Gainesville’s First-ever Cuban Arts and Culture Festival Begins in January
Starting in January, North Florida residents will be rocking to the celebration sounds of Cuban arts and culture with the debut of Bulla Cubana, a multi-venue, three-month festival taking place across Gainesville’s cultural centers through March.
Showcasing the extraordinary talents of invited fine artists, muralists, dancers, musicians, authors, photographers, academics and filmmakers, Bulla Cubana is the first event of its kind to cultivate and celebrate Cuban artistry through collaboration across the Gainesville community. “Bulla” (pronounced BOO-YA) is the Spanish word for “noise,” a salute to the energetic Cuban culture.
Bulla Cubana originated as a vision for long-time Gainesville resident and Cuban-raised photographer Randy Batista, who created the festival to promote an exchange of ideas and inspiration between Cuba and the North Central Florida region, from Tampa to Orlando to Jacksonville.
“Cuba is so hot right now,” Batista says. “The art scene is unbelievable. There is such a high level of culture in a country that lacks material goods. We are bringing those cultural accomplishments to Gainesville to create a world-class celebration of this truly world-class talent.”
Batista first returned to Cuba in 1996, after spending the formative years of his youth in the island nation. Since then, he has become an enthusiastic advocate of Cuban arts.
“My connection to Cuba is intensely personal and wildly expansive; for me there is nearly inexpressible joy in seeing the artistic and creative energy of Cuba affect others,” Batista says. “It is my personal passion which fuels Bulla Cubana.”
Bulla Cubana has created collaboration and partnership among Gainesville’s creative forces, and will raise the city’s reputation as an art and entertainment destination.
“The Gainesville creative community has come together on behalf of culture and art,” Batista comments, noting the extensive variety of arts opportunities year-round. “For every institution participating in Bulla Cubana, the quality and richness of Cuban artistry has surpassed expectations. That’s what makes this festival so exhilarating.”
Batista’s hope is that this first Bulla Cubana celebration will leave a legacy for future generations, both in Gainesville and Cuba. Gainesville area students are being provided tickets to Jesus “Chuchito” Valdes’s concert on January 21, courtesy of Santa Fe College and of the Bulla Cubana scholarship effort. The youth outreach is also supported by Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and Police Chief Tony Jones. In an outreach to Cuban youth, a portion of the scholarship funds raised during Bulla Cubana will be used to purchase and deliver supplies and instruments to art and music students in the island nation.
With almost every artistic medium represented, Bulla Cubana truly provides experiences for every interest. January brings a host of visual art experiences starting with Lights, Camera, Cuba!, a selection of vintage Cuban movie posters from the Efrain Barradas Collection of the University of Florida Libraries, on display at the University Galleries from January 4 to February 10, with an opening reception on January 5. On January 6, Cubania: The Art of Nancy Reyes Suarez exhibit will open (and run through February 10) at the Cofrin Gallery
at Oak Hall School. Suarez will travel from Cuba for the opening, and will be joined by her daughter, Jessie Dominguez, a principal dancer for the Cuban National Ballet and currently for Dance Alive National Ballet in Gainesville.
The City of Gainesville will showcase eight Cuban artists through two exhibits, collectively titled 82°W / Six Degrees of Separation – a reference to the shared position of Havana and Gainesville on the eighty second longitudinal line. The first event of 82°W / Six Degrees of Separation is the pop-up exhibit Woodcuts by Osmeivy Ortega. Installed for two days only, January 14 and 15, the exhibit is being held in collaboration with Gallery Protocol and opens with a Cuban
party on January 14. The Thomas Center Galleries, through support from Milestone Advisory Partners, will present 82° W / Six Degrees of Separation: The Art of Contemporary Cuban Artists, in the Main Gallery. The exhibit opens on January 20 and will be on display through March 18. Visiting Cuban artists and Cuban curator Gabriela Azcuy will be honored guests at both openings, which are free and open to the public.