On the Dominican Republic’s southeastern coast, high above the Chavón River gorge in La Romana, sits Altos de Chavón, a replica of a 16th-century Tuscan village handcrafted by local artisans. Completed in 1976, the site now boasts artists’ studios, galleries, and the Altos de Chavón School of Design, an affiliate of New York’s Parsons School of Art and Design. Other highlights include the Museo Arqueológico Regional, home to a fascinating collection of pre-Columbian artifacts; a 5,000-seat limestone amphitheater that regularly hosts world-renowned performers; and the small St. Stanislaus Church, blessed by Pope John Paul II.
Altos de Chavón
There’s something for everyone at this replica of a 16th-century Mediterranean village. In addition to shops and restaurants, there’s an archaeological museum filled with local artifacts from the pre-Columbian era. There are galleries featuring works by local artists, as well as by students at the on-site design school, an affiliate of the prestigious Parsons School of Design. An enormous amphitheater hosts international acts; you may even catch a performance by Julio Iglesias—the Spanish crooner has a home in Cap Cana.
The Altos de Chavón School of Design
I heard about this school years ago, when I studied design in the UK. An Israeli classmate had studied art at Altos de Chavón and wouldn’t stop talking about the experience. I’d forgotten about ‘the art school in the jungle’, until I stumbled on campus a while back. This place is unreal, and I can imagine how magical it must be to take some time out and be creative in such stunning, secluded surroundings. I probably wouldn’t shut up about that either! The Altos de Chavón School of Design is associated with Parsons School of Design and offers a number of different programs in graphic design, fashion design, interior design, architecture, photography, and visual arts. An impressive collection of visiting luminaries has taught here over the years, among them fashion designers Oscar de la Renta, Nicole Miller, and Donna Karan. Even if you’re not ready to enroll, a visit is inspiring. The grounds alone are stunning, and of course there’s art at every turn. Take your time, meet the students, and see what they’re working on.
Time to play dirty!
Altos de Chavon is made of many magical places, but my favorite was the pottery studio. I got a special tour and introduction to the workspace by wonderful long-time resident teacher, Damaris. Quick history: 1984, shortly after the village of Altos de Chavon was built, a ceramics school opened, catering to youth all over the region. Creating pottery has been an integral part of the Dominican culture since the days of Columbus, and as a craft continues to thrive here.