Article by Luis Joaquim Rodriguez
(Translated by Stuart Ashman)
SAME ARTICLE IN SPANISH
The idea of renovating a space for the construction of a gallery of Arte Naif emerged as part of a plan to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Santiago de Cuba. In addition, in 2014, the Grupo Bayate planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the group’s founding. This was proposed to the authorities of the province, headed by Lázaro Expósito Canto, as a way of encouraging the work by the “Grupo de Pintores Naif Bayate” (Group of Naive Painters, Bayate)
Now, six years later, the creation of the gallery, “Bayate,” is the fulfillment of a long held dream of the artists who have been involved in this popular art form for many years. The space was created to facilitate the artistic production and the culture of the Naif painters. The Bayate Group is headquartered in the small town of Mella, which is located near Santiago de Cuba, a city where the arts are forged and where a thriving cultural tradition has developed.
How was an old refrigeration shop acquired and converted into an art gallery? A building that was in grave disrepair and practically a ruin became a realized dream thanks to the tenacity, hard work, and dedication of this group of painters. The economic support for the construction of the Estudio Taller de Arte Naif Bayate came from annual sales of the group’s art works at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, N. M. In addition, support was received from the Office of the Historian of the City of Santiago de Cuba.
The gallery is located in the center of Santiago de Cuba on 458 Calle Santo Tomás. The 3,230 square-foot gallery is designed for exhibition and education. The profile of the space is unique in the entire country and has as its principal objectives research, education, promotion and exposure of Naif painting.
With this in mind, two salons were created. One is dedicated to the memory of Ruperto Jay Matamoros, the first exponent of this type of art work in Cuba. The other space, the Ekman Salon: Man and Nature, is dedicated to the protection of the environment. Both salons are part of the cultural program, and exhibitions are presented there, accompanied by catalogs that serve to chronicle the events and activities.
These events also include academic programs where researchers and curators participate, placing the exhibits and the works of the artists within an art historical context and thus demonstrating the importance of popular art in Cuba.
The Estudio Taller Arte Naif has created a special educational program for children and young people who are interested in painting in the Naif style. The goal is to foster future painters that will continue in the Arte Naif de Bayate tradition.
The space itself is a component of the “Proyect Socio-Cultural Comunitario Ruta Cultural Bayate” (Community Socio-Cultural Project of the Bayate Cultural Route) in the town of Mella. This project is represented as a subsidiary of UNEAC (The Cuban National Organization of Artists and Writers) in Santiago de Cuba.
At present, this project is comprised of 20 members who have achieved a high artistic and aesthetic level in their work, which makes them a part of the Cuban contemporary art scene. Although this group of men and women are distinguished in the art world, they have many different origins and professions. Represented are a baker, a policeman, a housewife, technicians, professors, drivers, health care workers, mechanics, retirees, farmers and the self-employed. They come from various provinces, such as Granma, Las Tunas, Holguín, Guantánamo and Santiago de Cuba.
The goal for the future is that the gallery Estudio Taller Arte Naif, Bayate will be the path toward the creation of a National Museum of Naïve Art in Cuba.
LUIS “EL ESTUDIANTE” JOAQUIN RODRIGUEZ
is General Coordinator, Proyecto Bayate. He is a Naif painter who lives and works in Mella, Cuba.
photo by Ann Oppenhimer
As seen in the Folk Art Messenger: