A month after the historic visit by President Obama, the first ever U.S. government cultural mission to Cuba arrived in Havana. I was fortunate to be a part of the delegation along with our NEA chairman, Jane Chu. From the Cuban people we met, to the government officials we spoke with, to the Cuban artists who spent time showing us their craft, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of those we met and a strong feeling of common purpose.
The president described his trip as extending the hand of friendship to the Cuban people, and our agency’s work through this mission continued to build and deepen the connections that will continue this historic collaboration with the Cuban people and artists.
From concerts featuring Cuban musicians performing along with delegation members Usher, Smokey Robinson, and Dave Mathews, to bilateral meetings with ministers, vice ministers, and directors of cultural institutions, we learned a great deal and accomplished even more. The NEA announced that it is providing $100,000 to support artistic cultural exchanges between U.S. and Cuban artists. The two exchange opportunities build on existing NEA programs that promote artistic exchange, education, and cross-cultural connections—USArtists International and Southern Exposure: Performing Arts of Latin America. Each program will receive $50,000 to fund the expanded activities.
This photo gallery will give you an idea of some of the serious and not-so-serious moments from the mission, including Cuban and U.S. musicians performing together, U.S. mission delegation officials meeting with their Cuban Ministry of Culture counterparts, and wonderful events where we had the opportunity to see and talk first hand with some of Cuba’s talented artists.
By Jess Sarmiento, NEA Public Affairs Director, National Endowment for the Arts
May 26, 2016