Having completed its inception phase in October 2020, the Transcultura Programme: Integrating Cuba, the Caribbean and the European Union through Culture and Creativity set its ingenious machinery in motion to promote opportunities and strengthen capacities among Caribbean youths.
Cuba will play a key role in this process since the heart of the Regional Cultural Training Hub will be located in the capital, a space that brings together the University of the Arts (ISA), the International Film and Television School (EICTV) of San Antonio de los Baños, the Higher Institute of Design (ISDi), the Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Workshop School, the San Gerónimo College and the Santa Clara College, along with other institutions of the Caribbean region.
Thanks to this Programme, implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean and funded by the European Union, young people from the Caribbean will be able to obtain, through access and mobility scholarships, quality training at the institutions comprising the Hub.
For the European Union, training with an innovative approach is key to the Programme. Juan Garay, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Cuba, hopes that collective ingenuity will help expand the boundaries of creation.
We want the project to have a capacity-building approach that does not entail -let us say- adapting to the orthodoxy of techniques and methods. Methods and techniques are important for all disciplines of art expression, but I consider that it’s just as important to have a space for creativity, innovation, laboratories where even that orthodoxy can be challenged, and new artistic expressions can be found.
Juan Garay, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Cuba
Anett Rodríguez Mendoza, cooperation specialist at the Cuban Ministry of Culture, asserts that “the Programme constitutes an opportunity to strengthen the cultural relations that exist today with the Caribbean, which are not negligible, but which we must develop and reinforce with new bridges. May all disciplines of art and culture be unified through Transcultura!”
For entities such as the University of the Arts and EICTV, with an important international projection, Transcultura will expand our perception of the Caribbean, a region whose creative potential remains insufficiently exploited.
In the opinion of Mariluz León, Deputy-Rector of the University of the Arts, “Our expectations go beyond anything ISA has done so far. We want it to be enriched and surpassed in integration, in transdisciplinarity, searching for elements that identify us as a region”.
Transcultura will also support Cuban institutions with teaching materials and equipment to help improve conditions in educational centers.
The expectations of these institutions are not limited to welcoming Caribbean students to their classrooms. “My first dream is that the Film School experience may be extended throughout the Caribbean and beyond. At the same time, I dream that the Caribbean will have a greater presence at the International Film and Television School of San Antonio de los Baños,” declared Susana Molina, Director of this emblematic image and sound laboratory.
Transcultura will also have a significant impact on the Historic Centre of Old Havana. With the support of the Programme, the current Santa Clara Convent will become the Santa Clara College. The San Gerónimo College and the Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Workshop School will also put their faculty’s expertise at the service of the Programme’s goals.
Dr. Felix Julio Alfonso, academic coordinator of the San Gerónimo College, shares his views on the future training options that will be promoted in the Transcultura framework.
“While the San Gerónimo College focuses mainly on heritage administration and management, the Santa Clara College is centred on restoration arts, the handmade crafts. As a result, there will be a very rich symbiosis between theory and practice. They will be like the two great pillars of heritage work, one in a more theoretical, more strategic dimension, and the other in a more practical dimension, more directly linked to the restoration processes taking place in the Historic Centre.”
The restoration of the Santa Clara Convent will give the community of San Isidro, where it is located, a new lease on life in education and entrepreneurship, a wish to which Eusebio Leal Spengler, the person who first came up with the idea of the Programme, dedicated his vital energies.
COVID-19 resilient training options
In order to strengthen alliances and adjust the Programme to the challenges COVID-19 imposes on face-to-face education, representatives of Cuban institutions agreed, together with the Transcultura team, on a common roadmap for the year 2021 and examined alternatives to readjust the Programme’s offer to the new times.
Tatiana Villegas-Zamora, Culture Specialist at the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean and Programme Coordinator, stated that capacity building is one of UNESCO’s flagship tasks. Promoting bold initiatives to ensure that education may continue has been crucial to the Organisation in times of pandemic.
In view of the scenario imposed by COVID-19, it will be essential to adapt many of the academic programmes offered by institutions. This implies the need to train teachers and institutions to successfully implement distance teaching and learning modalities, as a complement to face-to-face education.
Although the process constitutes a challenge, not only from a technological, but also from a pedagogical and organizational standpoint, Cuban institutions affirmed that they are ready to overcome this new challenge and see it as an opportunity to grow and strengthen their connection with the Caribbean hand in hand with Transcultura.