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The 2014 commencement of The Altos de Chavón School of Design, to take place on Saturday, May 17, marks 30 years since the institution’s first graduates took their place in the world of art and design professionals.
This year, 16 students are graduating in Communication Design, 18 in Fashion Design, and 25 in Fine Arts and Illustration. At the heart of the commencement activities are their senior art exhibit and fashion show. The art exhibit opens to the public on Friday, May 16th, in the Altos de Chavón Gallery. That same night the Fashion students’ runway show “Estilo 2014” will be held at Casa de Campo’s Flamboyán Room. Both shows promise to be outstanding.
Over the years, Chavón graduates’ accomplishments have become part of the fiber of the educational and cultural life of the Dominican Republic. There’s hardly a design firm, a fashion activity, or an art competition in which Altos de Chavón graduates don’t dominate. Chavoneros, as they have come to be known, seem to be everywhere. Today, almost 2,000 Chavón graduates populate the art and design professions not only locally but also worldwide, and their importance continues to grow with the passage of time.
This year there’s a theme to the graduation speakers. All are artists and designers who are using their success to render community service and raise awareness of important issues. They are Marina Spadafora, Angelo Valenzuela, Jenny Polanco, and Tatiana Pagés.
Since the 1990’s Marina Spadafora has received worldwide recognition for her innovative knitwear. In March she visited The School of Design and enthralled everyone with tales of her extraordinary collaboration with knitters in Ecuador. In West Africa and the Americas, she brings her expertise to local cottage industries as well as to the world market. Marina’s ability to take the fortunes of fashion, the wealth to be earned from fashion and fashion production to the developing world has made her a legend in the fashion field.
A people without a history or heritage are not a culture. Angelo Valenzuela has dedicated his life to discovering, preserving, and presenting the essence of Dominican culture to a wide audience. His own works, written or painted, are concerned with the preservation of myth and legend. Through his efforts to underscore the arts, San Juan de la Maguana has blossomed into a place now known for its rich traditional heritage. A faculty member for the last 12 years, Angelo is also a School of Design graduate and a disciple of another graduate, Carlos Montesino.
Here in the Dominican Republic, Jenny Polanco is a household name. She’s known to all as the beauty pageant queen whose brilliant fashion sense and personal style have produced line after line of innovative, accessibly priced fashion that reflects Dominican sensibility. Her work in Haiti has been to take traditional craft and tweak it so that it finds a market that makes it profitable. Her handbag collection based on naïve Haitian paintings has now become an icon of taste and style.
A virtual tornado of ideas, Tatiana Pagés has focused on design that is green and eco-friendly. Her work to promote the recycling of plastic six-pack holders—which, when discarded, choke both wild and domestic animals—into stylish jewelry has gone viral on the Internet. She has taught prison inmates in the U.S.A. and Colombia how to recycle trash into glamorous fantasy adornment, and teaches sustainable design projects on a university level at Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons in New York. Her raison d’être is to teach the world’s people to save our planet, Pacha Mama, Mother Earth.
That all adds up to a suite of graduation events that will surprise the eye and challenge the mind. There’s a mission to this graduation and that is expose the shallowness design that only addresses style and glamour. Design and art must be about problem solving and raising awareness. The designer’s role in the future is inform and offer substance, to provoke thought and effect change.
The School of Design, Senior Art Exhibit
When: Friday May 16th – Sunday May 18th
Where: The Gallery, Altos de Chavón
Contact: (809) 523-8011 ext. 277/230
Estilo 2014, the Fashion students’ runway show
When: Friday May 16th, 8pm
Where: Casa de Campo’s Flamboyán Room
Contact: (809) 523-8011 ext. 277/230