Havana Bienal, 2012

Located within the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de San Agustín (MAC SAN), a museum without walls, SANcafé  riffed on the ubiquitous  triad of museum gallery guide, cafe and bookstore. Cuban arts organization Laboratorio Artístico de San Agustín  (LASA), created MAC in  an abandoned communications building located at the outside edge of Havana, Cuba.  LASA, which has built an international reputation, invites artists from Cuba, Europe and other  countries in the Americas to participate in their innovative and resourceful socially engaged projects.

Book and Wheel was invited to participate as one of 12  international projects.  LASA learned that residents wanted a museum, local public library and a site for small  businesses among many  other ideas. With residents’ desires in mind, Kate Connell and Oscar Melara created SANcafé together with artist, Lauren Elder. Connell and Melara created the “gallery guide” and “bookstore,” while Elder worked on the “cafe.” In place of a gallery guide, Connell and Melara created a map of local  organic farms that folded into a book describing local farmers and their produce. The “bookstore” took the form of a downloadable library of Spanish language pdfs on biodiversity, organic farming and ecology. Four of Connell’s fellow librarians at City College of San Francisco worked on the library.  While Connell and Melara created the map and digital library, Elder worked with local farmers to create a tasting menu made with local produce and products.

Hidden in the “gallery guide,” Mapa de Cultivos de San  Agustín/Manual de Sabores,” were tiny  ladybugs, the  organic farmers’ friend. Prizes for most ladybugs found were Spanish language books.

Connell and Melara worked with Laura Brainin-Rodriguez, a nutritionist with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, who contributed nutritional information and cooking suggestions to the  Book of Flavors/Manual de Sabores relevant to the Caribbean meals she  grew up on.

Cuban librarian Dafne Farach Taruba joined Connell and Melara in San Agustín, worked on the project at MAC SAN and contributed Spanish language resources on nutrition. Once the Bienal closed, she moved the SANcafé Laptop Library to the Marianao Public Library where she works.

SANcafé was made possible by many collaborators in San Francisco who donated time, money, laptops as well as their musicianship and a Portola venue for fundraising. Thank you: Lorraine Leber and Haven Falk, Nutrional information: Laura Brainin-Rodriguez, Librarians: Lisa Velarde (Collection Manager), Michele Alaníz and Charlotte Bagby, Donors: Padilla-Brainin Family, James Lim, Thurston Family, Escobedo Family, Gallegos Family

LASA continues to do exciting, thought-provoking work in San Agustín. Thank you to Candelario, Aurelie Sampeur, Catherine Sicot and Danay Gil Martinez, for the opportunity to work together.

Photographs 1, 3, 5 above by Lauren Elder.

Connell and Melara’s Map of San Agustín with Organic Farms
SANcafe, Connell & Melara

Connell and Melara’s Manual de Sabores, folding book on the reverse of the Map

Cover Manual de Sabores