Here’s another little Havana/L.A. mashup about art and redevelopment.
One of my other favorite places in Havana is the Callejón de Hamel, a small alley near the University of Havana that is an explosion of color, afro-cuban imagery, and sculpture — produced by Cuban artist Salvador Gonzales Escalona.
Salvador started making murals and sculptures in the street in 1990, using scrap objects and whatever paint was available, including car enamel (good paint is in short supply in Havana).. Inspired by the support of local residents and visitors, he continued painting and sculpting and the street is now a jewel of a place that also serves as an active Afro-Cuban center. Children can take painting workshops there, and every Sunday Rumba musicians and dancers perform (it has become a tourist attraction, hence the nickname “rumba alley”).
The street is still Salvador’s artistic headquarters. Here is a lovely Havana Cultura video interview with the artist (sorry its just in Spanish, but even for people who don’t know the language, it is visually engaging, and gives you a sense of his personality):
I didn’t have to go far to see what L.A. has to offer along the lines of Callejon de Hamel. I live a stones throw from St. Elmo’s Village, which is now celebrating its 40th anniversary year as a live/work space for artists and as a community arts center.
The Village, as its residents call it, was founded by artists Roderick and Rozell Sykes and is run today as a non-profit by Roderick and his wife Jacqueline Alexander-Sykes.
City Mask by Roderick Sykes
Like Callejon de Hamel, St. Elmo’s offers art classes for children, and also hosts a weekly open house, frequent tours for local schools, and hosts the Poetry in Motion festival each fall.