Artwork of Antonio Guerrero Brightens a Former Jail
International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5
Artwork of Antonio Guerrero Brightens up a Former Jail
It is hard to think of a more appropriate venue for the art exhibit of Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five imprisoned in the US, than the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Venice California. The art facility was formerly the Venice jail that held prisoners from 1929 until the early 1970's. Judy Baca, renowned artist and founder of SPARC, made the jail its headquarters in 1977 and "liberated" the space for the arts.
From May 22 - June 11 the front of the SPARC facility will display a huge banner with an iconic image, taken by Cuban photographer Liborio Nidal and painted by Antonio, hanging on it as a powerful symbol of resistance announcing the works of Antonio being exhibited inside.
The small cell inside the gallery provided a distinctive touch for the exhibit entitled "From My Altitude". Over 150 people attended opening night and were able to appreciate a prisoner's shirt hanging inside the cell, mimicking one of the painting's of Antonio. Those attending the opening entered the cell and signed postcards to President Obama asking for the immediate release of the Cuban Five.
The gallery opened its door at 7:30 pm on Saturday and right away a numerous audience poured into a reception area and then to the gallery that filled it to its capacity. Judy Baca gave the welcoming and explained the struggle that SPARC is currently enduring to save its historical building from budget cuts coming down from the City of Los Angeles. At her side was Debra Padilla, SPARC's Executive Director, and known Hollywood actor Edward Asner.
Many people were motivated to come primarily to enjoy an art exhibit and to hear Mr. Asner, only to be shocked and outraged to learn for the first time about the case of the Cuban Five.
The reception was followed by a program at Beyond Baroque, a Literary Arts Center Theater next door, that was formerly the Venice City Hall which included the projecting of the evening's program to the outside patio wall for the over flow crowd.
Suzanne Thompson, from the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, produced and mc'd the program. Thompson first introduced a documentary-in progress on terrorism against Cuba by film maker Saul Landau and Jack Willis entitled "Will the Real Terrorists Please Stand Up".
The documentary was followed by a pre-recorded message by Danny Glover, who was absent due to the filming of a movie in Nigeria. Glover read two letters between Adriana Perez and Gerardo Hernandez and the story of a small bird saved by Gerardo in the high security prison in Victorville California. This short story offers just a glimpse into the human quality of Gerardo and his four brothers. (See link below)
Alicia Jrapko the US Coordinator of the International Committee gave an update on the case and invited people to get involved. In reference to the prison shirt painted by Antonio, Jrapko ended her presentation by saying "Let us continue our fight for justice until the shirts of Rene, Gerardo, Fernando, Ramon and Antonio stay behind and the return to their homeland is realized."
The program ended with actor Edward Asner, who has been an important voice in many struggles for justice inside the United States. Asner read two poems from Guerrero's book of poems "From My Altitude" and a letter from the book "Letters of Love and Hope". He also talked about the importance of continuing the struggle to free the Cuban Five.
The Shoo Flies band provided entertainment at the after party at the Beyond Baroque backspace patio.
On Sunday May 23rd, at the SPARC and UCLA Cesar Chavez Digital Mural Lab, Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, spoke at a brunch in support of the rights of family visits for the Cuban Five.
After the showing of the documentary "Against the Silence" produced by De Mano a Mano Productions, Huerta explained about the injustice of the denial of family visits and told people that she was going to commit herself to work harder on the case and asked others to join her and to continue organizing until the US government grants visas to Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva to visit their imprisoned husbands.