The Art Of Cuba

The Artists of Eastern Cuba

Oriente Region

In review of the past six years of my total focus on the art and art history of Oriente through the assistance of scholars,museum directors and museum curators,historians and the artists themselves. The vision of the goals that have been set and the goals that have been achieved has been quite successful. And in fulfilling our mission to date, considering current events we are offering to the arts community worldwide an exhibition out of Eastern Cuba. This tour is the most comprehensive collection of contemporary works from the Oriente region of Cuba assembled and touring the U.S. recent memory.

The project itself has many facets, and one I will point out is the collection itself. For these years I have traveled through out this region seeking out the artists and their works that are in our opinion the best representatives of their contemporary in those provinces, which are: Holguin, Granma, Guantanamo, and Santiago de Cuba.

We have also established a cultural exchange program of the arts, First by sending Monica Teal an artist from Asheville N.C. to work with the artist in Oriente for one month. And then after her return and reviewing her success in learning and sharing technique and insight to her work with her Cuban contemporarys. We sent her back one year later where she prepared and painted for a two-artists show for two months. She worked in the studio with another woman –Caridad– who is a well known installation artist. The exhibition was at the Galleria Oriente in Santiago de Cuba and they had a wonderful turn out for this historic and cultural endeavor. Unfortunately, Monica was not able to attend due to an illness which made her return to the U.S. Necessary

On the other side of our cultural exchange program, we were able to place three of the artists in an artist’s residence program at the Vermont Studio Center for a month with matching funds for the residence by VSC. The artist were not able to get the needed visas to attend the program. We believe that current events has played a roll in that determination just occurred May 4th of this year.

In December of 2001 we completed the shooting side of our documentary about the artists of Oriente and are now in process of translations for the sub-titles in this colorful documentary of the lives and works in the studios and homes of the artists. And since the artists can not be here now, the doc is more important to see, the humanity, grace and history of the arts of this region told by people who created a large part of this compelling story about art. We have made a short introduction of this documentary for you to see a glimpse into the studios of these artists.

Our web site www.cubanart.org was created for the artist as a platform for their work to be seen world wide. In depth interviews by Reinaldo Cedeno two time Cuba National Award winning writer for the arts has presented the artists from their words on the site. We have been forever working to better the site and to keep it bilingual. At this writing we are receiving about 5,000 hits a day. Another property of Eastern Cuba Cultural Exchange is www.artedecuba.com which reaches a large Latin audience.

These have been some of our accomplishments to date following are some other on going projects that I will highlight for you and will happy to go into detail upon request.

1) Materials to artists program in Oriente
2) Global Tapestry the 501c3 assisting Eastern Cuba Cultural Exchange
3) Donation program of paintings
4) Complete image files of the collection for future book use,transparencies,digital high resolution.
5)Cultural bridges through arts exchange program with the Bacardi in Santiago and the Museum of California,Oakland the first of these exhibits just completed January 5th 2oo3 in Oakland. Ninety paintings were exhibited in three spaces. The return exhibit is in review.

Fostering good will and understanding through exhibits,and the support of artistic endeavors by independent artists nationally and internationally.

My interest and involvement with the art and artists of Eastern Cuba began in 1995 during my first visit to Santiago de Cuba.

I had lived in Key West, FL for many years and my natural curiosity and concern as to what Cuba was really like took hold of me. I was not content to rely on second-hand information. During that first visit I was surprised and impressed by how warmly Americans are regarded by the average Cuban citizen and became determined to learn more.

Having had a lifelong interest in art and antiquities, I returned to visit the studios of the artists and the cultural centers that exist there as well as the Bacardí Museum. I sought out those artists whose work I found particularly intriguing. One artist would introduce me to another until eventually I became well acquainted with many of them living in Santiago and in the surrounding provinces. Most had attended, and even instructed at, the “José Joaquín Tejada Escuela de Artes Plásticas” in Santiago de Cuba. I toured the school and was deeply moved by the devotion of the students and faculty. The art being created in this area is astounding despite the scarcity of materials. Students and professionals alike have occasionally had to resort to painting on tablecloths and sugar sacks. Paint and canvas are available only intermittently and the long journey to Havana, for international exposure, is prohibitively expensive and extremely impractical considering the unreliable modes of transportation available.

As my passion and appreciation for this regional art deepened I began to consider ways to conquer the many frustrating obstacles that these remarkable artists encounter on a daily basis.

First I created a website: (cubanart.org) as an international exhibition platform for these paintings and the posting of the artist’s biographies and interviews. Shortly after, while working with museums, Sister City Associations and philanthropic individuals, I established the “Eastern Cuba Cultural Exchange” with the objective of creating an artist exchange program while seeking out opportunities to exhibit the Cuban works here in the U.S.. So far we have met with enthusiastic receptions here in Florida, North Carolina Utah, Oregon, California, and Washington, DC.

I have found that working through the arts and cultural exchange offers us a unique opportunity to establish non-judgmental communication between the citizens of our long divided societies. It is my sincere wish that these programs, and others like them, will not only continue but will flourish and help to bring about an atmosphere of mutual respect which can only help to pave the road to understanding and reconciliation.

Clyde Hensley

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