After last year’s difficult goodbyes to the Muraleando project, we questioned throughout the year whether we would return so soon, yet here we are again! I was sitting in the studio in Winnipeg one day working away, random music playing in the background when all of a sudden one of my favourite Cuban tunes started to play. By the end of that day and after an easy talk and arm twisting session with Terry, we were booked. It had been a very trying year for me personally this year with my father in Thunder Bay encountering some major life changing circumstances, but after numerous trips back and forth, he was finally settled and stable, and I could finally regroup and where better than in Havana! Everything about that city stirs and heals my soul – the music, the art, the people, the architecture and the streets …my list is endless! Our visit was shorter this year, and unfortunately we were both a little under the weather for a few days, but we made the most of it. I conducted two workshops for children in a smaller but very interesting new community art project in Havana known as Proyectongo. It is a small group effort headed by my dear friend and talented artist and teacher Yoan Barrios. He brings his past experience in the Muraleando project and his love of art, back now finally, to the children in his own neighbourhood of San Franscisco de Paula in Havana.
In a short period of time, Proyectongo has established itself as a true community social art project, and has been given much well-deserved support from other artists, the community itself and the local government. The University of Havana has also taken note and this year awarded the project with well-deserved recognition and gave them a distinguished designation as a remote pilot site for the arts program of the university.
It is the intent of Proyectongo to remain relatively small in order to be able to provide the best programming possible given the skills, space and resources that they currently have within their reach. They have a small but manageable working studio and space for workshops and instead of tables for the children to work on they have clipboards…but it works. It’s a place to start! Of course Yoan Barrios and his supporters have dreams of a larger space but for now they are content with building a strong and reliable presence in the neighbourhood.
My workshops with the children were wonderful. I was blown away by the talent in this young inexperienced group. I decided to tackle sculpture this year for the first time and was a bit nervous but the results were fantastic. The best part of the workshops, are always the end when parents come to pick up their children and see what they’ve created. I always look forward to the look on the parent’s faces when they arrive – disbelief and pure joy for the opportunity their children have just had. And even though I wasn’t planning to conduct a workshop for women this year, I had brought along some supplies to leave, so at the last minute I decided to join them for a sock/doll-making workshop….they looked at me like I was nuts when I told them I wanted them to make something that didn’t look pretty! I was trying to stretch their creative imaginations!
So, as long as I am still going to Havana in the future, I will continue to do what I can, where I can. I especially love being able to connect with the Cuban children through art. They are always so respectful and appreciative of having an international visitor come to help, and so surprised by what they can create with a little guidance and a few more interesting supplies other than Crayolas! And, don’t get me wrong Crayolas are great…I encourage anyone visiting countries such as Cuba to fill whatever space they have left in their suitcases with art supplies, and find a community project or a school to which to donate them. One small gesture like this can make a huge difference and bring a lot of joy to these children who have had so little.