Wolfsonian-Florida International University spins to the beat of Turn the Beat Around | FIU News
Inspired in large part by a recent donation of rare album covers, vintage photographs and other items documenting Cuba’s rich music and cultural traditions, The Wolfsonian–FIU presents Change the rhythmon view from October 28, 2022 to April 30, 2023. Never more timely, Change the rhythm focuses on the exciting musical fusions that resulted from an earlier era of close diplomatic relations, easy travel and cultural exchange.
“We are thrilled to present this exhibition celebrating the Afro-Cuban roots of rumba, conga, Latin jazz, mambo, cha-cha-cha and salsa,” said the chief librarian and curator of the Frank Luca exhibition. “Change the rhythm examines the visual means by which Afro-Caribbean rhythms have been promoted in the United States, forever transforming our musical landscape.
Change the rhythm shows how thirty years of intense cultural interaction between Cuba and the United States have profoundly shaped the musical traditions of both nations. As American jazz and big band swing swept the island nation, Cuban musicians and performers in the United States, specifically in New York where they were joined by Puerto Rican and Nuyorican musicians, created new styles that invested American music with a characteristic Latin tinge. Meanwhile, graphic designers in the music, film, and tourism industries worked hard to create the visuals used to package and promote Cuban-inspired music, simultaneously exoticizing and Americanizing their designs.
Many works address historical issues of race and gender by depicting ideas of the tropics and exoticism. Women and the female body played a prominent role, as did the recognition of the Latin American and African genesis of jazz, rumba, and other genres of popular music and dance from the first half of the 20th century.
The new materials on display, in addition to previous donations also made by Vicki Gold Levi, provide the core to describe the impact of Afro-Cuban music on the American dance music scene. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by Cuba – I mamboed all through high school and never looked back!” said Vicki Gold Levi. “The Wolfsonian has accepted much of my collection with open arms, and I am delighted to share many of the objects publicly in Change the rhythm for the very first time.”
This donation builds on Gold Levi’s previous donations of Cuban material to the museum, including collections donated in 2002 and a pledged donation in 2016 of more than 3,000 artifacts ranging from cigar labels to sheet music covers. Selections of her gifts are included in Change the rhythm, in addition to loans of performance jackets from Gloria Estefan and Tito Puente, and other items from the Wolfsonian collection. Florida International University is also home to cultural treasures of Cuban music, the Díaz-Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection and the Celia Cruz Sheet Music Collection, cementing FIU’s status as a premier center for Cuban Culture and Studies in South Florida.