Thursday, June 16, 2011

Havana school teaches art of historical restoration, students spruce up old quarter

Havana school teaches art of historical restoration, students spruce up
old quarter
By: Peter Orsi, The Associated Press
31/05/2011 4:45 PM

HAVANA - Raidel Molina, a 21-year-old with just a hint of facial hair,
gently files down a broken piece of an antique table that's about five
times his age. Next, he explains, he will glue a piece of wood to the
spot and then patiently shape it to match the dark-stained leaf moulding.

"The thing I like most is the detail," Raidel Molina says.

Molina is a second-year student at Havana's Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos
Workshop School, where artistically inclined 17- to 25-year-olds who
like working with their hands learn the rare art of historical restoration.

The two-year course includes practical lessons in everything from
carpentry and masonry to mural painting and plaster work. Students round
out their general education with math, history, language and culture to
help them understand the antiques they're restoring.

Since it was founded in 1992 under an accord between the City
Historian's Office and the Spanish government, about 860 graduates have
honed their craft while sprucing up more than 150 projects in Old
Havana, a formerly seedy neighbourhood that was declared a UNESCO World
Heritage Site in 1982 and is a big tourist draw today.

Administrators say the school offers students a chance to study
something they love, and about 70 per cent find restoration jobs in the
neighbourhood afterward.

"I can't see myself sitting behind a desk, and I can't stand air
conditioning," says Patricia Godinez Alonzo, 27, a former student who
stayed on to teach stained glass. "My sister is an accountant and she's
happy, but I find that kind of work monotonous."

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