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 Works were 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, Book and Wheel created SANcafé together with another San Francisco Bay Area artist, Lauren Elder. Book and Wheel created the “gallery guide” and “bookstore,” while Elder worked on the “cafe.” In place of a gallery guide, Connell and Melara (Book and Wheel) 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 Book and Wheel 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, 4 above by Lauren Elder.