Every December, Havana hosts FIART, Cuba's International Arts and Crafts Fair, organized by the Cuban Cultural Assets Fund. In addition to providing a place where artists and artisans from a number of different countries can share their work and ideas with the general public, the fair has become one of the most important platforms for promoting contemporary Cuban visual arts. The event is one of the most anxiously awaited cultural spaces of the season, and thousands of people flock to the fair annually.
The 17th FIART will be held from Dec. 6 to 22, and this year the venue is the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress, an 18th century fortification that majestically protects the entry to Havana Bay and a World Heritage site. Ceramics, textiles, furniture… a whole universe of arts and crafts, along with other cultural products, will take over the galleries of the ancient fortress, allowing visitors to appreciate the wealth of Cuban artistic creation today. In a metaphorical sense, this year's FIART proposes that we enter this space for art where the contemporary and the traditional converge.
This year's fair is dedicated to crafts related to Cuban cigars and Pinar del Río province, which is home to the plantations of the world's best tobacco. The Cuban cigar is a legacy of the island's indigenous people, the Taíno, and fascinates people the world over for its intensity and aroma. The artists and artisans of Pinar del Río have been inspired for centuries by the seductive cosmogony of tobacco, creating unique works and lines of products with that theme; their excellence has helped to make Cuban cigars, or habanos, into the international legend that they are. In a celebration of this, FIART will feature an extensive exhibition of exceptional pieces by top representatives of Cuba's tobacco-related applied arts and crafts. All visitors are invited to be witness to a unique, memorable experience.
During the fair, the public will be able to participate in a wide range of activities, including the expo/sale of crafts, visual arts, and other cultural products by local and international creators; visual arts exhibitions; fashion shows featuring Cuban designers; and a conference, “Craftwork Today: Challenges, Perspectives and Opportunities.”
Over the course of these events, a jury of prestigious Cuban visual arts critics and researchers will judge and award works and products at the fair that best express the integration of artisanship and design, preserve traditional techniques and processes, contribute to both local and national economic and social development, and express the values of the identity of their culture.
In its early days, the International Arts and Crafts Fair was only for craftwork. As the years have gone by, the communicational relevance that the event has gained has made it possible for it to feature broader thematic exhibition areas. Now, when you tour the fair's halls, you can see a variety of exquisitely designed and unique pieces, handcrafted decorative and utilitarian objects that reflect national and foreign traditions, and stands from other sectors of culture that are part of the visual arts system and that take advantage of the fair to promote their lines of work.
This deliberate expansion of the fair to new objectives is related to the interest of various Cuban cultural sectors in fostering greater interrelationships and a more active role by creative sectors in society's development. FIART's theme is “Art, Utility, and Skill,” and it supports the importance of the cultural and creative industries as channels of sustainable development; the need for interrelated work among artisans, artists, and designers, along with other types of creators; and the social obligation of protecting the intangible heritage and knowledge of the peoples.
Last year, the fair featured participants from 15 countries. This year, that number is expected to increase. Responses to the official announcement have come from Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Spain, and Venezuela. Foreign artists, artisans, associations and creative companies find FIART to be a sui generis space for promoting their products, because it is associated with marketing and the opening of new businesses on the island, along with activities for reflecting on the sector of arts and crafts and cultural products.
The majority of exhibitors at the fair and the most important figures in this event are Cuba's artists and artisans. All of the country's provinces, represented by their respective branches of the Cuban Cultural Assets Fund, go through a year-long process of selecting the artists and projects that will represent them at FIART. This ensures the presence of the most representative arts and crafts from every part of the island, and the best handcrafted products that can contribute to the country's economic and social development.
FIART is an opportunity to learn about Cuba through its broad array of cultural manifestations and in the context of exchange with participants from other countries. There is no better occasion for selecting a souvenir of your visit to the island, or for acquiring an artistically valuable piece. In addition, anyone interested in expanding or initiating business in Cuba, specifically in the area of culture, will find the fair to be an important setting for promotion.
This fiesta of Cuban creators and international guests will take place from December 6 to 22. Come to the gates of the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress, which sits like a balcony over the entrance to the Port of Havana, and enjoy an interesting gathering. We hope to see you there.