US-Cuba: Bridges vs. Walls

Veronica Vega

by Luis Enrique Camejo

HAVANA TIMES – A bridge manages to unite something that has been divided by geography, politics or prejudice. In the case of the United States and Cuba, it’s a pressing need rather than a symbol.

Curated by Yudith Vargas, the weekend exhibition displayed at the Mena Studio-Workshop, on 54th and 21st streets in Playa, was the materialization of the beginning of a dream shared by artists in both countries: that Art can knock down barriers, pave paths and bring these two tormented shores closer together.

30 artists from the US and Cuba worked freely using a uniform-sized structure. According to M Katherine Hurley and Jens G Rosenkrantz Jr, both curators and participants:

The dimensions were planned so that every piece could fit in a suitcase because “Bridge Not Walls” is a great performance as well as an exhibition. We carry the works like the baggage somebody who carries the absolute essential with them does.”

The exhibition in Havana followed an exhibition of US artists’ work at the Pendlenton Art Center on March 31st 2017. And in November, the Cuban pieces will be exhibited at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Following the same principle of integration, the exhibition includes young people, renowned artists, women, men, painters, photographers, designers, graffiti artists…

It’s a non-profit project and when the exhibition ends, every Cuban artist will exchange their work with that of a US artist, and vice-versa. Because: “we share essences, situations, concerns that transgress politics, the years of enmity, the new restrictions. Not Art, nor do we believe in the isolating power of a wall.”

Amidst the bustle of guests and public viewers, the attentive host, Rigoberto Mena, answered some quick questions:

By Jan Brown

How did the idea for holding this exhibition here come about?

Yudith, the curator, asked me for the space for a project of bringing together, of rapprochement, and the question is, why not? We owe a lot to US culture.

What was the criteria used to select these pieces?

This didn’t have anything to do with me, there was a criteria in place even before Yudith was involved in the project and she then reworded it. Like with every project, not all of the artists who could be here are here… But the idea is that this will extend in the future and will be like a ball that continues to grow and I believe that it could end up being a mega project in the end where two countries are connected and where artists not just from Cincinnati are participating, but from all over the US, and not just artists from Havana either.

Do you think that this can happen under the new US administration?

Well, I believe that it’s precisely because of and thanks to Trump, because the progress made with Obama had been reversed, that this is an opportunity for us to say: Walls no, we want bridges. Walls need to be broken down, we have to open closed doors and open bridges so that people and cultures can cross over, so that ideas can flourish. There’s enough war. The world is so tumultuous right now, you read the press and everything is bad news… This is a space for hope.

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