Commission Takes Stand Against Human Rights Abusers, Cuba & China; Illuminate Responds By Cancelling Event

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]

According to the Miami Herald, Illuminate Coral Gables has cancelled its 2022 exhibit.

Illuminate, which relied mostly on Coral Gables public funds to acquire art and organize the event, had been asked for months to remove two artists from its list of exhibitors. The request had been on the record at the June 8th City Commission meeting, when Mayor Vince Lago asked the organization’s Co-Founder, Developer Venny Torre, to ensure the organization addressed community concerns about two artists.

The artists in question are Sandra Ramos and Cai Guo-Qiang.

Sandra Ramos

Sandra Ramos, a Cuban artist who has lived in South Florida for several years. However, according to her website, she has a studio in Havana, Cuba.

Cuban law, under the tenets of socialism, does not allow for private property. The government also does not allow for businesses without first being active member of the ruling communist party.

For Ramos to secure a studio in Havana from which to sell her art in a free market fashion while living in “exile” would require cooperation from the government. Ramos, according to her website, held events regularly at her studio prior to the onset of COVID-19.

Over the last week, we have all witnessed the arrests, brutal beatings and murders conducted by the Cuban regime of the people of Cuba who are protesting in the hopes of securing their basic God-given rights and freedom.

The truth is Cuba is not a beautiful tourist destination to visit on a cruise ship, ride on a nice classic car and enjoy an adult beverage while overlooking the sunset from a European owned beachfront resort. Turning the corner and walking a block away from those picturesque scenes are the crumbling buildings in which 11 million Cubans live. Many of them born not knowing what it is like to have any human rights, freedom of speech or to even select what they want to be in life.

Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang, as previously reported on Gables Insider, has long been a reported sympathizer of the Chinese regime. He was instrumental in their artistic planning of the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games in China.

In an interview in 2018 with Frontpage, he was credited with saying, “Communism was successful in making people feel as though they have been transformed from being slaves to becoming the masters of the earth. Communism promoted a kind of utopian universalism. Communism is a very resourceful kind of -ism. It can make a large majority of uncultured peasants suddenly feel that they have thoughts and philosophy!”

Like in Cuba, the Chinese people have long yearned for human rights and freedom. Unless you agree with the government, you are unable to be successful. Dissidents have disappeared for years without a trace.

Illuminate’s Response

Illuminate’s other Co-Founder, Patrick O’Connell, addressed the Commission at the July 13th City Commission meeting, where the organization was seeking $300,000 from the City in order to carry on with the 2022 event, scheduled for January and February of 2022.

As the Herald pointed out, Mayor Lago said, unequivocally, that he would only support funding the project if the two artists were removed from the program.

Lago was not alone. The Commission stood as one and to-a-person spoke against approving the funding if the artists were not removed.

An out of touch O’Connell took the opportunity to attack George Merrick’s past in a last ditch attempt to secure the funding. He explained that the honorarium to Cai Guo-Qiang had already been paid and they were in the process of expanding his part in the program. He also implied that since they had been paid, the City’s funds were not going to pay for their art. However, the argument could be made that if the artist honorarium had not been paid, the money could have been used to cover the costs they intended to use taxpayer dollars for.

In the end the Commission agreed to support the funding, with the condition that Guo-Qiang and Ramos be removed from the program.

Chief Curator Resigns

According to the Miami Herald’s article, the organization’s Chief Curator, Lance Fung, also resigned. The Herald references that “Fung’s statement was more specific, noting that he was disappointed in the cancellation, citing ‘recent comments by some of the City Commissioners that do not align with our values.'”


26 thoughts on “Commission Takes Stand Against Human Rights Abusers, Cuba & China; Illuminate Responds By Cancelling Event

  1. Que barbaridad! how sad that the authoritarian ways of the island of Cuba are being adopted by some of my fellow Cubans in Miami. This artist and her art (Ramos) is not communist at all, at least for what I can see on her website and her writings throughout the years. So what that she kept an studio in the island? Artists like her, kept new ideas in the Cuban art scene…in Cuba! which is were the battle for a new society in Cuba will take place. Here, we are free. Anyone can show their art. It is OK they use my juicy tax dollars to fund some. I want to see all art forms even if they think different than me. Thank God no tyrants here. Mr. Alcalde lea el memo please.

  2. None of these artists have been “censored” as some are implying. They are free to produce their work and exhibit in any venue they choose.
    What’s in question here is taxpayers’ funds. Their duly elected representatives have deemed that the inclusion of these artists in a city funded project runs counter to the sensibility of the electorate.
    These artists do not have a birthright to live off of grants and public funds.

  3. Mayor Lago forced a hasty vote, like the ones the communists leaders do in Cuba. Only the Democratic commissioner did not vote because he acknowledged that they did not have enough information You can see it all on the city’s website ( also you can watch how Illuminate organizers said from the beginning that the city money would not main to be use to fund my project) Either way it is censorship and a violation of the first amendment. I am a american citizen I have participate in many exhibition in Miami and all US and I am never found something like this. I am sure they don’t even reviewed my artwork that have been always so critical of cuban society and government. The studio in Havana is running by my sister who is a self employed in the house were my parents live. This is totally outrageous. I demand Mayor Lago and the city comisión should make a public apologies to us.

  4. Thank you to the Coral Gables mayor and city commission for not using hard earned tax payer dollars to support a couple of communist sympathizers. These supporters of the Cuban dictatorship can use their own funds. The mayor of Coral Gables and the city commission made the right decision.

