Recommendations

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Orchestra Solistas de la Havana perform at La Fábrica de Arte Cubano. Photo by: Tricia Johnson

Social media training

Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are easier to load with the weak Internet connection in Cuba than larger websites, and as such can be updated more easily, making them an obvious tool for Cuban artists and dancers. However, these artists have grown up with extremely limited Internet accessibility, meaning that they lack the innate understanding of social media that is becoming ever more prevalent throughout the rest of the world. Judging from conversations with individual artists, as well as with public relations staff at institutions such as the Museo de Bellas Artes and La Fábrica del Arte Cubano, social media training would be immensely beneficial in promoting Cuban arts and culture. Trainings should focus on how artists and organizers can create and leverage social media pages to boost their number of followers, increase their audience, and gain international attention from the press. Using hashtags, compelling photo campaigns, and viral videos, artists could more easily connect with new audiences outside Cuba.

Role of Paypal

Currently, credit cards are not used in Cuba. To buy tickets to the Opera, Ballet, or any other show, audience members must visit the box office and purchase tickets with cash. For tourists planning trips from abroad, this limits their ability to plan ahead and buy tickets early. By the time they arrive in Cuba, tickets may already be sold out. In the future, if credit cards become a widely accepted form of payment, dance companies, musicians, museums, and galleries could sell tickets online through PayPal, Venmo, or a similar service. This would allow tourists to purchase tickets before arriving to the country, on a simple platform they already trust. With the prevalence of smartphones, Square or another similar service could facilitate payment as well. These services allow users to accept payments with only a smartphone and card reader. Galleries, artists, and musicians would not need to invest in significant infrastructure to accept credit card payments from visiting tourists, who also would not need to worry about running out of cash, which is currently a very real concern for visitors to Cuba.

Etsy-like site for selling art

Cuban art is in high demand outside of Cuba, and Cuban artists are in need of additional income. Artists who have websites cannot access the Internet often enough to update information and lose out on sales as a result. If one common site existed for Cuban art (something along the lines of Etsy), and was managed by a team with consistent access to the Internet, this site could be the intermediary between Cuban artists with limited Internet access and buyers outside of the country. For example, artists selling their work on the Paseo del Prado expressed great interest in this idea, saying that this would help them to be more visible despite their limitations. Similar online platforms have been created and implemented to preserve and promote arts and culture in other developing countries with limited access to the Internet, such as the work of Kuru artists from Dekar, Botswana.

Constraints

While the arts and culture sector in Cuba is generally more open to creative ICT solutions than other sectors, limitations are still very present. Interventions such as trainings and workshops, online payment options, and online sales platforms are dependent on stringent government restrictions. Currently, outsiders must receive approval to run workshops for Cubans. This “official” approval can take a long time to come through and is in no way guaranteed. Creating an online art platform would necessitate working within Cuba’s business restrictions, and facilitating partnerships for payment and delivery of art pieces similar to the case of Airbnb and other offline websites functioning in Cuba now. Despite these limitations, opportunities to leverage ICT for arts and culture in Cuba seem plentiful, and will depend both on working with the existing system and continuing to make adjustments given the context.

Written by: Tricia Johnson and Laura Lehman