On April 21, three US federal agencies and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities announced a number of agreements that create arts and cultural collaborations between US and Cuban scholars, artists, public agencies, and institutions.
These agreements will, in the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, “highlight the commonalities that unite all people.” At the same time, artists, conservators, and others will be able to share their distinct experiences and knowledge with new audiences and peers.
Along with creative personal moments, the delegation agenda included extensive meetings and planning sessions between US and Cuban government. After many collaborative sessions, on the final day, both Cuban and US officials met to publicly announce intentions to move forward with a variety of initiatives.
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
For the first time, the US government will support artistic cultural exchanges between US and Cuban artists, thanks to a $100,000 commitment by the National Endowment for the Arts. The two exchange opportunities build on existing NEA programs that promote artistic exchange, education, and cross-cultural connections—USArtists International and Southern Exposure: Performing Arts of Latin America. Each program will receive $50,000 to fund the expanded activities.
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
The National Endowment for the Humanities will award a $30,000 grant to the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum program, a leading art conservation program in the US, to support a visit to Cuba of art conservation students and professors. The trip to Cuba will focus on photograph collections and preventive conservation of all types of collections.
The Smithsonian issued a joint statement with the Cuban National Council of Cultural Heritage laying out plans to formalize current and future collaborations in the arts, sciences and humanities. Building on current environmental conservation, cultural sustainability, and artistic exchange projects, the Smithsonian and the National Council of Cultural Heritage look to produce a Smithsonian Folklife Festival program celebrating Cuban culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2017.
President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH)
The PCAH will work with organizers of the Havana Film Festival to offer a film event this summer. Through the PCAH Sundance Film Forward program, an international touring program will offer film screenings and discussions. PCAH, in partnership with cultural agencies of the Cuban government, will send two acclaimed films and their artists to Cuba for screenings in July 2016.
In addition to the film screenings, the President’s Committee announced it will recognize Cuba this year with its National Arts and Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) International Spotlight Honor. While in Havana the Committee observed four of the many after-school arts programs available for Cuban youth. The Spotlight honoree will be announced in Washington, DC in the Fall.
Renowned American architect Frank Gehry plans a multifaceted exchange, including facilitating visits between American architects and their Cuban counterparts and inviting aspiring Cuban architects to join his firm for summer-long fellowships in 2016 and 2017.
University of Miami’s acclaimed Frost School of Music will offer four full tuition scholarships for Cuban students wishing to pursue master’s degrees in music in the US.
The delegation included US cultural agency and committee leaders: the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) co-chairs George Stevens, Jr. and Margo Lion; National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu; National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman William Adams; and Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton. Other delegation members, artists, guests, media, and staff are available here.
Support for the delegation’s visit to Cuba has been generously provided by Airbnb, American Airlines, The Betsy-South Beach, the Ford Foundation, Inktel Holding Corp., and Libra Capital. American Airlines is the airline partner of the 2016 US Cultural Mission to Cuba. The Center for Democracy in the Americas worked with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to organize the itinerary.