Altos de Chavon

Stephen Kaplan’s thoughts on the Future of the Chavón School of Design

This post is also available in: Spanish

As the school year has come to a close, and we celebrated the 32nd graduation of the Altos de Chavón School of Design students, Casa de Campo Living takes a look into Fall with thoughts from Stephen Kaplan, director of the school, and what exciting new things are to be expected for the Chavón campus now that the Fashion and Communication Design programs move to Santo Domingo at their urban location.

Art and Art Education is Alive and Thriving in Altos de Chavón

Starting in September, the Altos de Chavón Campus in La Romana will be the home of the Fine Arts/Illustration program, just as it has been for 32 years, and will offer two new areas of study: the EPIC (Estudios Para Investigación Contemporáneo) program, and a year long certificate course in filmmaking.

AltosdeChavonSchoolofDesign0The Fall of 2016 will see an entering first year Foundation Class geared to the Fine Arts and Illustration. Students who will study in Altos de Chavón’s established, tried and true, program of classical training and fine art preparation, will then do their next year in Altos de Chavón with a concentration in either Fine Arts or Illustration. So, Fine Arts/Illustration is very much alive and well in Altos de Chavón.

A new EPIC program, which is a sort of 3rd year homecoming for graduates of the two-year program and other qualified students, will be inaugurated in September.  It’s called EPIC, which in Spanish is an acronym for “Estudios Para Investigación Contemporáneo”.  It will add another dimension to the art program at Altos de Chavón. In the works is yet another program for Chavón, it’s a year in Filmmaking. Now in the initial planning stages it is due to start in October of 2016.  It will be taught in the Altos de Chavón campus, here in the heart of Casa de Campo.

Stephen Kaplan, Director of Altos de Chavón, with Marina Spadafora, Director of the Fashion Program

Stephen Kaplan, Director of Altos de Chavón, with Marina Spadafora, Director of the Fashion Program

The wonderful urban facility in the Santo Domingo campus, as of the 2016’s fall semester, will host two majors in addition to a full range of continuing education courses. The Fashion and Communication Design majors will be moved to the capital to be closer to the industry and commerce they serve.  In that manner, faculty can be more easily drawn from working professionals in their design jobs. No need for these experts in their areas to have to travel to Altos de Chavón and lose one or two days of work. In Santo Domingo, the programs will be more accessible for students who are not able to live away from home at the Chavón facility in La Romana.  The new location has shown its ability to attract large classes of students for these majors.


Fine Arts uses the Altos de Chavón residential and classroom complex as a location, the beauty of which serves as a muse. The Santo Domingo campus has the urban reality of industry and commerce as its source of inspiration. What’s more, is we think of the new EPIC program as a mentored studio residential program for more formed, more realized, participants. EPIC is for mature graduates (and others) to live and work on special personal projects in our incredibly conducive environment of Altos de Chavón. As we know nature can be a powerful creative catalyst. A setting can stimulate the creative process.

For Pissarro, inspiration was the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, Gauguin found it in Tahiti, and Thoreau had Walden Pond. There is no doubt that the beauty of nature was a muse for their creations. For almost 40 years, Altos de Chavón has welcomed artists and students of art and design and artist-in-residence, all of whom found in this place elements that have fostered their creation and artistic production.


This is a wonderful site, with the mist above the Chavón River in the morning and the illuminating blush of sunset on the stones,  Altos de Chavón is inspiring and relaxing. The Altos de Chavón facilities for student use—the computer lab, library, and housing—are buildings of rough-hewn stone and timber. It’s a movie set world where architecture and nature make a sanctuary for students and students of art. It will continue as that learning sanctuary.

So now we think of Chavón the School of Design as a tale of two cities, one urban, in the vital and vibrant 21st century bustling Latin American capital of the Santo Domingo campus with its inspiration of commerce and industry, and Chavón in La Romana, Casa de Campo with nature as its muse, it’s nurture.

Photos provided by Altos de Chavón School of Design’s Facebook.


Chavón Santo DomingoFounded in 1983, The Altos de Chavón School of Design offers careers in applied arts in the areas of Fine Arts, Visual Communication and Fashion. This type of intensive two-year program provides the graduates with an associate degree at a technical level, which provides them with a solid education that enables participants to compete as professionals in the field of design and arts both locally and internationally.

Graduates of the School of Design are eligible to transfer directly to Parsons School of Design in New York. More than 2,000 Dominicans and students from around the world have graduated from the School of Design, demonstrating that a solid background in design, parallel to an emphasis on the development of the industry is the best formula for a successful career.

The highly practical and market-oriented curriculum, provides students with a unique set of skills that allows them to be easily inserted into the work environment.



The Altos de Chavón Cultural Center Foundation, located in Dominican Republic, is a non-profit cultural and educational institution. Since 1983, it has been dedicated to the creation of a multifaceted arts community that includes visual arts, crafts workshops, performing arts and teaching programs.

With its other components—The Regional Museum of Archaeology, the Artists in Residence program, The Gallery, and The School of Design—The Foundation has contributed to the enrichment of the intellectual, artistic, and cultural panorama of the Dominican Republic for more than 30 years.

The Foundation’s work has reached many, with impressive results. Its diverse educational and arts programs, gives Altos de Chavón the cultural dynamism that nourishes and stimulates the creativity of the designers and artists of today and tomorrow.

In 2013, The Altos de Chavón Cultural Center Foundation celebrated 30 years of continuous and invaluable contributions to art and culture in the Dominican Republic giving each artist the opportunity to find their individual expression through constant research and development.

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