instructors, musicians, and dancers from the province help children develop their artistic discipline. Meet with the program’s director and local children to understand how and why Cuba puts a premium on developing the arts among kids across the country.
Casas de Culturas
Compania a la Sombra works closely with Santa Clara’s Casa de Cultura, or “Culture House,” a local community arts center. After the revolution, and with education levels on the rise, Cuba’s government established a state-run network of culture houses, now numbering over 200, to provide education in dancing, acting, music, and more at no cost for Cubans across the island.
This broadening of culture was one of the Castro government’s top accomplishments. Before 1959, artistic institutions were generally limited to Havana – but with the establishment of the Ministry of Culture, art became a vanguard for preserving the revolution’s ideals. And the Casas de Cultura became hubs for a growing number of amateur and outsider artists, who until then had little or no access to education and supplies.
Art Education in Cuba
In Cuba, appreciation for the arts begins early – and Casas de Cultura are just the start. Education is compulsory until 9th grade for all Cuban children, and most schools employ an art instructor. But kids who excel in drawing, dancing, singing, or other artistic expressions, can take an exam for a specialized primary school. Entry is competitive but guarantees the most gifted children an opportunity to put extra focus on developing their talents. After completing early education – or by passing a vocational exam – students can graduate to one of Cuba’s free art universities.
Cuba’s system leads Latin America – and even the US – in student-teacher ratio, literacy rates, and the share of gross national product spent on education. And when you visit with the children of Compania a la Sombra de un Ala, you’ll gain an unparalleled understanding of the island’s emphasis on culture, art, and schooling.