By Maureen Post Special to Published Dec 04, 2009 at 5:03 AM

Thanks to great museums, galleries and universities, it seems there is always a new exhibit opening in Milwaukee. But, there’s no question, "Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints: 1985-2008," opening at Latino Arts in the United Community Center, is one you should absolutely not miss.

Opening tonight and running through February 2010, "Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints: 1985- 2008" combines dozens of publications from Vigia Press in Cuba with the didactic works of 13 Cuban artists. It is, in essence, a physical representation of the economic struggle, cultural identity and storytelling wit thriving in a physically and ideologically isolated country.

"There are so many universal themes in these works. Yes, these artists live in Cuba where, particularly in the 90s, there was so much poverty. But, there is humor and love in these works; artists play on stereotypes. You find a way to sort of laugh at your own calamity," Linda Howe, Professor at Wake Forest University and exhibit curator says.

Vigia Press, located 50 miles east of Havana, emerged as a collective to publish content from Cuban artists, writers and thinkers that might otherwise not be published in Cuba. Dealing with the scarcity of materials plaguing daily life, the handmade books re-created at Vigia utilize scraps of household materials and recycled papers.

"Some artists use un-traditional materials because that’s really all they have access to but others use these materials because they’re beautiful and they incorporate artistic creativity," Howe says.

Instead of paying artists for their works, they compensate them with 200 copies of their book and in turn, promote freedom of speech and creative expression; elements that have become synonymous with the artistic Cuban identity.

"I originally saw a smaller version of the Vigia Press exhibit in Madison and it was beautiful. We wanted to bring it to Latino Arts because art is what really connects us and speaks to us in a way other forms of communication can’t," Director of Latino Arts Zulay Oszkay says.

Along with books from Vigia, tonight’s show reveals works from 13 influential Cuban artists including Ibrahim Miranda, Sandra Ramos, Carlos Estévez, Rocío García and Olympya Ortiz.

Cuban jazz virtuoso Chuchito Valdes’ Afro-Cuban Quartet compliments tonight’s opening with a live performance of his Bebop, Danzon and Latin Jazz originality at 7:30 p.m. in the United Community Center’s auditorium. Valdes is the son of Chucho Valdes and grandson of Bebo Valdes, two Cuban jazz greats who were nominated for a Grammy in "Best Latin Jazz" earlier this week.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.