In the 18th and 19th centuries Cuban artists embraced European colonialism and in the 20th century, they favored European and later American Modernism and the movements which followed. Our visits and exchange of ideas with museum curators, independent artists and art gallery owners, students and other craftsmen, will demonstrate these varied influences and the ongoing relationship between Cuban art and the world. Following the 1959 Revolution, artists had to reflect the Revolutionary movement and its mission. Some opted to leave and those who stayed continued working under the “new rules” until the Revolutionary government rescinded them. Now Cuban artists are expressing themselves in an extraordinary burst of creativity which has gained international recognition and visitors to Cuba are able to enjoy the full array of Cuban art in government sponsored museums and galleries as well as in visits to private studios and galleries.
One of the most important institutions responsible for training the next generation of artists in various fields is the ISA, Instituto Superior de Artes (School of Superior Arts) housed today in amazing buildings designed in the 1960’s on the grounds of the former Havana Country Club. These remarkable buildings house schools of the arts – for dance, music, visual arts and theater - each of which provides a combination of theory and practice designed for students serious about pursuing artistic achievement through concentrated study.
The school was designed by three young “rebel” architects - Italians Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti and Cuban Ricardo Porro. As the main buildings emerged, they were thought to be too avant-garde for Communist tastes. The project was halted, though the school did open. In 2001 the Cuban government approached the three architects and asked them to complete the project and in 2009 it was finally finished. At ISA we’ll meet and exchange ideas with instructors and students. Since the Cuban government has rescinded rules about making art artists have more freedom to do what they want to do. The regime subsidizes artists, they are free to travel and the vast majority return to Cuba. The stereotype of the starving artist driving a taxi or waiting on tables is, perhaps surprisingly, not the Cuban model. Unlike doctors or teachers who work for the government at a fixed salary in local currency (mondea nacional), artists can sell their art on the open market for dollars, thus becoming among the wealthiest Cubans.
There are several blocks in Jaimanitas, a neighborhood in northwest Havana, where the homes and the gates that surround them are covered entirely by mosaic tiles. These ordinary homes began to be transformed into works of art three decades ago when artist Jose Fuster moved into the neighborhood and opened his ceramics and folk art studio. His mission is to decorate all the houses in the neighborhood and create an enchanted land. To date he has done a remarkable job and this neighborhood is unique!
There are many other artists who exhibit all over the world and whom we will meet depending upon who is in Cuba when we are there. These artists include: Esterio Segura, Kelvin and Kadir Lopez, Ibrahim Miranda, Roberto Diago, Yoan Capote, Sandra Ramos, the “Mergers” (artists Mayito Mario Miguel Gonzalez, Niels Moleiro Luis, and Alain Pino who work together and recently opened Lavanderia (an amazing gallery in a former laundry space), Rene Francisco, Damien Aquilles and photographers such as Nelson Ramirez de Arellano Conde, Roberto Salas and others.