Following the Cuban revolution in 1959, artists were among the few groups allowed freedom under the regime of Fidel Castro, as art was regarded as a cornerstone of the country’s cultural distinction. In the 1990s, for instance, artists were considered employees of the state, who were permitted to keep part of their earnings and to travel outside the nation. Today, Havana is arguably one of the world’s major art cities.
Cuba Uncensored is a showcase of contemporary Cuban artwork from the private collection of Stephen Mindich and Maria Lopez. A former Superior Court judge who was born in Cuba, Lopez and her husband, who was owner of the Boston Phoenix, started traveling to Cuba in 1998 and collected works by top Cuban artists.
This show boasts some of Cuba’s leading abstract and figurative painters, such as Flora Fong, Rigoberto Mena, and Sandra Ramos. The centerpiece of the exhibition is by Julio Girona, a renowned Cuban artist, sculptor, writer, and cartoonist.
Many of the artists in this show created works during Cuba’s Special Period, a fiscal crisis caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had propped up the island nation’s economy for decades. Yet the Cuban art scene thrived despite shortages of art supplies. “Hardship can stimulate creativity,” says Lopez.
Cuba Uncensored is also a natural extension of the relationship between Northeastern University and Cuba. In 2017, President Joseph E. Aoun signed an agreement with the University of Havana to expand on Northeastern’s research in coastal sustainability, tropical disease, and the social sciences; this was the most comprehensive academic initiative by an American institution in Cuba. Northeastern also offers students opportunities to learn and work in Cuba, thanks to both Dialogue of Civilizations—a faculty-led program that allows students to live, work, and study in an unfamiliar country—and the university’s cooperative education program.