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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Renowned Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa, exhibiting his work at Art Basel Miami Beach, is helping artists in his native island as the world keeps an eye on its relations with the United States.

“Cuba right now is like a big fashion. Okay everyone wanted to talk about that,” said Garaicoa. “Now, it’s appearing in front of us this new market or what’s supposed to be a new market, a new trend, and we are trying to answer about that.”

He says the situation is something that has changed the art world’s view of Cuban art and its artists but not really the view of Cuban artists on the art world.

“What happened now is the political situation is really imposing on us a new way to observe,” he said. “This means as an artist, being an artist for 20 years and facing now that you become interesting again because the political situation between Cuba and America has changed is very …you feel like a little strange…as an artist you sort of understand that the construction of the art scene doesn’t happen because the map changed from one day to another.”

But it has helped his project, Artista x Artista, or Artist For Artist, based out of Havana.

“It’s more easy because they bother us less,” said Garaicoa. “All this move that Cuba been doing to move, kind of liberate a little bit the economy is one of the big issues there and now, with the approach to America, to the United States, I think has become more solid, this idea that they are giving us more space. They are giving more space to people who are entrepreneurial, people who want to develop ideas.”

Artists Carlos Garaicoa talks with a panel of artists on the new role for art in Cuba on December 3, 2015. (Source: Facebook/ Estudio Carlos Garaicoa)

Artists Carlos Garaicoa talks with a panel of artists on the new role for art in Cuba on December 3, 2015. (Source: Facebook/ Estudio Carlos Garaicoa)

As part of the project, Garaicoa works to help Cuban artists and others around the world, express and develop their work.

“It’s basically supporting artists producing work, support some catalog, something, give money away to develop ideas,” he said.

It’s something he started in Havana back in 2006 and continued developing from Madrid, Spain when he left Cuba for political and economical reasons just a year later.

“It’s something very casual and very much coming from this idea of curating shows inside my studio and creating a network of people,” said Garaicoa. “I really believe in this idea of sharing possibilities and space.”

As part of his work, he is bringing people to Havana to stay there for one month paid for through a grant. In exchange, they are taking young Cuban artists abroad.

He says, just this year, they were able to finally fund the project in Havana and started to give international artists residence in the city.

It’s something he hopes to expand and share in the art community.

“I hope to establish twenty grants a year at least. Ten cuban artists going there and 10 international artists coming in,” said Garaicoa.

He says aside from his project, he sees other changes on the island.

“I can see that something is happening in a different way now,” he said mentioning the gallery in which he displays some of his work – Galleria Continua.  He said they opened a gallery in Cuba, making it the first international gallery that opened a space in Cuba, “not as a private gallery but as a private space,” he clarified.

“I think it’s a very good moment now, not only because of the attention. It’s because the doors are more open in general,” said Garaicoa. “I think in Cuba, Cuban art and Cuban culture it’s more of this kind of change as well.”

As for what artists can do in this political climate, he says, “they can generate small movements in a small situation in society. They can touch a certain part of the community. I do believe in the necessity of more involved education programs. I think the most important probably is that we keep this critical eye in the center of everything, in the center of the institution.”

He went on to clarify, “I don’t expect the artist to become stronger politicians because we are not that….I think that art and visual art have the capability to move the people in a very special way that can really make them understand things in a very special way.”

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