After traveling to Cuba last May with colleagues from the College of Music, Mark Sullivan discovered everything he previously imagined Cuba to be like was drastically different from reality.
To show people what the country — specifically the Capital City Havana — is really like, he took more than 5,000 pictures of the city, people, culture and landscapes.
“I wanted to be able to convey to the people here what I thought it was going to be like and what it actually turned out to be like,” Sullivan said. “Things kept happening that made me realize how out of sync … my idea (previously was).”
Sullivan, an associate professor in music composition, created a photo exhibit entitled “Cuba: First Times Never Come Again,” on display until Jan. 30 in MSUglobal Knowledge and Learning Innovation’s building on Harrison Road.
About 25 photos are on display around the main walking area and the entire office. Some included the clear blue waters around Cuba, a view from inside a taxi looking out at the bustle of the city and older buildings, and black-and-white photos of the landscape and greenery.
At the opening Nov. 4, Sullivan said everything he read and the videos he watched about Cuba did not prepare him for what to actually expect. He realized Cuban art is very participatory and important to the community.
“What was so awesome to me was the daily life of Cubans and how diverse it is,” Sullivan said. “Because there isn’t a big entertainment industry, art is part of the fabric of society. Everybody feels like any kind of art is theirs and it belongs to them.”
Sullivan also said while he was there, he noticed Cubans want to improve their technology use and wanted to do so by interacting with the people from MSU on the trip.
“Their technology infrastructure is ancient, so they are curious to learn from places like MSU on how to keep that community focus but develop and use more modern forms of technology,” Sullivan said. “Things are in transition in Cuba, so we can’t tell if they are falling apart or being reborn.”
Every three months, MSUglobal switches out a faculty member’s artistic work, said Christine Geith, assistant provost and executive director of MSUglobal.
“He can really see the world through a photographer’s eye,” Geith said about Sullivan. “We love to be surrounded by art and, by having it switched every three months, it creates a great atmosphere.”
Veronica Reyes, a friend of Sullivan for about 15 years, heard about his exhibit opening and wanted to come see his work.
“We talk about photography a lot, so he was very excited (about the exhibit),” she said.
After looking at some of the pictures, Reyes felt she understood what Sullivan was trying to evoke and had a few favorite photos.
“With images where you see the landscapes, city views and the girls, you can see what their culture is like,” she said. “I like (how) he has black and white mixed with color. I like that he explained how Cuba was going through a transition and used a special effect to show that.”