As a member of the artist community of Minneapolis and also part of the creative team with USCAE, I was excited to get the chance to sit down and pick the brain of the very talented Jordan Hamilton. While his presence and creative outlook breathes life and inspiration into Twin Cities, his work reflects the hum of a universal language that weaves between the freedom of expression and attention to fine detail. In other words, to see things from his eyes is a chance to open up new doors into your own.--- Sarah White (Musician/Photographer/USCAE)

How did you become an artist? 

I don't think there was one particular point or shift where I became an artist, because I've always been an artist. As I became older the idea became more cemented to me that this is what I wanted to do.

USCAE, why you?

When I first heard about the USCAE program, I was excited and interested in learning about it and getting involved and going. I've always been interested in going to Cuba and learning and having the opportunity to travel and do what I love.

Why Cuba? 

I was interested in Cuba because the of their legacy and history of being such an independent country and having a very different path than somewhere like the U.S. or other countries that have been much more westernized. I was interested in seeing what they preserved there. 

How did you feel as you embarked on your journey to Cuba? Any exciting things on the way in?

It went smoother than I expected but it wasn't without any road bumps. I was really pretty happy with how it turned out. When we got into the airport, in Santa Clara, we were some of the last to make it through customs and we noticed white paint everywhere. All over our luggage and the tile floors (laughing). Chaka is standing there with his eyes all wide, like "this is OUR paint!". We had shipped paint to do the mural and one of our gallons of white paint someone had opened I think to check and they hadn't closed it properly, and it was all over everybody's luggage. People were tracking it all over the tile floors with their feet! We were like "We need to get out of here!!"...They were pretty nice about it all the while, but they had to clean up all this paint on the conveyer belt and all over. We felt bad!

Was there a place during your tour that stuck out to you the most?

Santiago stood out the most for me. It seemed culturally the most rich and interesting and also visually the most rich. Everything was really condensed. Ive never been but it almost reminded me of the favelas or something in Rio de Janeiro. It was dense and hilly. There’s like these houses stacked and really close together and all the colors everywhere in Cuba are really rich, but there especially, since everything was so condensed it was so rich and vivid. Then it’s like the Black epicenter of Cuba which was really cool to see. I'd never really been anywhere outside of the U.S. with that type of black community.


Did the Black community there feel different from the Black community you experienced in the U.S.?

The setting was different but there were a lot of similarities I think with the "feeling". We went to one of the artist studios, and they lived in this small shack with at least a couple of family members. In the studio they had this sound booth set up, it was just like something I've seen here, like in Ken (DJ JUST NINE) and Greg's (Greg Grease) basement! The vibe was similar! We were just kicking it... I was drawing, they were writing raps and songs and we were vibing out together! Then we went with Ray, the person who's house we were at, to a guy in the next neighborhood to get our hair cut... That reminded me of here (home).

What did you feel about the differences with the way artists lived in Cuba vs the way artists live in Minneapolis?

I think I noticed it a lot around the use of space. They were able to utilize often a smaller space, like in the studio. It was amazing how many people we crammed in there and were all able to work cohesively and do our thing together. Also access to the internet being pretty limited yet they are able to share and distribute new music, new media... It was cool to see how they were able to flip it. People still have their own fresh, unique, style... Like in Santiago there's that presence Black Excellence and there are the similarities to what we have here but then it's uniquely Cuban and Caribbean.

What changed about you after you went to Cuba with USCAE?

When I got home I felt like "my house is humongous! I have so much space!". I came back with this desire to better utilize and share living space more cooperatively and collectively.

Was it hard to come back?

It was REALLY difficult to come back. We came back in the middle of the winter. I had that same craving for being around community and people, but it is kinda the opposite here in the winter. Everybody is hibernating. I went into this deep hibernation and was kinda tough.

Anything else you want to mention about your experience?

I was also inspired by a few individuals that I met there in terms of their entrepreneurship. That sparked something in me and inspired me to just be on it more and realize the infinite potential that we have. Especially with having access to more tools here. Yunior (Havana) was making all his leather work and shoes, clothing, bags.. making whatever he felt he needed.That’s something I've been wanting to do more with my work. Seeing a need and then fulfilling that need for your community. Making things that are functional and can be used..and you don't have to go through a corporate business or entity to acquire that, you can make things yourself! That was a great reminder of that value...