Cuban exhibit at Weisman canceled

Emily Kaiser

After four years of working on a new exhibit at the University’s Weisman Art Museum, director Lyndel King had to cancel it.

The exhibit, scheduled to open in early 2005, would have showcased Cuban art.

Because of the current political climate between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. State Department told the nine Cuban artists there was little chance they would receive visas to show their exhibit, King said.

The exhibit was going to show art that goes against the stereotype of Cuban art in the United States, King said.

“(The curators) wanted to work with us to do an exhibition that would present Cuban artists more as artists that could take a place beside others of the world,” King said.

The artists planned to come to the Weisman to construct and build on their exhibit. They also planned to interview Minnesota residents about their impressions of Cuba.

The United States does not have an embassy in Cuba, so the artists had to go through an interests section of the State Department to receive approval.

The artists were ready to apply for their visas last month, but were told there was a very slim chance their applications would be accepted, King said.

Officials at the interests sections told King that out of all the Cuban artists who have applied for U.S. visas in the last nine months, only one was accepted. That person was accepted because of personal reasons, King said.

The United States often refuses visas to Cuban artists because it considers them to be employees of the Cuban government. The United States’ embargo against Cuba prevents the support of any of the country’s employees, a State Department spokesman said.

“We continue to make decisions on visa applications for Cuban artists on a case-by-case basis and we issue visas only when the applicant qualifies under U.S. law,” he said.

After debating over whether it was worth the risk to have the artists apply for visas, directors and curators decided to cancel the exhibit, said Ann Benrud, public affairs director at the museum.

If the artists were to apply and have their applications rejected, the stamp on their passports could jeopardize their opportunities to visit other countries, King said.

“Some artists who apply for visas and are rejected had

trouble going to other countries,” King said. “The other countries didn’t understand what the rejection meant and artists were struggling over a misunderstanding.”

But Benrud said the cancellation goes much deeper than just the one exhibit.

“You feel like people should have artistic expression

and certain freedoms,” she said. “Here’s this country

just 90 miles away from

the United States which is seemingly no threat to us and

it makes no sense that they couldn’t come here for an art exhibit.”

Because of the cancellation, the Weisman is moving up an exhibition of early 20th century paintings by Alfred Maurer that was set to be displayed in January 2006.

Weisman officials said they hope to bring the Cuban exhibit back in the future, despite the dimming possibility the artists will be able to come to the United States.

“I think the public will really be missing out on something that could lead to further understanding of another country,” Benrud said.