ICT in the arts

ICT factors primarily into two aspects of the art scene in Cuba: promotion of art and creation of art. The web presence of artists varies, from no presence at all (relying on word of mouth and telephone calls for promotion) to state-of-the-art promotional websites.

Social media and web pages

Many artists, galleries, dance companies, and musicians use Facebook, blogs, and other forms of social media pages. However, because of the slow, expensive Internet, artists cannot log on frequently enough to keep their sites up to date. For example, this photojournalist last updated his website in 2010, though he is still an active photographer selling his work in Cuba. When artists are able to post new content, it can be difficult to find. With a global Internet culture that calls for continuous posts and new content, Cuban artists cannot keep up and stay relevant online. However, artists have found many workarounds to adapt to this situation. Some artists work with galleries outside of Cuba, who keep their websites updated. Some send videos, photos, or other content on USB drives with friends or family members when they leave the country. This content is then uploaded in other countries, where the Internet connection is faster and cheaper. Fidel Garcia, a Cuban installation artist, has an offline replica of his website saved to an external hard drive, so that he can show interested people his work without being online. Other artists wait for the opportunity to leave Cuba on tours to other countries, holding onto their content until they can update it. Instagram is not widely used for art promotion in Cuba, and many of the artists interviewed had never heard of it.
La Fábrica de Arte Cubano is an exception to the irregular internet use. Their state of the art, mobile-optimized webpage and Facebook page are updated regularly to announce current exhibitions and events, share photos, and connect with Cubans and tourists alike. There is WiFi access for the employees at La Fábrica, which enables this process. For visitors, the La Fábrica provides access to an Intranet, and internal network that can be accessed by anyone in La Fábrica with a smart phone. They also have an app that is downloadable directly from their website, allowing people to connect with each other and interact with the art in a new way while on the premises of La Fábrica.
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The webpage and Facebook page of La Fábrica del Arte Cubano


Promotion of art events

Event organizers use ICT in different ways for the promotion of new events, openings, and shows in Cuba. Aside from print notices and the occasional Facebook event, artists and art spaces employ mass SMS systems to get the word out. In the underground art world, a collective called Pala Música Underground publishes monthly news and analysis about the underground scene, spreading the word about events and exhibitions through email and SMS. Sometimes, these services are organized by a third party company, which collects numbers and sends messages. In other cases, it is as simple as a Word document that an organization updates with names and numbers to manually send out messages—a tedious and imprecise process. Most organizations and institutions choose to pay a third party to manage their SMS promotion, rather than relying on the antiquated second option outlined above. In addition to SMS notifications, organizers use other offline methods of disseminating information. For example, graphic artists create posters that are distributed and hung in public places. Organizers also rely on word of mouth and social networks to reach a wide audience, and send emails to people's Nauta email accounts, which can be accessed offline.

Creation

A few graphic designers in Cuba explained to the research team that they use the same software that designers in the United States use: the Adobe Suite for design and Dreamweaver or WordPress to build websites. Some artists use Apple computers to manage soundboards during orchestra performances, while others program elaborate lighting systems that can sync to and change with the music. These artists are generally self-taught, with their technology often obtained from outside of Cuba. Cubans can buy tech products on Revolico.com as well, but these are marked up by as much as 30-50% what they sell for in the United States.
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The setup of a lighting system that synchs with music, before a performance run out of the event organizer's house
Photos by: Tricia Johnson


Conclusion

Cuban artists and art promoters integrate ICT in their work in different ways, ranging from using their cell phones to contacting buyers to creating state-of-the-art websites and social media pages. ICT is used throughout the creative process with a heavy emphasis on promoting and sharing artists’ work. However, there is still much room for growth. Artists face many challenges when integrating ICT into their work, but many opportunities to integrate ICT exist, once the appropriate tools have been identified, which has the potential to increase artists’ reach to worldwide audiences.

Written by: Tricia Johnson and Laura Lehman