Ms. DeFilippo goes to Cuba
Posted 04/20/2018 09:11AM

The 2017 recipient of the Mark Sayers and B.J. Williams Faculty Development Endowment award was Art Teacher Ellen DeFilippo. This award was established in 2011 by past parent Grant Williams to encourage and support faculty excellence through further education and professional development. Ms. DeFilippo spent 8 days in Cuba in March 2017 to enhance the Forsyth art curriculum. She went on a group tour through an organization, dedicated to organizing enriching, cultural experiences around the world, with an emphasis on music. While in Cuba, she visited museums and galleries, attended music and dance concerts, and took a special trip to see mosaics. 

In the words of Ms. DeFilippo:

As a longtime artist, photographer and musician, I've always wanted to go to Cuba because of the rich culture and the arts. I also wanted to go to Cuba because my father is from Puerto Rico, which is a neighboring island that shares a similar culture. I have always loved Cuban music and art. 

While in Cuba, I visited many art galleries and the Museum of Cuban Art in Havana. I saw inspiring paintings and sculptures and visited a mosaic community, designed and created by Cuban artist, Jose Fuster. I also experienced the rich music tradition of Cuba and shot video of the many street performers. I visited Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, where Ernest Hemingway had made his home from 1939 to 1960, and where he had written seven books, including The Old Man and the SeaA Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream. I also visited Trinidad, a small town across the island. I found the Spanish Colonial architecture very inspiring.


I was mostly impressed by the Cuban people. They are warm and kind. Education is free and if a child shows aptitude in any area of the arts, they have the opportunity to study fine arts, music, or dance starting at an early age. Many of the Cuban musicians and artists have been working on their craft for their entire lives and it shows in the degree of talent they have.

>> Click here to see the video Mrs. DeFilippo put together for Forsyth students. This video includes a variety of live music by street musicians that Mrs. DeFilippo recorded. 

>> Click here to see more outstanding photos of Ms. DeFilippo's trip to Cuba.

In the classroom at Forsyth School

When I was in Cuba, I was impressed by the work of artist Manuel Mendive. This year, I worked with Grade 3 students on a project related to his ideas and style of painting (photos above). I also worked with Grade 5 students on a project inspired by the work of Damián Aquiles, whose work I also saw while in Cuba. I was thrilled to share my experience with the entire Forsyth community and Grant Williams at an assembly this spring.

I am so grateful to Grant Williams (photo left) and to Forsyth School for giving me the opportunity to experience Cuba through The Mark Sayers and B.J. Williams Faculty Development Endowment Award. I returned inspired and excited to share with my students what I experienced and learned in Cuba.


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