14ymedio, Havana, 16 October 2023 – The Cuban Art Factory (FAC) has rebelled against the decisions of the two Ministries of Energy & Mining and of Culture. In the face of energy shortages the government imposed an energy plan, which in practice implied that they would have to close, but the centre refused and asked their loyal followers to ’bring their own energy’ to support them.
“Our cultural and social commitment motivates us to re-invent the working structure of the institution to avoid the closure of FAC for the time being. For this reason we are announcing that The Cuban Art Factory will keep its doors open whilst looking for creative solutions that won’t affect the National Grid” (SEN), the centre explained via social media on Saturday.
Signed by its founder and the rest of the team – the musician X Alfonso and the FacinBand – the message explained that they reopened on 5 October (after a month’s programmed closure) with an energy allocation reduced by 80%. Because of this, the consequence would be that they could only open for two days a month instead of the previous 16 (Thursday to Sunday).
“We are aware of the energy situation in Cuba and consequently we have accepted the energy-saving plan established for the state sector, limiting energy use as much as we can in our offices and other FAC spaces, in order to contribute to the reasonable use of the country’s energy resources”, they explain.
FAC rejects SEN’s energy allocation and says it will keep its doors open with the help of audiences, artistes and any followers from all parts of the country who wish to contribute
In its post the institution defends its position, being as it is the foremost cultural centre on the island – having more than 300 concerts, 70 exhibitions, 60 dance performances, 40 theatre shows, 40 fashion shows, as well as a long list of social actions to its name. “And this is at an affordable ticket price of only 250 CUP, when general access to art in Cuba is increasingly expensive and real experiences of genuine art are becoming pretty scarce”.
FAC rejects SEN’s energy allocation and says it will keep its doors open with the help of audiences, artistes and any followers from all parts of the country who wish to contribute. “Considering the impact of the arts and culture on a society that needs hope and beauty in order to carry on resisting, we feel we have to find creative solutions, without having to create additional burdens”, says the text.
On Saturday, according to the announcement, FAC opened up, having power only from its own generators, plus some lanterns and the light from more than 300 phones of its workers, “who, if FAC were to close, would become unemployed”, the text emphasises, in words which are almost taboo for Cuban officialdom.
“The way we’re going there’ll be no need to shut them up because they won’t have any electricity to operate their motormouths”
“Bring your own light and join us in this adventure for keeping FAC’s heart beating!” they ask.
The resulting torrent of commentary over the whole weekend has been intense. FAC, situated in Calle 26, El Vedado, has become a central point of reference for Havana culture; it is also very much frequented by tourists. In 2019 Time magazine included it in a list of the 100 best venues in the world.
The venue first opened in 2014, in the ruins of a former oil-manufacturing company. Today it occupies two floors, with exhibition areas for photography, design and architecture; a cinema and a theatre; dance studios; bars; a cafe and a restaurant offering international cuisine.
After the long hiccup of the pandemic it reopened its doors in April 2022 using the Cuban Peso as official currency. And in spite of inflation it managed to maintain its previous entry price at 250 CUP.
Many commentators have made enthusiastic proposals for organising the purchase of solar panels for the building, although it would need a huge amount of them, much more than the installation of “torches”, as one contributor suggests. Just maintaining an adequate temperature can be very difficult with a deficit of energy, and on the whole such a project would seem unviable.
Other commentators think the whole thing is just the last straw and they satirise the situation: “If they’re wanting to shut the FAC, tell them to all just shut up”, says one, while another replies: “The way we’re going there’ll be no need to shut them up because they won’t have any electricity to operate their motormouths”.
In a city whose nightlife is increasingly limited by energy problems, an exodus of artistes and a deterioration of entertainment venues, FAC has become one of the last options available for the younger people. Its diverse programme, its numerous spaces and its very location all attract a heterogeneous public hungry for culture.
Translated by Ricardo Recluso
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