Kansas City Museum brings Cuban culture center stage with Michel Mirabal in The History Behind the Sheets

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Two pieces in The History Behind the Sheets exhibit by Michel Mirabal. // Photo by Hannah Scott

The Kansas City Museum’s newest exhibit is entitled The History Behind the Sheets and tells the stories of Cuban individuals’ lives and experiences through the lens of Cuban artist Michel Mirabal.

The museum doesn’t want to be defined by any certain niche. Instead of believing that a history museum can only share artifacts, they have decided to let others learn through art, music, and historical items.

“I’ve found that in the museum field, sometimes we make such a strong delineation between this is an art museum and this is a history museum and that you must stay in your lane,” says Kansas City Museum Executive Director Anna Marie Tutera. “But this museum is different because we take an interdisciplinary approach to learning about history and culture. We want artists and artistic expression to create another layer of learning.”

The museum connected with Cubanisms: A Cuban Cultural Project to create the exhibit. The group not only works to connect Cuban and American culture in the states but also sends individuals on trips to Cuba to help them better understand the country and its people.

Mirabal and Cubanisms founder Dalida T. Pupo Barribas want people to know that there is so much more to the culture of Cuba and its people than its government.

“One of the main questions of the clients that we work with in our trips to Cuba is often, will we be welcomed there?” says Barribas. “But they always find out and if you go someday, you will say this, if you go and you say you are from the U.S. people are always like, ‘Wow! We’re so glad you’re here.’ We have family, friends, neighbors, so many people we know that live in the U.S., and our culture is so connected to the U.S. in so many ways.”

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A piece by Mirabal entitled “Our World.” // Photo by Hannah Scott

The History Behind the Sheets tells the stories of families and individuals in Cuba and the honesty of the way they live. Mirabal explained that the title is inspired by sheets hung on apartment balconies to dry, and behind those sheets is a life that so many do not understand.

“I was born in a place that is like a project, and everybody always had sheets in front of their house because we didn’t have much room for dryers,” says Mirabal. “To me, behind the sheets means you can see all the histories that happen inside the perimeter of those apartments. You can see smiles, hear music, smell different things, and taste different flavors, but I took all of those ideas and tried to put them into paint work.” 

Mirabal was born in Cuba but has worked around the world and is recognized internationally. Cuba is one of the few places not housing any of his galleries, but he still works to support the community by giving money to different organizations and visiting neighborhoods and schools.

Though he has created works for individuals like Barack Obama, Mirabal tries to keep himself grounded in order to move forward.

“I can’t see me like a famous guy,” says Mirabal. “I see me like the same guy from the beaches. I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to do next but I just know that I only want to make art. I always say art is everything, art is life. So if I am working and creating in the future I expect that the future will be good.”

The History Behind the Sheets is a free exhibit on display until September 25. To learn more about the exhibit you can find information here.

Categories: Art