- July 18, 2018
With relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba thawing (the two countries announced re-opening of their long dormant embassies in Washington, D.C. and Havana, respectively, later this month), diplomatic and trade relations between the Cold War antagonists are returning to a healthy normalcy. However, all the while governments, diplomats and administrations renew relations, American art and culture lovers are taking advantage of the renewed relationship. And for Sarasotans who for their whole or the majority of their life Cuba was a forbidden destination are able to enjoy the art, culture and warmth of the Cuban people.
Art Center Sarasota has been a leader in beginning this inevitable cultural exchange between the United States and Cuban art and culture communities. The center hosted and led a trip to the Havana Biennial, Cuba's largest international arts festival, early this year in May where most of the members got to experience and visit Cuba for the first time. From 6 to 9 p.m. on July 22, the center and its members will reflect and celebrate on that momentous voyage and also pay tribute to Cuban culture as a whole.
Admission is $25 per person and includes Cuban food, mojitos, a performance by the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, a salsa dance demonstration by Carrie Seidman and Mike Vega, and a photo presentation and talk by center members who travelled to Havana in May as well as photographer Cliff Roles. In addition, the travel liaisons between Art Center Sarasota and Cuba that organized the trip will be there to answer and help curious travelers organize their own trip to Cuba.
"When we were on the trip to Havana, we talked about getting together to reminisce and talk about what we saw," says Lisa Berger, executive director of the Art Center Sarasota, who visited Cuba for the first time in May. "There were so many people that had questions for us and that were fascinated and wanted to know more. It was going to be a casual drop-in event but we decided to make it a celebration."
As long as relations between the two countries remain amicable, Berger hopes to make trips to Cuba a part of the center's regular seasonal programming. Berger and art center members met and saw so many diverse artists and work at the Havana Biennial that she hopes to present a whole show of visiting Cuban artists during the center's 2017 artistic season.
"Cuba has been forbidden for so long and yet these artists there are making art that a lot of the world hasn't seen yet," says Berger. "A lot of it is political and an expression of them being held down for so many years and not being able to leave. It's a very culturally rich country and the artists are really highly regarded there. There's just so much art there we're all not getting to see. And they're just as curious about us as we are of them."