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Besides enjoying the weather, we found the Cuban culture very connected and supportive of their artists!

Besides enjoying the weather, we found the Cuban culture very connected and supportive of their artists!

On Feb. 22 – Mar. 8th, 2015 a few of my artist friends and I explored and painted Cuba beginning in Santa Clara staying in a casa particular (a Cuban bed and breakfast) for one night, then Trinidad for 7 nights and finally Havana for 6 nights. There were planned gallery visits and plein air painting spots selected, but the most memorable experiences were a few unexpected encounters with the arts community in Cuba. Some of these were experienced as a group and others on our own as we explored during free time. It was always fun to hear of someone’s discovery of a new artists’ studio and then to have the invitation of their personally escorting you back to the new found treasure. Almost all of the arts disciplines and genres were experienced, dancing, visual arts, music, fashion, contemporary arts, realism, folk art, sci-fi and on and on. I even took in an evening television show one night and saw a bit of acting in what looked to be a Cuban evening drama or soup opera.

It appears all forms of the arts are alive and well in Cuba, supported and encouraged to survive. Below I will give a brief description of our arts encounters. I hope you enjoy the tour. We even took some Salsa Dance lessons and had a few opportunities to practice what we had learned. I so loved Cuba that I hope to organize another group painting excursion in Feb. 2017. If you would like more information please email me at artist@nikkisportraits.com.

The registration deadline is Dec. 15th, 2016 for my 2nd Mid Winter Cuban Salsa Dance and Paint Group Holiday! (Feb. 20th – Mar. 6th, 2017)

Our first stop was to the Santander Pottery studio in Trinidad, Cuba. This award winner artist was one of the regions internationally celebrated artists. Tourists by the bus loads were shopping up a storm there.

Our first stop was to the Santander Pottery studio in Trinidad, Cuba. This award winning artist was one of the regions internationally celebrated artists. Tourists by the bus loads were shopping up a storm there.

 

Examples of the beautiful pottery created by Santander in Trinidad, Cuba.

Examples of the beautiful pottery created by Santander in Trinidad, Cuba.

On our tour of several sugar plantations we saw an amazing collection of frescos. The Spanish colonial plantation owners would bring artists over from France, Spain and Italy to paint on their walls in fresh plaster. This was effectively their art collection at that time.

On our tour of several sugar plantations we saw an amazing collection of frescoes. The Spanish colonial plantation owners would bring artists over from France, Spain and Italy to paint on their walls in fresh plaster. This was effectively their art collection at that time.

The main highlight for me was our personal introduction to Yudit Vidal Faife of Studio-Galeria Pincelada Colonial Art Gallery in Trinidad, Cuba. When we arrived the gallery was full of visitors who were delighted by Yudit’s story of the blender that gave its life in the name of handmade paper. Not only can Yudit paint but she is a very personable and charismatic young women who enjoys equally as much mingling with her gallery visitors as she does painting her masterpieces. She welcomed our group even taking us deeper into her colonial mansion now gallery / studio and home space. Once the crowd had thinned, we were treated to her stunning fourth story sunset view that took in the Escambray Mountains to the northeast and the Caribbean Sea to the southwest. Our connection via Art and painting was discussed. She explained to us how she was able to help local women and their families through collaborating with them as she painted on their traditional Trinidad stitching on linen. This stitching technique is a traditional one that is only created in the area of Trinidad Cuba. Over these intricate works Yudit paints images that celebrate the women of historical Cuba (of all cultures) who helped build their country. Through this collaboration this traditional stitchery travels farther as she exhibits her work both nationally and internationally, creating greater demand for the work and elevating the living standards of these families. She is truly an artist impacting her community for the better.

