Pioneros: Building Cuba’s Socialist Childhood. September 17 to October 1, 2015. Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Parsons School of Design/The New School.

Program funded by the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, the New Challenge award, the Foreign Languages Department of the New School for Public Engagement, and the Sociology Department of the New School for Social Research.

The Project

Pioneros: Building Cuba’s Socialist Childhood is an unprecedented exhibition of the material world of childhood in Cuba through the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The exhibition explores the relationship between the political and the material orders in Cuban socialism. It offers a portrait of the effects of global and national politics on the material environment and in everyday life. It also shows the resilience of some individual practices to politics.

The exhibit, co-curated by sociologist Maria A. Cabrera Arus and art historian Meyken Barreto, features over three-hundred items, including toys, furniture, books, clothing, appliances, and children ephemera from the 1960s to the 1980s, as well as many photographs from the period obtained through Facebook and other social media, or directly contributed by their owners. The exhibit also showcases posters, television shows, and recorded music from the period. The music selection has been curated by art historian Emilio Garcia Montiel, and the posters exhibited are part of the collection of designer Pepe Menéndez. A series of photographs produced by Cuban-born artist Geandy Pavon, a former pionero and now exile, anchors this collection of ephemera as a critical part of the present.

As part of the project, two major events have been organized:

Panel “Grown-Up Children from State Socialist Regimes,” co-coordinated by María A. Cabrera Arús and University of Connecticut professor Jacqueline Loss. Led by Professor Loss, this panel will gather the testimonies of writer Anya von Bremzen (born in the USSR), Cuban-American NYU professor Ana M. Dopico, New School Sociology professors Elzbieta Matynia (born in Poland) and Virag Molnar (born in Hungary), Cuban writer José Manuel Prieto, and Cuban historian Abel Sierra Madero. Panelists will share their experiences of growing up in state socialist regimes, placing the recent history and material culture of Cuba in dialogue with the Eastern European and Soviet world.

Screening of feature documentary The Sugar Curtain” (2006), directed by Camila Guzmán Urzúa, courtesy Icarus Films, and short documentary “Good bye, Lolek” (2005), directed by Asori Soto. This event, co-coordinated by Walfrido Dorta and María A. Cabrera Arús, will include a Q&A session with movie director Asori Soto and scholar, Emmy awardee Jerry W. Carlson, conducted by Walfrido Dorta.