The sunlight and distant sound of upbeat music hit me as I exited the Judiciary Square Metro escalator. The music steadily got louder as I made my way towards the National Gallery of Art, and I finally found the source as I reached Pennsylvania Avenue. It was a group performing on one of a few stages at a Hispanic heritage festival, Fiesta DC. Fiesta DC is a group that has been organizing Latino events for 46 years and was one of the many events that are planned for this month. This weekend started off with a parade on Saturday and a festival on Sunday.
I decided to walked around the festival, taking in the various tents, tables, and stands sold everything from funnel cakes to jerseys. While sipping my pineapple smoothie I wandered around taking in the music, smells, and chatter.
Before I knew it, it was time to head in the National Gallery of Art to see a lecture from Carlos Garaicoa. The Cuban artist was sporting a man bun, black suit, and stylish blue sneakers. A few minutes into the discussion, I learned that Garaicoa was born and raised in Havana, Cuba and served his mandatory three years in the Cuban military. He was studying math and science before he took on painting as a hobby, and found himself enjoying it. It was then that he chose to attend Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) where he refined his passion. However, he refused the military’s request to serve another three months, so he never officially graduated. Garaicoa told the crowd that after finishing his time at ISA, he put on his resumes that he graduated art school without receiving a diploma.
The audience got to hear him speak about various different projects he completed as they were projected on the screen above him. I soon saw that Garaicoa has dabbled with many different art forms, including photography, painting, installations, pop-up books, videos, and sculptures. Hearing him speak about Cuba helped me understand how he incorporates politics, history, and architecture into his work. For most of his career, Garaicoa has walked around Cuba and captured what he saw through his art. In some of his installations, pieces from cities were put together to recreate them in their former glory.
In one of my favorite projects by Garaicoa, he went back to places where he had captured photographs 10 years earlier and recreated them. He then filled in the missing architecture with colored thread in order to “create another part of history.”
The lecture ended with questions and a book signing to follow. I will never forget Garaicoa’s firm belief that “Art belong[s] to the people.”
PHOTO BY ANNA CESTARI