Yudit’s work may also be seen reproduced on towels and various other textiles and gift ware reproduced by the government of Cuba and sold in various Artex stores throughout the country. These stores can even be found at the airports guaranteeing her work will be traveling outside of Cuba. All of us purchased a piece of Yudit’s original work that day, so there will be a few displayed proudly in Canada. I think this is a great investment of Cuba in their artists and my artists friends who traveled with me agreed that this would be a great thing to see done for Canadian artists. Here are a few pictures of our group during our visit:

Our group holding our prize purchases with our host International Cuban Artist, Yudith Vidal Faife a

Our group holding our prize purchases with our host International Cuban Artist, Yudith Vidal Faife

Yudith's studio space. Photo courtesy of Sharon Turner

Yudith’s studio space. Photo courtesy of Sharon Turner

Our special time with Yudith and Felicia (Yudith's business manager sitting to my right. I am sitting centre of the photo and Yudith is to Felicia's right.)

Our special time with Yudith and Felicia (Yudith’s business manager sitting to my right. I am sitting centre of the photo and Yudith is to Felicia’s right.) Photo courtesy of Sharon Turner.

As we traveled onto Havana many more art treasures awaited us. One was an unexpected insertion into the itinerary that was toted as a must see by some other Canadian artists we happened to come across was the Art Factory. I am so glad we met these Canadian artists on the red double decker ride around Havana on our first day because we wouldn’t have wanted to miss this destination. The Fábrica de Arte Cubano open Thur. – Sun. 8 pm – 3 am is an artists’ playground of the senses! Originally a generator station for street cars ofold, it later was used as a vegetable oil factory and then re-purposed as this hugely inventive and inspirational space – a contemporary art gallery/ night club.

We arrived around 8 pm before the lineup outside got to long. As you enter you are greeted by a bar / food counter the at then leads into various small nooks and crannies displaying paintings, drawings and sculpture. As you move farther into the space it opens into photo and video installations. We were all so enthused we lost track of each other for a short while as we each were draw away by our own callings to various art pieces. As I came around one corner I saw two members of our group staring motionless, drinks in hand at what appeared to be a street grate. It was the funniest thing I had seen the whole trip. I had to move closer to see what there attention was fixated on. As I too looked down into the street grate, I saw what appeared to be an areal view of Havana I am guessing in video form. It was this kind of ingenuity that arrested us around every corner. The space also included another bar/ food counter near the fashion stage show and outdoor patio. Apparently if our group could have stayed up just a while longer we would have also been treated to a live music concert. I highly recommend this as a must see. There is a small cover charge to enter.

Inside Fábrica de Arte Cubano; Havana, Cuba.

Inside Fábrica de Arte Cubano; Havana, Cuba. Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride

Sculptural fashion at the Art Factory in Havana. Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride

Sculptural fashion at the Art Factory in Havana. Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride

Some of our group striking a pose in front of a photo installation at the Art Factory in Havana.

Some of our group becoming part of a  photo installation at the Art Factory in Havana. Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride

We made a special point of visiting the Taller Experimental de Gráfica, a fine art printmaking studio/ school and gallery. Printing presses used by artists here were originally used in printing packaging for the cigar production in Cuba. The space is very open and as you wonder you can watch artists at work and even ask them questions! The space is open Mon. – Fri. 9:30 am – 4 pm and admission is free.

Presses in the Studio space.

Presses in the Studio space.

Here is a photo of one of the artists we met at work on a book binding project.

Here is a photo of one of the artists we met at work on a book binding project. I have his name and web site, once I find that I will update this post.

Some of our group enjoying the gallery space.

Some of our group enjoying the gallery space.

Of course we also visited the National Gallery of Havana (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana) which houses the most impressive collection of art spanning the colonial Spanish era to contemporary times created in Cuba. My only regret was that we were unable to hire an English speaking art historian to guide us through the important Cuban works. This surely would have further informed our visit of Cuba and appreciation of all we experienced.

If you stay in Old Havana or La Habana Vieja, you will literally find an art gallery or artist’s studio around every corner! Public murals and sculptures are everywhere to be marveled at and to interact with.

Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride.

Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride. One of Bonnie’s favourite artists.

Photo courtesy of BonnieMcBride

Photo courtesy of Bonnie McBride

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Caza

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Caza

Some of our group making a commentary on how the times they are a changing in Cuba.

Some of our group making a commentary on how the times they are a changing in Cuba.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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