The Thomas Nickels Project, founded by Kristen Thomas and John Nickels, features Cuban art in New York City.
evan elkowitz stylist at thomas nickels project viewing cuban art in new york city
The author at The Thomas Nickles Project. Photo: Jonah Elkowitz

How does a “Cuba-addicted” stylist from New York stay connected to Cuban art and culture in  the United States, during a pandemic? While this is not a simple task, I am always searching for opportunities to maintain and build upon this very important connection.

To maintain this link during the height of Covid-19, two friends of mine opened an art gallery on the lower east side of Manhattan: The Thomas Nickles Project, founded by Kristen Thomas and John Nickles. The gallery displays contemporary Cuban art with a focus on emerging artists. I could not believe the perseverance and determination it must have taken to set and achieve this goal during such uncertain times.

I was not only proud of my friends’ great accomplishment, but I was grateful to have a place to go to see art and feel closer to my beloved Cuba.

welcome to the everglades at the Thomas Nickels Project
Welcome to the Everglades. Photo: Jonah Elkowitz

Recently the Thomas Nickles Project had an exhibition entitled “Welcome To The Everglades.” It’s a body of work by Cuban artist, Harold Garcia V. The exhibit by Garcia is inspired by his awareness of the commercialization and ecological decline of the Florida Everglades.

cuban art new york
Photo: Jonah Elkowtiz

I was invited to host an event at the Thomas Nickles Project to bring attention to, and to spread the word about this fabulous gallery and the artists that they represent. As a stylist, my background provided me a specific lens from which to see Garcia’s work. Specifically, his depiction of Victorian women who represented his vision through fashion. In one piece, Garcia takes a real image of an alligator that was seen swimming with a knife embedded in his head and gently transforms it into a pattern on a Seminole woman’s dress.

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The artist’s work further communicates his concerns about the destruction of this ecosystem and its replacement by big business, fueled by greed, with zero awareness of the importance of this natural sanctuary. We should all view our planet through the eyes of a Cuban to gain an understanding and appreciation of how much we have and to realize how much we take for granted.

Harold Garcia V cuban art at thomas nickels project in new york

To give guests a taste of Cuban fashion design, I brought some handmade pieces to display during the event. A tie dye cross body bag by Zulu, a cane handbag by Textura, and a print waist bag by Wasasa. All three are female Cuban designers whom my guests have met and will continue to meet during my tours. I have had incredible designs by both Zulu and Textura featured on the runways at my fashion shows in Havana. Wasasa, a Cuban brand featuring pieces made from African wax fabrics also happens to be female-owned. We always shop at their adorable boutique when in Old Havana.

welcome to the everglades by Harold Garcia V
Welcome to the Everglades. Photo: Jonah Elkowitz

It’s important right now more than ever to support projects that shed light on our relationship with the Cuban people. What can you do? You can learn about Cuban artists and entrepreneurs both in Cuba and beyond. You can visit art exhibits and see the work of Cuban artists to educate yourself about their experiences. And most importantly, we can find ways to support the Cuban people and show them that U.S. citizens care.

By keeping the dialogue going between the United States and Cuba and individually engaging in Cuban culture, we are telling the world that a country is much more than its government.

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Evan Elkowitz is a New York stylist and fixture in Cuba’s underground fashion and design scene. After many years as a stay-at-home mom, she began a career as a stylist. She ventured to Cuba for the first time in December 2017 and styled her first photoshoot in Havana. Since then she founded the first Fashion & Arts tour to Havana with the goal of collectivizing her knowledge in order to give an insider's look into the unexpected creative world of Cuban design. She also loves salsa and Cuban music in general!

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