With the support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a team from one of the country’s leading art conservation programs visited Cuba last month as part of a historic educational trip.
NEH Chairman William D. Adams announced the $30,000 grant to the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) on April 21, 2016, while he was in Cuba on a cultural mission with other government officials and artists from the U.S. as part of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities’ official U.S. delegation to Cuba.
The WUDPAC delegation arrived in November spent three days visiting Cuban cultural institutions and meeting with conservators to learn more about Cuban conservation practices, focusing on the conservation of paper, photographic materials, and paintings.
The team plans to visit and meet with their counterparts at la Casa de las Americas, la Biblioteca Nacional (National Library), el Consejo Nacional para el Patrimonio Cultural (National Council for Cultural Heritage), el Archivo Nacional de Cuba (National Archive of Cuba), and el Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts).
“The lives of Cubans and Americans have been connected for many years and in many ways, but nowhere more powerfully than in the cultural sphere—in our mutual appreciation of our literature, music, art, and history,” said Chairman Adams. “Now we have the opportunity to renew and deepen our cultural ties in ways that will contribute to the future well-being of our countries.”
The University of Delaware is home to one of the foremost art conservation programs in the country, due in part to the University’s partnership with Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, which provides graduate students with hands-on experience preserving valuable cultural artifacts. Debra Hess Norris, Unidel Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts and chair of the Department of Art Conservation, and Jocelyn Alcantara-Garcia, assistant professor of art conservation and a bilingual conservation research scientist, lead the eight-person delegation of students and professors visiting Cuba.
“I think that there is so much to be learned from this significant opportunity,” said Professor Norris. “My hope is that it is just the beginning of a much longer and richer cultural exchange where we will make connections with conservators and collection care professionals in Cuba.”
At the time the agency was created in 1965, relations between the U.S. and Cuba had already entered the difficult period that is now coming to a close. NEH grants over the years helped further understanding of Cuba’s culture and the history.
Since the agency’s founding in 1965, we have awarded 80 grants totaling $2.5 million to scholars, educators, and filmmakers who make Cuba the focus of their work.
NEH grants enabled the creation of a documentary on the history of Cuban jazz and its influence on musicians in the United States. NEH-supported scholars have studied the causes of Cuba’s 19th century sugar revolution, examined the connections between Cuban independence movements and anti-slavery campaigns in the United States, and traced the evolution of modern Cuban ballet.