In October, 2015, Patricia (Pat) Franklin led a delegation of thirty-three professional Art Educators to Cuba to engage in professional exchanges. Pat Franklin is the Supervisor of Visual and Performing Arts for Newport News Public Schools in the Tidewater Region of Virginia. Previously, she spent 27 years as a classroom art teacher in grade levels ranging from Pre-K to grade 12 and has experience in virtual and college level arts education. During her time in Cuba, Pat was the serving President of the National Art Education Association (NAEA).
Upon arrival in Havana, the art education professionals were able to get a sense of the education system in Cuba, honing in on art education. The main focuses of the delegation were as follows:
- Establishing and applying educational policy, both on national and local levels;
- Curriculum planning, including selecting content and establishing standards for teachers and learners;
- Teaching environments, both in rural and urban settings;
- Assessment of teaching and learning, and how specialized or magnet ‘type’ schools make informed decisions about assessment;
- Teacher preparation – how training methods differ between teachers in traditional school settings and those in alternative learning environments.
To accomplish the goals listed above, US delegates partnered with the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples who served as their official hosts. The delegation began with a panel presentation from specialists and leaders in the field of Cuban Art Education. Throughout the remainder of the week, delegates visited elementary and junior high schools to observe how art instruction is integrated into the regular school curriculum, as well as visiting the National School of Arts, the Arts Education Department of the E.J. Varona Pedagogical Institute, the San Alejandro Academy (National School of Fine Arts), and an after-school art education program called “La Colmenita”. To round off the study of art education, delegates made a final stop to visit a Special Education School to observe and exchange with faculty, staff and children on the incorporation of art education into the study program. The group of US art educators also had the opportunity to visit the home studio of Jose Fuster to view his personal art and hear about community art projects.
Along with meetings, site visits, professional exchanges, and performances, our group of professionals had the opportunity to experience the culture of Cuba. Walking tours of Old Havana, a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, authentic live Cuban music, and local Cuban cuisine were dispersed between professional meetings.
After having the opportunity to study and travel in Cuba, delegates described the most valuable part of the delegation as “learning how another country approaches art education and maintains a high standard for educating artists”, “visiting the schools and understanding more about their education system and programs”, “meeting other art teachers and talking about art curriculum ideas”, “watching the children of all grade levels in the performing arts”, and “the overall cultural experience”.
Professionals Abroad is looking forward to having the National Art Education Association lead future delegations around the globe.