A Lively Cuban Arts Celebration Returns to Gainesville in March
Innovation, imagination and Cuban ingenuity come together to celebrate the passion and undying spirit of preservation of the island nation, as Bulla Cubana returns to North Central Florida in March, with a sixteen-day, citywide celebration of Cuban arts and culture across Gainesville, reprising its widely-acclaimed and award-winning 2017 debut.
Through a series of heartwarming and compelling exhibitions, performances and presentations, Bulla Cubana 2019 serves as a showcase for Cuba’s legendary stories and creations, while bringing together Gainesville’s top cultural destinations in a collaborative commitment to celebrate Cuban culture.
This March, Bulla Cubana 2019 will span twenty-four events and exhibitions across more than a dozen Gainesville arts centers, further branding North Central Florida as an international cultural destination and incubator for arts and creativity innovation.
Bulla Cubana 2019 will focus extensively on the themes of ingenuity and discovery, while building on explorations of passion, joy and artistic excellence created around a three-month celebration festival, first held at venues throughout North Central Florida in early 2017.
“Bulla Cubana created an insatiable enthusiasm for Cuban arts and culture across Gainesville,” says Cuba native Randy Batista, project organizer for Bulla Cubana and a long-time Gainesville photographer. “In 2019, we are going beyond the extraordinary talents of Cuban artists, to create a better understanding of the Cuban way of life.”
The cornerstone of Bulla Cubana 2019 is an exhibition entitled Cuban Ingenuity – The Artistry of Everyday Inventors. The exhibit opens at Gainesville’s new Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention on March 10. Through videos, photographs, and objects collected for the Cade throughout Cuba, Cuban Ingenuity highlights the ingenious vision behind dozens of innovations and inventions of necessity. Manufactured products of the mid-20th century, from US automobiles to Soviet-made washing machines, have been repaired and amended, repurposed and redesigned over nearly three generations of Cubans. Objects pieced together for functionality have nonetheless achieved an artistic elegance worthy of this exhibition and appreciation.
Organized by the Cade Museum and led by Havana-born artists and curators Gabriela Azcuy and Jorge Lavoy, with creation and guidance provided by Anne Gilroy, curator of exhibitions at Gainesville’s Thomas Center Galleries, Cuban Ingenuity explores repurposed objects ranging from the ingenious to the outrageous, demonstrating functional solutions to creative achievements.
Through first-hand collection and curation, the exhibit reflects the passionate stories of Cuban residents and their ability to adapt materials to manage harsh economic conditions and Cuba’s severe political landscape, from transportation to systems, without access to modern technologies.
“In just two years since the inaugural Bulla Cubana, we have seen the optimism of arts exchange between the U.S. and Cuba replaced by political uncertainty on both sides,” says Batista. “Now, more than ever, Bulla Cubana will tell the stories that are so integral to the exploration of Cuban art, music and history.”
The inaugural Bulla Cubana was named the recipient of the City of Gainesville’s Individual Arts Award in 2017. Bulla Cubana “embodied the power of collaboration and the joy achieved by enriching one’s community through the arts,” says Gainesville mayor Lauren Poe.
The collaborative spirit and celebratory vibe will continue in 2019 across venues, with special events highlighting Cuban culture set to accompany and enhance exhibits and performances that celebrate the themes of Bulla Cubana.
Fiesta Luminosa, a March 9 fundraising celebration at the Cade Museum, will serve as the signature kick-off event for Bulla Cubana, with an evening of insight from the creative innovations and voices of Cuban Ingenuity, featuring Cuban food, drink, music and exhibit preview. Tickets for Fiesta Luminosa are available through the Bulla Cubana website, www.bullacubana.org.
In addition to Cuban Ingenuity, Bulla Cubana 2019 will feature multiple exhibits showcasing Cuban artists and inspiration throughout March. Art exhibitions featured in Bulla Cubana will be held at Gainesville’s Historic Thomas Center Galleries, at the University of Florida’s Harn
Museum of Art, Smathers Library and Grinter Gallery, Oak Hall School, Thornebrook Gallery and the Hippodrome Theater.
Cuban-born artist and Jacksonville resident Eduardo Sarmiento’s work will be highlighted in the solo exhibition Intimate States | Works on Paper by Eduardo Sarmiento at the Historic Thomas Center Galleries. The exhibit will open on January 25 and run through May 4, with a March 15 reception honoring the artist and an artist talk in concert with Bulla Cubana.
Sarmiento’s explosive use of color belies an emotional sensibility and intimacy in contemporary portraits of friends and family. The exhibition is a powerful one for the viewer. As part of the March 15 event, music by the Elio Piedra Trio will drive the beats of Cuban music for an evening of dance. Cuban food and beverages will be available. The event is free and open to the public.
Other Cuban artists – Pedro Pablo Olivia, Vanessa Vallejo and Jorge Lavoy – will headline Bulla Cubana events, with a focus on collections of Naif artists and Cuban film serigraphs also a part of Bulla Cubana exhibits in March.
Numerous Bulla Cubana events will be featured across the city in March. The Hippodrome Theater will host both a Cuban Film Festival, featuring the screenings of six films, and a concurrent Cuban Film Serigraph Exhibit and Sale. The Thomas Center will host an artist talk with Eduardo Sarmiento and Cuban Dancing on March 15. The Florida Museum of Natural History and the Harn Museum of Art will also offer special programming related to Bulla Cubana. Food events at Sweet Dreams Ice Cream and Taste will celebrate flavors of Cuba.
Additionally, two of Gainesville’s premier craft breweries, Swamp Head and Cypress and Grove, will produce limited batches of Bulla Cubana-themed beers throughout March, available at select events. A complete schedule of events and dates can be found at www.bullacubana.org
Partnering cultural institutions for Bulla Cubana include: Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention, City of Gainesville, Historic Thomas Center, Hippodrome Theater, University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Library and University Galleries, Thornebrook Gallery, Florida Museum of Natural History, Oak Hall School, Sweet Dreams Ice Cream, and Taste.
Funding has been provided in part by a Tourist Development Tax Grant from the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners in conjunction with the Alachua County Tourist Development Council and generous individual and corporate sponsors. Bulla Cubana operates as a volunteer-driven community project under the Community Foundation of North Central Florida. Proceeds from fundraising efforts tied to Bulla Cubana will support ongoing support for youth arts and culture activities in Gainesville and Cuba.
Batista hopes the people of Gainesville and visitors to the sixteen day event leave with a stronger appreciation of the resolve of the Cuban people and their extraordinary talents. It is the very spirit of Bulla Cubana, after all, that encourages joy and happiness in a culture of creation.
“So much talent comes from the people of the Cuba from their unrelenting spirit of pride and optimism,” says Batista. “Bulla Cubana creates an appreciation for artistic excellence that originates from the streets of Havana to the most remote parts of Cuba. It’s our opportunity to celebrate and recognize the power of innovation, ingenuity and excellence in all of us.”