HAVANA – Considered a symbol of the once-forbidden island’s opening to the world, the Cuban Art Factory (FAC) has gone in little more than five years from being a mini-experiment in a run-down industrial building to being among the World’s 100 Greatest Places in 2019, according to Time magazine.
The FAC made an old cooking-oil plant into a focus of Havana nightlife and a must-visit for both locals and tourists, some as famous as Michelle Obama, Madonna and the legendary Quincy Jones.
For Time, the way this laboratory of business ventures brings together the most interesting creatives of the Cuban capital makes it irresistibly attractive, located as it is in a peaceful area of the urban Vedado district and having evolved organically “into the lively place it is,” the FAC’s creator, Cuban musician X Alfonso, told EFE.
“The Factory began in a smaller space, the concerts in much smaller rooms. Today it’s a big place with close to 20 to 22 shows every weekend. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done,” Alfonso, who considers himself just one more among the “many thinking heads trying to organize this monster,” said.
On any weekend there will be thousands of visitors at the Factory, which on its two stories has room for photo, design and architecture expositions, movie theaters and auditoriums, dance halls, bars, a cafe and a restaurant with an international menu, plus lounges where people go to see and be seen.
The exhibits of contemporary art on the brick walls are the favorites of “Instagrammers,” and the line-up of shows, curated by experts and famous artists, has something for everyone.
The FAC has also organized its program of big events to the point that there is practically no fair, contest or festival that fails to make an appearance, including some so prestigious as the Biennial of Art, the Havana Film Festival and the Jazz Festival.
Its record, however, has not been exempt from controversy. At the start some called it elitist and accused it of inflating prices, criticisms that have not affected the loyalty of Cubans and the curiosity of tourists, who list the FAC as an essential outing together with the Cathedral and the Plaza de la Revolucion.
“We always try to innovate in everything we do, both in art and in ideas to get people to visit us. We like surprising ourselves, but for all the changes we have made, we have kept the same spirit as in the beginning,” Alfonso said.