  5. All public office holders and recipients of funds in Coral Gables should be forced to disavow Donald Trump and the insurrectionists who tried to destroy our country and turn it into another Cuba with no political freedom or democracy. Yes we should hold all public funds and actors to account for their political support! But to be fair, it has to apply to all sides.

  6. Appalling censorship on the part of Lago and the commission. Both Sandra Ramos and Cai Guo-Qiang live in the US. Here in the US, we have freedom of political expression. Lagos seems to have forgotten that in his offer to fund the exhibition conditionally, only if those artists were removed. Nasty ideological purity test. I’m a CG resident, and find this action to be reprehensible.

  7. Dear John, Before you speak look in the mirror. Who did you say supports domestic terrorism? The Republicans? What a joke. Who supports BLM a known terror organization? The Democrats. Keep your transference mentality of placing your behavior onto the other side, because YOU are the ones who support terror organization that are also Communist supporters. Poor John, can not get Trump out of your head. We have every right to not support those who support philosophies that are against the American philosophy.

  8. Banning, censoring people, and bullying private art makes YOU the totalitarians. Not a good look – very weak.

  9. What to expect from morally bankrupt Trump supporters. They are as evil as he is. They support a neo-nazi & CHILD RAPIST. Truly, the scum of the earth & supporters of Domestic Terrorism.

    If Sandra Ramos is a communist sympathizer, why is her art critical of the regime?

  10. Douglas Williams,
    Take your hate and just leave Coral Gables. Mayor Lago has every right to speak for us as that is his job. If you do not like him, that is your issue. He won by a huge margin, so I guess most of Coral Gables wanted him. And kudos for his “Church Rant” against Critical Race Theory. That is a teaching that is tearing race relations apart in our schools and adding to division. They are in school to learn reading, writing and math. The schools are not there to replace the parents role in raising their children. You are an angry disrespectful person that does not deserve the fruits of Coral Gables living.

  11. I would strongly urge the mayor and commissioners to learn more about artist Sandra Ramos and her body of work before canceling her ( She has been a vocal critic of Cuba’s communist regime for over three decades – her maintaining a studio in Havana while living in Miami should not be the only criteria that Coral Gables politicians use to censure an artist whose body of work consistently aims to bring attention to the many injustices Cubans have suffered for years at the hands of this authoritarian regime. Silencing artists (especially one whose message is in line with said politicians) is better left to the autocratic thugs resisting democratic change on the island, not to democratically elected representatives in our own backyard.

  12. Kudos, City Commission! Thanks for standing up against tyranny. Now, take it a step further and stop wasting money in public art, in general. Just look at the garish Raul Valdes-Fauli rainbow crosswalks across from historic City Hall!

  13. None of the people saying “Bravo Mayor and Commissioners” have seen Ramos art or what her political stance is and it shows. I welcome all who commented ignorantly, to go to her social media platforms and educate themselves before spouting nonsense.

  14. I agree that the flowers at Biltmore Way are terrible. They block the view of traffic, they cause some people to slow down to “smell the flowers” and they are a constant irritation to those who have to drive bye there frequently. One of the main objections has to do with the size of the installation for the space. Can we move the flower installation to Fairchild where we can see them from a distance and maybe appreciate them?

  15. Let’s eliminate the art in public spaces funding once and for all. The city has spent millions (aka resident $$$) on communist sympathasizers and hideous flowers sculptures.

  16. Is this article supposed to be an editorial or an unbiased reporting of what the Commission did? It seems like the former, given the characterization of “an out of touch O’Connell.” In any case, did Mr. Lago (or any of the other commissioners, for that matter) bother to look into the political leanings of the other artists who are not being excluded? Perhaps some of them, like Mayor Lago I’m presuming, are politically inclined to support the idea that, notwithstanding the dearth of evidence, the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump, and that the swing states should have ignored the results of the votes in their states and awarded their electoral votes to Trump. Doesn’t get much more Communistic than that! If they did, shouldn’t the Commission have excluded them as well?

  17. Please find the opportunity to tell Mr. Lago (I have neither the time nor the desire to engage in any close encounter of the worst kind):

    He does not have my authority to speak for me on anything (it should be totally capitalized), especially, foreign policy. To the extent that this country still has any, I want it expressed and decided by people who were elected (or, appointed) to speak for the country as a whole, based upon experience and qualifications.

    I do not want some over-ambitious, young Joe-wannabe presuming to take that role and, in the process, making Coral Gables a source of laughter or irritation, or both.

    We should have seen this coming when he uttered his recent church-rant.

    Go ‘way, son; ya bother me.

    Douglas Williams

  18. I know I talk too much.

    With a mere $30.000, 1/10 of the Illuminate demand, we can purchase and install MISTING MACHINES — ala Disney World to alleviate summer heat, OPTIONAL ONLY — on Miracle Mile and Giralda restaurant row outside.

    Jackson Rip Holmes

  19. It is about time officials take an ethical and moral position vs entertainment and cultural. I applaud them!

  20. What is the source of city funds? Taxpayers. Monies generated by taxes should never be used for art, period.

  21. I applaud the Commission and am glad to know that the Commission acknowledged that funding these artists and promoting their art is supporting these artists’ Communist ideologies and the governments that support them.

  22. Bravo, to Mayor Lago and the the commission!! We don’t need any communist’s taking advantage of the freedom we enjoy in Coral Gables & the U.S.A.

  23. Use the $300,000 to move the ugly alien colorless flowers from Biltmore Way to make a reef for fish in Biscayne bay.

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