Q+A: Ulises Beato

Our intern Rachel Hamburger visited long-time DUMBO creative Ulises Beato at his 135 Plymouth digs. Catch Ulises' drumming performance in the Archway on Thursday, Oct 10 from 12-3pm. 

Photographer, musician, magician, resident artist Ulises Beato is a man of many trades; the success of which he accredits to DUMBO. “I always knew DUMBO would explode,” says Ulises Beato, on his choice of moving here in the late '90s. “Crime had just moved out of the neighborhood and artists began pouring in.” Gone were the gritty crime filled days of DUMBO and the neighborhood was transitioning into a bustling space that was nurturing for artists -- notably 135 Plymouth, where Ulises resides. Because of this abundant history, the spaces found in the building are just as curious as the people who live inside of them. Many may have been able to peek inside of some of the normally closed doors during DUMBO Arts Fest, but for those who haven’t, we welcome you back inside for a chat with Ulises on creative spaces, his band Conjunto Guantanamo, and the artist himself. (Also, come take a peek inside of Ulises creative space, which has been highlighted recently by the New York Times.)


You have lived in DUMBO for a long time now, how has DUMBO inspired you as an artist?

Ulises Beato: The way DUMBO has inspired me is ubiquitous – it is hard to pick out one thing. I moved to DUMBO in 1998 as a fashion photographer. However digital media became more accessible and as a result I transferred my energies over to music. Everything I’ve learned about being a professional musician I learned in DUMBO. This was and still is an artist community, there were always artists performing in the streets. I learned from them and adopted the practices myself. If I hadn’t moved to DUMBO I wouldn’t have become a musician -- or a magician.

[caption id="attachment_8401" align="alignnone" width="672"]DSC_0386_WP.jpg The garden in the entry-way of Ulises space[/caption]

What inspires you as an artist?

UB: I love doing creative things – I’m bad at the doldrom or mundane. It is amazing to be able to make a living by creative means. I always have to be making things or creating things. However as important as it is to be creative, it just as important to know the business end of things too. I am inspired to keep working so I can keep creating.

[caption id="attachment_8402" align="alignnone" width="672"]DSC_0354_WP.jpg Ulises in his home studio[/caption]

What gives a community a creative energy?

UB: That’s self explanatory – the artists. It is important to have spaces too; spaces to rub elbows, shoot ideas, go out for beers; things get said, ideas happen.

[caption id="attachment_8404" align="alignnone" width="672"]DSC_0401_WP.jpg A peek at his magicians tools[/caption]

Tell us a little about your band, Conjunto Guantanmo.

UB: Conjunto Guantanamo means “ensemble of Guantanamo.” Guantanamo is the birthplace of this kind of music which is traditional Afro-Cuban music, called Son. Germany has engineering and cars -- Cuba has music. Our music is elegant but very fun and attracts a mass audience. We have been fortunate to play in many exciting places such as MoMA, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, Waldorf Astoria Main Ballroom, Soho House, and much more.  This type of music is an infectious type of sound – if there is no dancing, something is wrong!

[caption id="attachment_8416" align="alignnone" width="672"]DSC_0373_WP.jpg Ulises with his Dove, Whitey[/caption]

Come join Ulises and his band, Conjunto Guantanamo, for a dance and some food while they perform this Thursday (Oct 10) under the archway during Flea Food!

[caption id="attachment_8414" align="alignnone" width="672"]CG_WP.jpg Conjunto Guantanamo performing during DUMBO Arts Fest[/caption]

Also, be sure to check out and connect with Conjunto Guantanamo on their homepageFacebook, and Twitter accounts.