The group on a studio visit in Havana with Glenda León. From left: Elizabeth Cerejido, Antonia Wright, Mia Leonin, Jorge Pérez, Marcos Valella, Leyden Rodríguez Casanova, Rosa Lowinger, Bert Rodríguez.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

In Part 1 of our conversation, Miami curator Elizabeth Cerejido talked about the first phase of Dialogues in Cuban Art, the artist exchange program she organized, which brought a group of Cuban American artists, who were raised and trained in Miami, to the island for the first time. Now, Cerejido looks ahead to the next phases of the project, and some of the issues that Cuban artists might face in the coming years.

Have the Cuban artists been selected for the Miami part of the exchange?

The selection is very much in process right now. Certainly, I have an idea of who we’ll invite. For sure Glenda León, Ernesto Leal, people like Humberto Díaz. The criteria for selecting the artists from Cuba includes ideally those who have not been to Miami, or if they have, have not been immersed in the artistic scene here, so that an intensive and engaging program like this one will be beneficial.

Again, this is going to depend on everyone’s schedules and whatnot. But I’m shooting for spring of 2016, either February or March.

On a studio visit with Ernesto Leal. From left: Juana Valdés, Bert Rodríguez, Antonia Wright, Manny Prieres.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

Are the Cuban-American artists still involved in the project?

They’re still very much engaged. We’re meeting next week to regroup and keep the conversation going. They’re also involved in letting me know who the artists are who they responded to. And of course they’re going to be part of the collaborative efforts.

Day 1 of artists panels at Casa de las Américas in Havana. From left: Bert Rodríguez, Manny Prieres, Juana Valdés, José A. Figueroa, Leyden Rodríguez Casanova, Felipe Dulzaides, and moderator Elizabeth Cerejido.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

What can you tell us about the exhibition?

That’s a little far in the distance, but given nature of how these exhibitions take place, I have to start solidifying the venues now. A couple of places in Havana have expressed interest, as well as places here in Miami. In the spirit of the exchange, I will be working with a Cuban co-curator. I had a couple of conversations in Havana on this as well. I hope to confirm venues and the co-curator by the end of the summer. [The venue has since been confirmed as the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), where two days of talks will take place next April.]

Reynier Leyva Novo presents his work at Casa de las Américas.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

You were one of many in the international Cuban art community to have input into the development of the first international Cuban Art Awards (a project of the Farber Foundation, sponsors of Cuban Art News). What effect you see international programs like Dialogues in Cuban Art and the Cuban Art Awards having on Cuban art?

They’re crucial in broadening the narrative and definition of what Cuban art is. That’s important because we continue to see the parallel of a Cuban art market that in a way fetishizes Cuban art produced on the island only, and certain tropes that get repeated because they reaffirm an idea of Cuba that outside or foreign collectors, curators, or cultural producers may have.

A guided tour of Proyecto Arsenal in Centro Habana with curators Yainet Rodríguez of the Office of the City Historian, and Onedys Calvo Noya of Factoría Habana.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

Because Cuba is such an exceptional place—for all the cultural and socioeconomic and political reasons that we know—sometimes what gets lost are the more fluid transnational exchanges that are taking place. When you have an artist like Sandra Ramos living in Miami but still very much active in Havana, or you have artists who come here to Miami, or you have PAMM [Pérez Art Museum Miami] actively curating or actively collecting Cuban art from the island…

There are a lot of exchanges happening on the ground, and I think the broader art market forces have been slow to keep up with that. There’s still the perception that Cuban art is one thing in Cuba and something entirely different outside.

These programs really help destabilize those borders and those ideas. In the broader political framework that we’re seeing right now, the reforms can only help in dispelling some of those stereotypes.

Manny Prieres with the installation El experimento del Edén, 2015, by Nikolaus Gansterer, at the Wifredo Lam Center.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

Where do you see contemporary Cuban art heading? Where do you see it, say, five years from now?

Because the art market has played such an important role in defining Cuban art, and Cuban artists are so aware of and so linked to how that market functions, it will be interesting to see how context will play a lesser role, as Cuba opens up and artists continue to be able to be both in Havana and in Miami and New York, and back in Havana.

The specificity of Cuba—how will that continue to play a role in their work, and in the demand for their work by an art market that is very interested in the codes that artists produce in their work precisely because they’re in such an exceptional place?

I think as that space becomes more fluid, that’s where the challenge is going to be for artists—especially those who have made their careers out of addressing that specificity. And with the younger artists who are able to travel, and can be exposed to international trends, to see how that’s going to translate into their work.

That’s a challenge for any artist who doesn’t live in the mainstream of Europe or the US, a challenge they face all the time—how to balance that local and global dynamic. But I think it’s going to be a more challenging, more pressing question for Cuban artists.

Institutions in the US will probably more actively collect Cuban art, just because of the nature of the politics being more open. On an institutional level, we will see that.

A group lunch at KingBar in Havana. From left: Rosa Lowinger, Rubén Millares, Leyden Rodríguez Casanova, Mia Leonin, Manny Prieres, Juana Faldés, Anelys Álvarez Muñoz, Elizabeth Cerejido, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Antonia Wright, Marcos Valella, and Bert Rodríguez.
Photo: Carlos Ochoa, courtesy Dialogues in Cuban Art

Editor’s note: Since publication, this article has been amended to clarify that the artists visiting Havana were not the first Cuban American artists brought to the island in an exchange program, and to provide more specifics about criteria for Havana artists in the Miami leg of the exchange. The artists going to Havana were invited as a group by an official institution there.

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Susan Delson
Susan Delson has been the New York editor of Cuban Art News since 2009. A former member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art education department, as editor she has worked with the Museum of Modern Art, Asia Society, El Museo del Barrio, and other institutions. Her books include the film study/biography Dudley Murphy, Hollywood Wild Card and (as editor) Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals. As a magazine editor, she has worked at Forbes, Louise Blouin Media, and other companies.