Adan Perugorria: The Dream of an Art District in Old Havana
San Isidro neighborhood, right in the heart of Old Havana, was known during the first decade of the 20th century as the most important “tolerance zone” in the Cuban capital. Its narrow streets were walked by Alberto Yarini, the most famous procurer on the island nation, who was murdered in 1910. His death triggered an armed conflict for the control of such profitable business as prostitution. Years later, those bars and brothels became houses.
Nowadays, in that neighborhood where houses fight against time and apathy to remain in one piece, art has joined the stage and gained a space. On San Isidro Street, number 214, Picota and Compostela, people have the opportunity to visit one of the most interesting cultural projects in this cosmopolitan Havana: Gorria Workshop Gallery (GWG). Acclaimed artist Jorge Perugorria, the best actor in Cuba over the past decades, authored this idea; although his son, 20-year-old Adan, is in charge of managing this cultural project. PanamericanWorld visited GWG and sat down with Adan Perugorria, a young pianist that passionately talks about this cultural project and devotes most of his time to it.
When was GWG founded?
The Gallery officially opened its doors back in September 2016. GWG came up as an idea expressed by my father, Jorge Perugorria. This property used to be a bakery in San Isidro neighborhood, which provided services to over 7,000 people. It was in a critical constructive condition. We, as a private initiative, bought the higher level of the bakery and we are presently turning it into a hostel and terrace restaurant.
We realized that it was a wonderful space and decided to talk to the Historian of Havana. My father met Dr. Eusebio Leal and they signed an agreement to fit out another place for the bakery, just two blocks away from here. We restored that premise and installed everything it needed. That bakery was inaugurated in October 2016. As part of the agreement, the Bread & Sweets Company ceded the property to the Historian’s Office and we were given the space. This is the first Gallery founded in this area of Old Havana as a space to showcase contemporary art, under private management system. GWG is a cultural, community project with the aim set on having a social impact on San Isidro neighborhood, which is nestled in the historic core of the Cuban capital. The Historian’s Office does not pay much attention to this area because there are no architectural structures of heritage value, since most of the properties are houses.
The idea is to find ways for artists to go to this neighborhood, which still engulfs several demolished spaces and properties in bad constructive condition, and build their studios there. We are making art on the street. We have plans to paint murals in several streets. We’d like to bring the art district to this neighborhood, since it is presently based in, where there are several galleries in the same area. We are looking forward to doing that here, so visitors can walk down the street and watch art. GWG also produces concerts. Moreover, we organized an architecture and urbanism workshop for children and we took them in a bus throughout the city. We want to have other workshops, on alternate months. The next one will be focused on art history, specifically Cuban music.
What exhibits have you hosted?
Before we were totally opened, we held exhibits named “Assemblies”, organized by my father. Those were meetings among artist friends that brought their artworks and showcased them here. Before the present display by Henry Eric Hernandez, we had Carlos Quintana and a collective exhibit, “Arigato”, focused on the influence of Japanese art on Cuban contemporary art, back in November 2016.
How do you attract new artists?
We welcome all artistic expressions in GWG. I receive the projects and show them to such people as art curator David Mateo or great artists like Rene Francisco or Carlos Garaicoa. I’m also working with “El Apartamento” Gallery. GWG’s agenda already has plenty of events for 2017 and 2018.
How about the marketing process?
We sell the exhibited artworks, although GWG has no profitable objectives. It is a philanthropist project that includes a gallery, and we are planning to build a theater hall and library. We want GWG to be a cultural project made up of different spaces, with all artistic expressions. GWG would be complemented by a private project on top of the gallery, also under my responsibility. It is a hostel, where every guestroom will be curated by young artists, who haven’t had the opportunity to show their work. Each guestroom would showcase artworks created by these young artists, so they would gain exposure.
What do you make of today’s Cuban art?
The Cuban art is presently on the rise. It is being highly marketed around the world. Visual art is gaining momentum in different markets. There is Cuban contemporary art in all international fairs and it is sold. The opening process in the country and new relations with the United States have had an impact on this reality.
How about the experience with the shooting of “Fast & Furious 8” in Havana?
I worked as a line producer, so I was in charge of managing accommodations, hotels. We have a sort of travel agency, “Abanico”, and we show another city, in which our customers are taken to places that they wouldn’t have visited. The aim is set on bringing people interested in getting involved with the city and develop all sorts of social, economic and private projects. We have issued funding proposals for cultural projects and organized TED Talks.
Back in December 2009, you were invited by Ernan Lopez-Nussa to record “Al paso de Adán” and “Invierno en La Habana”, an album made up of young pianists. How is your relation with music?
I was 11 years old when I first stepped into the music realm. I was mainly interested on classic piano at the time. My preferences have changed over the years and I’m presently interested on the development of projects. My brother and I have a pop funk band, “Nube roja”. We already recorded our first album (“Dibujemos el camino”), with producer Andres Levin, who has won two Grammy awards. This album was pretty successful, despite of being the band’s first product. We were pre-nominated to the Grammy awards and you can find us on Spotify, iTunes, in different social networks. We’re presently working on the second album and looking forward to launching it within two months.
As a young entrepreneur in Cuba, what do you need to develop your projects?
When the GWG project kicked off over a year and half ago, I was afraid of not seeing it work because these things are new and they are still not specifically defined in the country in legal and infrastructure terms. But we have actually carried out an interesting work with the government of Old Havana, especially with the authorities in the neighborhood, and we have established a fruitful collaboration. The people want to do things and they only need to start doing them.