I have a tenuous relationship with art, but Cuba is changing all of that.
My dark period – art wise- was 13~ years in Beaver, PA. It wasn’t for lack of options- Pittsburgh is home to both Warhol and Frick, but we did more Pirates and Steelers). My grandfather carved reliefs of trophy deer on copper, mainly becuase he couldn’t shoot them anymore. Now, I have a few friends that make more than a living at it, mon grand ami Eric Mourlot being one. I have probably absorbed more from him in one cocktail hour than any other time in my life, combined.
Until I landed in Havana almost a year ago, where I’ve been inundated.
As I see it, artists are a permitted (tolerated?) special class enabled to practice some form of enterprise, a good reason for the prolific creative output. The art markets are bursting with color and usually staffed by the painters themselves. Design shops create the most unique looks, from the most recycled of materials- what else is there? And one sale to a tourist can easily eclipse the $20 per month salary of the average Cuban, god bless.
And then there is our frequent hosts from the Ludwig Foundation, of course. Situated in a gracious building overlooking Vedado, they host a never ending stream of creative functions that brings together artists of every stripe to listen, learn, and see new inspirations. More on that shortly.
And then there are the “Hipster watering holes”, which seem to host the roaming party of the educated, creative, and passionate. Fabrica D’Arte is certainly the big daddy in this category: just imagine if MoMa stayed open until 2am and hosted 2 sound stages, served booze and food, and cost like $2 for the night. Yeah, that popular. But you can’t go wrong at 304 Oreilly, Frente, Vista Mar or Cochinara. These places are teeming with unique art and objects, most everything for sale and some of it quite good.
So, invariably, I am learning Art 101 by exposure, no different than speaking French after hearing it enough, or learning to cook after getting hungry and watching Thomas Henkleman.