Cuba’s new law restricting artists will take effect gradually
A new law – reviled by many Cuban artists as another layer of censorship and control over artistic expression but promoted by the government as a defense against vulgarity, poor taste, mediocrity and low-brow cultural influences – went into effect Friday.
The new measure comes as artists and performers continue to protest, and perhaps in response to those critiques, government officials said Friday that Decree Law 349 will now go into effect gradually.
Since Decree Law 349 was published in July in the government’s Gaceta Oficial, there has been plenty of resistance on the island and abroad and meetings between government cultural officials and artists, who hope for changes in the law.
The law requires prior government approval for artists, musicians, writers and performers who want to present their work in any spaces open to the public, including private homes and businesses.
But beyond that, it also proposes fining painters and other artists who commercialize their art without government permission. Among the more provisions is the prospect that “supervising inspectors” could review cultural events and close them if they don’t believe they meet government standards. Individuals or businesses hiring artists who don’t have prior approval also can be sanctioned.
“No one can say you are an artist or you are not an artist,” said Luis Puerta Batista, a Havana artist who sells stylized paintings of jazz figures – mostly to foreigners and on the internet – and teaches art. “Artists are going to keep creating. They are not going to be able to bar creating, but they will restrict selling.”
And with a family to support, that has him worried.
Fellow artist Roberto Loeje, who has a studio on the same street as Puerta, calls the decree law “antiartistic.”
He especially disagrees with the provision that bars art sales without prior government approval: “If a piece is mine, what is the problem with my selling it? Why is it different from having a piece of furniture in your house and someone comes in and says, ‘I’d like to buy that.’ ”
Dissident artists have staged protests and social media campaigns, and dozens of dialogues and meetings between unhappy creators from both inside and outside the government (dissidents excluded) and state cultural officials have been going on for weeks.