The house was situated in the bustling popular neighborhood of Colón in the center of Havana. Despite being surrounded on all sides by well-subsidized tourist districts, Colón was as neglected and under-resourced as the house itself.
A group of friends, interested in the value of art as a tool for social change and exploration, threw themselves into renovating the building. With almost no assets but their energy and commitment, they created a space that would become a creative crucible for artists from all branches of the arts. They called it Colón Cultural.
COLÓN CULTURAL NOW
In just four years since its foundation Colón Cultural has been home to more than 50 artists, most of them local, many from abroad – with over a dozen countries represented. With enormous support from the community and from the many volunteers who’ve helped build and staff it, Colón Cultural has brought a powerful sense of identity and local pride to its neighborhood. It has not only helped advance the careers of many local artists and musicians but, by arranging residencies for artists from abroad, it has also helped bring new inspiration and new energies to Cuban artists, whilst bringing to the visiting creatives an enduring and deeply sympathetic insight into Cuban life and art. In these past four years, Colón Cultural has become an important institution, lending its energy and talents to several neighborhood improvement projects. Now, when the local authorities want to make changes, Colón Cultural is one of the first organizations they consult.
COLÓN INTO THE NEXT DECADE
We’ve achieved a great deal in four years. But it’s not enough.
2020 has brought new challenges to all of us, but for Colón it has also brought new opportunities and new ways of thinking about a sustainable future. We’ve decided to abandon our nostalgia for the pre-Covid past and instead dedicate our energies to planning for the ‘new normal’ future.
It’s a future we’re enormously excited about. It’s a future we want to share with you.
We’re looking to increase and expand many of our current programs. Amongst them:
1) Once a week we want to have one of our artists give a guided tour of Colón’s art museums to a group of at least 15 children.
2) Once a week we want to have a local artist give a talk to a group of at least 15 children about their work and give them a tour of their studio.
3) We want to create an annual Art Fair that would bring together galleries, curators, artists, architects, fashion designers and afro product creators. Our goal here is to break down the barriers between the rarified world of fine art and the daily life and needs of the community.
4) We want to have up to 10 international artists and at least 10 Cuban artists in residency throughout the year. We would provide the artists with not only the space to work and live but also all the materials they needed.
5) Given the restrictiveness of travel in our ‘new normal’ we want to create 3 international online residencies for artists from abroad. We’re creating an online identity called Colón Mediawhich will use online resources to create video conferences, online collaborations and lectures and will allow foreign artists to remotely interact with the Colón community of creators. Artists will also be able to use our virtual gallery to display and sell their work. To do this we’ll need to significantly upgrade our internet infrastructure.
6) We want to establish a weekly musical event where Cuban percussionists and musicians will invite other musicians to perform in a free-wheeling improvisatory format.
YOU CAN HELP!
Our plan for the near future is to become fully self-sustaining through art sales, revenues from event ticket sales, income from the café and bar, and space rentals. But you can help us achieve that goal of self-sustainability.
At Colón we know how to make a little go a long way…
$100 will enable us to run 3 of our tours with 15 children from the neighborhood.
$500 will finance a full covered 3 months residency for a young Cuban artist.
$1 000 will buy us art supplies for our educational program with 40 children and teenagers for 6 months.
$5 000 will get us all electronic devices needed to produce our events.
Please consider donating to our crowdfunding campaign.
Support us! You will be contributing not only to provide artists and creative people a democratic and open space of creation but also you will be improving the reality of those peripheral social groups and communities where we work. Any donation is greatly appreciated but even if you can’t financially support us, take this campaign as yours, share it with your friends and help us spread the word.
The funds raised in this crowdfunding will be managed through our Canadian partner the Musée d´Art de Royun-Noranda, Quebec. All funds raised will be made available for the renovation and conditioning works of our headquarters in Havana, as well as for the improvement of our educational programs and residencies.
Risks and Challenges
We know that this is just the beginning of a long and difficult way before we can finish our goals. From now to the future we will be facing some new challenges with our artists and communities. Our commitment to socially engaged art production will be accompanying some of those critical areas. The implantation of new platforms and the development of new working strategies will be aligned with our social goals and commitments. We have also decided to play an active role in themes that don´t give an option but change: Climate changes, inequality and the erosion of human rights.
TESTIMONIALS FOR COLÓN CULTURAL
¨The residence at Colón Cultural was a perfect opportunity to investigate the most relational and collaborative aspects of my artistic practice. Cuba is a destination that has always caught my attention, and through Colón Cultural I was able to get closer to the local context and make links quickly. Precisely I came to that, to inquire about the tourist’s gaze, until I realized that, thanks to the approach of this cultural platform, I was already part of the community.¨
Francesc Abad – Artist (Spain)
Colón Cultural is a space where I can share my therapy which is painting. My time in residency brought me closer to Cuban culture and its people, helping me understand this very special country. It is a great platform that not only allows the community to open up to the world but also to support its people with visible and concrete actions. For artists like me, this residency is a great opportunity to materialized their art practices on social change.
Francisca del Villar – Artist (Chile)
Colón Cultural was the perfect space for a young Cuban artist like me to open my perspective to both new artistic practices and new horizons of thought. During my residency with Colón Cultural, very strong ties were created within this community. Having access to these tools facilitated not only the production of my work but also the approach of a stronger and more socially committed art.
Nestor Alvarez – Artist (Cuba)
Colón Cultural is an organization that most regions and countries need; an artist’s cultural exchange program that allows international participants to learn, through art, the beauty of Cuba and Colón’s working-class neighborhood and vice versa, for the residents of Colón to learn more about other parts of the world. Colón Cultural is a role model of an organization that offers free classes in music, art, and media and helps boost the camaraderie and morale of its surrounding community via its vibrant atmosphere and welcoming staff. As an artist myself, I was inspired to make a multimedia piece featuring them and the magic of Cuba, and now want to return there to continue to learn more about their neighborhood and the Cuban people. I encourage you to not only visit Cuba, but while there, do meet with the amazing folks at this organization and attend their exciting events, it’ll leave you inspired!
Radha Mehta – Artist, Filmmaker (US)
As a filmmaker it’s my job to channel a collective creative vision into a single unified purpose, and in that respect, as in so many others, my visit to Colón Cultural was inspirational. Reynier Guerra and his colleagues have taken an abandoned building in the middle of a working-class neighborhood and turned it into a vibrant, creative powerhouse for the local community. Art classes, acting workshops, music facilities are all provided free of charge to local artists and schoolkids. Cultural exchanges, bursaries and fellowships are being set up with artists from other countries to encourage a broader exchange of views with the international community. Colón Cultural is a textbook example of what can be done with energy, vision, passion and very little money to generate local pride, revenue for artists and international outreach. I defy anyone to go there and not leave exhilarated and energized!
Jon Amiel – Director, Producer, Writer (UK)