If you have followed our coverage of Davidoff on Cigar Coop, you have more than likely read about the Davidoff Art Initiative. It’s a unique program unlike anything seen in the cigar industry. It’s a program meant to foster the development and production of contemporary art, with a focus on the Caribbean region. The part of the program most visible to cigar enthusiasts has been the opportunity for contemporary artists to develop artwork for various products, but there is a whole other side the Davidoff Art Initiative. A core part of the program is the Davidoff Residency program. It’s a program where Davidoff will send artists from the Caribbean to residency programs located worldwide. Concurrently, it also gives international artists an opportunity for a residency in the Dominican Republic. The residency in the Dominican Republic is located at the Altos de Chavón School of Design, considered by many to be the preeminent art school in La Romana in the Dominican Republic. I recently had an opportunity to take a look at the school.
The Altos de Chavón School of Design was founded in 1983. The scope is broad-based in terms of the arts, as it provides an opportunity to learn both classic and contemporary art. In addition to classrooms and studios, there is a computer lab, a library, a fully functioning movie theater, and student housing. In addition to the facility in La Romana, there is a second campus located in Santo Domingo.
The La Romana facility was beautifully landscaped and had an aura of tranquility to it.
Steven Kaplan serves as the Director of Altos de Chavón School of Design and served as our guide throughout our tour.
Each year, Davidoff selects artists and funds them for a ten-week program at Altos de Chavón School of Design. These are usually mid-career artists with some experience. Each is given a studio and given the opportunity to leverage the time to foster his or her creativity. End pieces from the residents’ art can range from paintings to sculpture to digital media.
This past year six artists were funded for the program.
- Mimi Cherono Ng’ok (Nairobi)
- Jan Peter Hammer (Berlin, Germany)
- Christopher Ho (New York, United States)
- Candice Lin (Los Angeles, United States)
- Paul Maheke (London, England)
- Alejandra Villasmil (Santiago, Chile)
The inspirations used for each resident’s project was quite unique. We caught the students at the beginning of the 2018 residency, so most were in a conceptual phase. Still, it was quite interesting. As one would expect there was a lot of influence in social and cultural politics – both past tense and present tense.
The School of Design also has a museum adjacent to it known as the Museo Arqueologico Regional Altos de Chavon. This museum has a focus on the historical culture of the island of Hispaniola, the name of the island where the Dominican Republic and its neighbor to the west, Haiti, are located. The museum features everything from aboriginal artifacts to contemporary art. Students who attend the School of Design have been given opportunities for their art to make it into the museum.
Outside the museum is a village-like area that has the look of a 16th Century Mediterranean village.
Altos de Chavón overlooks the Chavón river. It is one of the most scenic places in the Dominican Republic.
One final note in regards to Davidoff’s Residency Program. The Davidoff Initiative operates other residencies worldwide. There are currently residency opportunities for Caribbean artists located in Beijing, China (Red Gate Gallery Residency), Basel Switzerland (Institute of Art at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design), Brooklyn, New York (Residency Unlimited), and FLORA ars+natura (Bogotá, Colombia).
Photo Credits: WAC Ligero Group LLC (dba Cigar Coop)