Documentary featuring Ohio artists in Cuba debuts in Columbus

people in cuba

In the spring of 2019, a group of Columbus artists, including a number of Columbus College of Art & Design graduates and faculty members, traveled to Cuba to participate in a pair of prestigious exhibitions: ConnectArt and the Havana Biennial in Matanzas, Cuba. 

Later that year, the artists brought their work back to Columbus for Cuba in Columbus, a series of exhibitions on view across central Ohio.

Now, a pair of central Ohio filmmakers are unveiling a documentary about the project. The film, called Columbus in Cuba, was created by central Ohio filmmakers Nikki and Matt Swift of Nicolettecinemgraphics, and features local artists, including CCAD Associate Professor Julie Abijanac (Fine Arts, 1992), CCAD Professor Kathy McGhee, and a number of CCAD graduates. 

Columbus in Cuba will make its debut with a free screening at Gateway Film Center on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m., followed by a free screening at the Columbus Museum of Art, in conjunction with CCAD, on Thursday, Jan. 16, with a reception at 5:30 p.m., a showing at 6 p.m., and a Q&A to follow.

“We were excited to become a part of the Columbus in Cubaproject because of our familiarity with many of the artists involved, our passion to visually tell the story of such an adventurous project, and our shared motivations with organizer Michael Reese,” said Nikki and Matt Swift of Nicolettecinemgraphics. “The film itself has been a labor of love which features guerilla style video production from the trip combined with over 35 interviews with participants and supporters of the project. In just over 6 months from the original exhibition in Matanzas, Cuba, we worked to weave a story of how seeing Cuba through an artist's eyes has inspired many and will in turn influence the look of the arts in Columbus for years to come.” 

Abijanac, the CCAD Associate Professor featured in the film, said she was thrilled to be a part of the project.

“It really made me think about who I was in my own practice in the studio, and ... (how) I’m in there for a reason, just like all those Cuban artists in their studios making for a reason. There’s this love for making,” Abijanac said in the film. 

Reese, who organized the Cuba in Columbus and Columbus in Cuba projects along with Osmany “Lolo” Betancourt Falcon and Ruthie Newcomer, said he’s excited for the documentary’s debut. 

“The film shows the importance of art and the changes it can bring,” Reese said.