Aldo Lopez-Gavilán and Ilmar Gavilán, subjects of our film, TWO BROTHERS, continued their first ever U.S. tour in Detroit. Ilmar knew Detroit, as many years ago he won the Sphinx competition for classical players of color. Sphinx, in their efforts to integrate the world of classical music in the U.S., nurtured the Harlem Quartet, Ilmar’s group, which includes Melissa White, and African-American violinist, Jaime Amador, a Puerto Rican violist, and Felix Umansky, a Russian-Jewish cellist. But Aldo, joining the Quartet on this tour, had never heard of Detroit, and was shocked and delighted when we went to the Henry Ford Museum. Aldo had no idea that all of those sexy old American cars in Cuba were designed and built in Detroit. He was like a kid in a candy shop in the museum, ogling at the cars he knew from the 50s, as well as the Model Ts and a locomotive from the 1880s.
Ilmar thought he knew Detroit—he knew what most of us think we know—the narrative of a “failed city,” gutted by offshoring of factories, poverty, crime, white flight, etc. But then we went to the Heidelberg Project, a community art project started by the artist Tyrene Guyton in 1986. He took a block of burnt-out buildings and created something remarkable, which has evolved into a series of sculptures made from the flotsam and jetsam of modern life. Shoes, toys, discarded plastic and the like become the palette for a canvas of color and form, including a polka-dot house and brightly colored fences and gates. Ilmar and Aldo were blown away. Ilmar Face-timed his family to show them what he was seeing and experiencing, and told the camera that he never imagined this was possible. In Havana, yes—but in America, he had not seen this. They both spoke of the indomitable human desire to create beauty out of any materials available, regardless of how much or how little we have. The Havana-Detroit connection: cars, music...and art, in any form.