Marisa Arbona-Ruiz reports on Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World for NBC News. This series of events encompassing Cuban music, dance, fashion, theater, film, and visual arts, opened on May 8 and continues through May 20, 2018.
The Kennedy Center is hosting over 400 Cuban and Cuban-American artists as part of the Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World, encompassing Cuban music, dance, fashion, theatre, film and visual arts, taking place from May 8th through the 20th.
Three years in the making, it comes in the shadow of the Trump administration’s tougher policy toward the Cuban government and Cuba’s transition to a new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Despite all the changes, the festival’s lineup is historic.
“It’s unprecedented for this many Cuban artists to be gathered for a two-week festival, in this country — and I understand from the Cubans, anywhere else in world,” said Alicia Adams, vice president of International Programming and Festival Curator for the Kennedy Center. [. . .]
On the festival’s first day on Tuesday, the legendary Omara Portuondo, 87, known to fans around the world as the “Diva” of the musical group Buena Vista Social Club, performed to a cheering and sold-out audience.
“It brings me such joy and pride to share my feelings, in the music and in the humanity here,” Portuondo said after her performance. [. . .]
Multidisciplinary artist and first generation Cuban-American José Parlá said artists have been a “bridge” between the two countries, and praised the significance of the festival.
“It’s taken a long time for this to happen,” he said. “It’s a shame. But we’re here — art can be a very powerful tool.”
Cuban visual artist “Raupa” (Raúl Valdés González) likened the efforts to make the events happen to an “unstoppable train.” At the opening concert, audience member Emilio Bernal Labrada said he had “never seen anything like this” since leaving Cuba 60 years ago. In the past, he has relied on smaller art festivals in Miami for his homeland infusion of culture.
Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, has been instrumental in urging more diversity and inclusion to the Kennedy Center Honors awards and events. For Cuban artists, “their identity is being recognized like never before,” said Sanchez. “It’s not polished, it’s not manicured, it’s original — the relatability of the event and the talent is what makes us want to share in it.”
Sharing the stage with Omara Portuondo in a stream of performances were Cubadisco award-winning pianist Rolando Luna, the Havana Lyceum Orchestra, jazz composer and pianist Aldo López-Gavilán, acclaimed composer and musician Yosvany Terry, pianist Jorge Luis Pacheco, the renowned Orquesta Miguel Faílde and GRAMMY nominated Aymée Nuviola whose dynamic and rousing performance brought the audience to their feet, before teaming up in a beautiful duet with Portuondo. [. . .]