Clay Times Back Issues Vol. 2 Issue 4 • May/June 1996 - Page 24

Altos de Chavon Pottery in the Dominican Republic BY CHRISTOPHER GARCIA T his past summer I had the privilege of being invited to the Altos de Chavon School of Design in the Dominican Republic. I was asked to serve as a consultant in the Ceramics Workshop and as an artist in residence. The concept of the program is to offer an exchange of ideas, skills, and artistic approaches over diverse cultures and backgrounds. 24 ▼ working studios that produce ceramics, textiles, and silk-screened posters and T-shirts for sale. The ceramics workspace is housed in a large, open building with many shuttered, arched window openings. Cool breezes blow through these arches, creating a comfortable working environment. The artisans who work in the Taller de Ceramica are some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. I Altos de Chavon is a fullywas instantly welcomed into the accredited design school affiliated tight-knit group of ceramists. Every with Parson’s School of Design in day, I would be offered excellent New York City. The students come Dominican coffee that was served from all over the world to study very dark, very sweet, and strained Fashion Design, Illustration, through something that looked like Computer Graphics, and other degree courses. The campus is situ- a rolled-up nylon stocking. I also sampled fresh mangoes daily in cut ated on a rocky cliff-top overlookslices or mixed into a handing the Chavon River. The entire whisked frappe. My hosts in the institution is a self-contained comclay studio were also generous munity designed architecturally to look like a sixteenth century Italian with food. I ate lunches of verenjena con arroz, an eggplant stew over village. The buildings include dorwhite rice, and mangu, a boiled mitories, shops, galleries, served over rice. rants, a contemporary art museum Every afternoon after lunch, the showing a wide range of local and studio closes international arts for an hour. and crafts, as well Some people as a historical play dominoes museum housing on a flat board Taino Indian artithey all balance facts from the on their laps. Dominican Others sleep, Republic’s rich on tables, in past. There is also doorways, or an outdoor wherever there amphitheater, a Dominican ceramic studio, outdoor patio is a comfortchapel to Saint able, open Stanislaus, and a space. multitude of beautiful founDespite my tains. rusty Spanish, I was able to While Altos interact and de Chavon is converse with mainly a design the studio’s institution, there artists. They are also several Chavon River were quick to ask questions and share their expertise and experiences in ceramics. I was able to learn about the oppressive poverty the Dominican people suffer Studio angels. through, and how jobs are hard to come by, and ordinary staples are becoming more and more expensive and scarce. I also got a sampling of the pride Dominicans feel for their unique culture derived from an African, Spanish, and Indian heritage. I