The Arts of Cuba, Set to Wow New York

All those and more than two dozen other artists will take part in a wide-ranging festival of Cuban arts that will last more than two months in locations around New York this spring. The festival, called "¡Sí Cuba!," is one of the most significant indications that cultural relations between the United States and Cuba are thawing after nearly a decade in a deep freeze.

The festival, which is to be announced formally on Wednesday, is scheduled to run from March 31 to June 16, with nearly every form and style of Cuban arts and culture represented, in settings as diverse as Carnegie Hall and the outdoor Big Screen Project; 14 city arts organizations will be taking part. Music, film, dance, painting, theater, photography and literature are all included, and dozens of performers and artists are expected to come from Cuba for the events.

"We felt that this was the right time to do this, and New York the right place," said Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which is the driving force behind the festival and will host many of the events. "There's an optimism in the air about freeing up more interactions, which makes things feel very different than they did during the Bush administration and offers an opportunity for all of us to present work of a really high level in concentrated form."

Ms. Hopkins and other festival organizers said their only objectives were to showcase the richness of Cuban culture and build bridges between American and Cuban creative artists…

"Both governments have clearly identified the cultural space as a safe space for them to pursue connections between the two countries, so this fits very well into that context," said Julia E. Sweig, author of "Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know" and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "This could be like Ping-Pong diplomacy, except that it's happening in the cultural sphere."

The Obama administration began loosening restrictions on travel to and from Cuba nearly two years ago, which led to a trickle of Cuban artists traveling to the United States and enabled American arts presenters to visit Havana and investigate the scene there. Last month the White House announced new measures that permit Americans to send money to Cuban citizens; expand opportunities for travel to Cuba by academic, religious and cultural groups; and allow charter flights from more American airports.

"When we were closed, and it was hard for Cuban artists to travel to the U.S., they were still producing and having their shows," said Ben Rodríguez-Cubeñas, a Cuban-American who is chairman of the Cuban Artists Fund, which is devoted to promoting cultural exchanges. Mr. Rodríguez-Cubeñas returned on Sunday from Havana, where he was coordinating arrangements for the festival. "Cuba has always had a vibrant arts scene, and Americans are now rediscovering that."

For its part, the Cuban government has recently eased some restrictions on private economic activity, which, Mr. Rodríguez-Cubeñas noted, allows artists more creative and financial leeway. In addition, some of those scheduled to participate in the festival, among them a group of more than a dozen young visual artists exhibiting under the name Queloides ("Scar Tissue"), tackle subjects that until recently might have created political difficulties for them…

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