Discovering Cuban Art
It should be no surprise that there has always been art in Cuba. We just weren’t invited to the party.
In the past decade as restrictions have been lightened for U.S. citizens as well as some changes in the Cuban leadership so has their opportunity to showcase their creativity.
The Fábrica de Arte Cubano is one of those showcases. It’s a multi-story facility that used to be a cooking oil factory. It’s part night club, part art gallery, teeming with artists of all kinds. In addition to paintings, sculptures, photography, there is film, and music. You are surrounded by it.
It is truly an experience.
My daughter had been in 2014 on her first trip to Cuba and at that time, it wasn’t really open to tourists. She was visiting family and was able to “sneak in” with her cousin.
By 2017, the FAC was open to the outside world. Other than being on the plump side, I look like I belong in Cuba so I wasn’t concerned about looking like a tourist. I was worried about looking like the old person at the hopping night club. Luckily there were some people there that were way older than me that looked like they just came off of a cruise ship. Just blend in. Just blend in.
So when you get there you check in and get a food and drink card that will be punched with your purchases that you pay for when you exit. No money changes hands so it helps with the long lines at the bars. I wish more places used this process. It was quite freeing!
We headed straight upstairs two stories to the galleries. Room after room of paintings, photography, sculptures. As with any other gallery, I’m entranced with some art and completely confused by some.
Downstairs is a labyrinth of rooms or naves as they call them. Ed Sheeran is booming through the speakers in the front rooms as we wound our way through.
There is a piece made with keys shaped like the island as Cuba is the Key to the Gulf of Mexico. I wish this picture was better, but people kept walking through my frame!
In the next room it’s dark with dance floor lighting, a live band thumping, and people dancing and milling about. Another bar, so we grab another cocktail and just take it all in.
We go to the next room and there are chairs arranged in front of a cinema screen playing Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Yes, I said Thriller.
Through the back of that room there is an open air patio with large, rectangular benches. It’s little quieter here so people are talking animatedly without having to yell over the music. If you’ve never seen a group of Cubans talk, you have no idea what you are missing. It’s an art all its own!
Down a large staircase there’s a cafe where you can get a bite to eat and sit and visit some more.
Since it’s another labyrinth of rooms downstairs, if you just keep walking around and around, you come to another staircase and magically, you’re back at the beginning.
We ran through that entire lower floor sequence a couple of times. The music was different and the film was different. I could have just kept looping through forever. I guess I’ll just have to go back.