Miami’s Living, Breathing Cuban Diaspora

This October's ArtTable panel discussion at Books & Books in Coral Gables was quite fascinating. What a trip down a treasure-filled memory lane!

Kudos to El Nuevo Herald art critic Adriana Herrera for putting together this panel on Miami's Cuban Diaspora and of course to the panelists themselves: collector Arturo Mosquera and artists George Sanchez Calderon, Ana Albertina Delgado, and Pedro Vizcaino. Scholar and Florida International University professor Juan Martinez did an inspired job of moderating. Of course, he had such knowledge to bring to this job!

I remember when he gave a talk at Cernuda Arte on Carlos Enriquez, one of my favorite artists. I brought Juan's terrific book to the lecture, Cuban Art and National Identity: The Vanguard Painters 1927-1950. He was so nice to autograph it for me then. "To my colleague and friend," Juan wrote.

It was a remarkable discussion. A special memory the discussion sparked: when I heard Arturo speak about his collection, I thought how I had recently been to the opening of the exhibit of his collection at Miami's Freedom Tower. I had been so touched to see there one of Carlos Alfonzo's haunting black paintings, painted near the end of his life. You could see a fetus form, redolent of life and death, curled up inside this beautiful abstraction.

I remember interviewing Carlos at the Bass Museum when these black paintings were exhibited, and then how sad I was when he died some months later.

It is quite wonderful now that there's a website devoted to this absolutely astonishing exhibit about Arturo's collection at the Freedom Tower gallery, part of the Miami Dade College Art Gallery System. Visit the website at

In the audience I saw many artcentric friends, including Robert Chambers and Mette Tommerup. Robert told me a bit about his new public art project. I wish I could describe it here as well as he did for me. Robert, perhaps you could post a comment on my blog telling us about it in more detail? Perhaps Brandi R of Miami's fab public art program could also chime in?

Also I saw Ileana Fuentes, now cultural consultant for the Cuban Museum in Coral Gables. I recall how she was a co-editor, along with my Miami Dade College colleague Ricardo Pau-Llosa, of the catalog for "Outside Cuba: Contemporary Cuban Visual Artists,"which opened at the Zimmerli Art Museum of Rutgers University in 1987. It traveled to several institutions, later coming to the Center for the Fine Arts (now called Miami Art Museum) in 1988. I remember meeting Ileana when she was working for the Cuban Museum in Little Havana, and had curated a show with, I believe, Cesar Trasobares, Pablo Cano, and Lydia Rubio, and of course many other Cuban artists working then in Miami.

Ileana had some exceedingly thoughtful comments to make that night. Again, I wish I had written them down more carefully. Ileana, perhaps you could recap some of those comments by posting a comment on my blog? And it would be wonderful if you could update us on the latest with the Cuban Museum in Coral Gables.

It is quite exciting to feel so much generously artcentric energy in Miami these days.

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