Professor Miyo Stevens recently went on a one-week trip to Cuba where she visited with four fellow artists chosen from a national pool of applicants as part of the Self-Help Graphics printmaking ambassador program, designed to promote peace between countries lacking significant dialogue.

The five of them were sent to Taller Experimental de Gráfica in La Habana with only seven days to complete a fine art print that would usually take months to produce. Professor Stevens carved a wooden piece titled “FATUM,” which is Latin for “destiny” and “fate.”

“It is about global warming, specifically sea level rise, a global problem that we all must face, though island nations face an uncertain future. Also uncertain is the fate or destiny of Cuba’s economy and the relationship of the U.S. with Cuba, though I am very optimistic (there is a sun rising in the image). Finally, the color palette is white, blue, and red which are the colors used in both the U.S. and Cuban flags,” Stevens said.

Stevens graduated with an MFA in photography from the California Institute of the Arts and a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts. She currently teaches photo analogue, digital photography, Photoshop, and photo history. While her degree is in photography, she also works in textiles, printmaking, painting, and drawing.

The trip was culturally enlightening as it showed Stevens how art is created in an environment without resources that are easy to come by in America. The Cuban artists’ ability to adapt to their surroundings inspired their American visitors.

“I met artists that were able to, for example, pull up linoleum flooring from the 1950‘s and carve it so it could be printed. They were using materials we would never even imagine using for artistic processes, and they made their own tools,” Stevens said.

The five artists were guided around Cuba by Stuart Ashman, the president and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art, who knew about the best places to go. During their stay, Ashman introduced them to “paladares” which are restaurants located inside the homes of locals, one of the few types of businesses permitted by the government that can be run by citizens.

“I am deeply grateful to have been chosen for such an important experience,” Stevens said. “Cuba’s beautiful but the best part was meeting the people and completing the projects. It really was a people-to-people exchange, and that was the best part of it.”

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