Havana, Cuba: January 29-February 5, 2015

Art Encounter invites you to join artists Joanna Pinsky and Ellen Kamerling on a unique People to People trip that provides a rare insight into Cuba. Art Encounter’s twelfth trip to Havana explores Cuba’s artistic wealth through a lens that focuses on history, architecture, music, art and dance. You will discover Cuba’s national treasure – its people! Joanna and Ellen’s “art encounters” bring you together with Cuba’s creative community. You will have a unique opportunity to connect with the people of a country caught in a time warp about to change.

ITINERARY  (subject to change)

January 29 (Thursday) Arrive at the Miami International Airport by noon for your flight to Havana. A private motor coach awaits your arrival for an orientation tour. At the Plaza de Revolution we discuss the immense sculpture of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero. At the Imperialist Plaza we learn more of Cuban history when discovering another evocative sculpture of Jose Marti. Our tour ends at the Melia Cohiba Hotel overlooking the Malecon – your home in Havana. The hotel is a showcase for many of the Cuban artists whose studios we will visit. Join Joanna and Ellen for a walk along the Malecon or relax at the pool before our Welcome Dinner.

January 30 (Friday) Cuban Art & Old Havana

Put Cuban art in context from the early days of the Revolution to the present on Art Encounter’s tour of the stunning Bellas Artes Museo. A private “art encounter” discussion develops an understanding of the ideas and amazing art generated during the past 6 decades.  Linger at lunch with a bird’s eye view over Havana to the ocean beyond from the rooftop of Parque Central Hotel. Walk down the pedestrian only Obispo Street to the Plaza de Armas. A guided tour introduces you to the gracious historic plazas in Old Havana. Strolling through Old Havana, we visit several contemporary art spaces to discuss current exhibitions.
Cocktails at a private gallery space before dinner on your own.

January 31 (Saturday) Artists’ studios & the Havana premier performance of “TRADE WINDS”

Today artists Joanna Pinsky and Ellen Kamerling invite you to meet some of Cuba’s best artists who have become international art stars exhibiting at prestigious biennials in Venice, Tokyo and Madrid. In lively discussions (known as “art encounters”) you will get to know the trials and tribulations of the artists first-hand. This behind the scenes art tour includes emerging arts and collective art spaces popping up all over Havana’s ever expanding art scene.

Dinner on your own at the hotel before our special event tonight: a long awaited Havana premier performance of “Trade Winds” – a collaboration between Chicago’s Hedwig Dances & Havana’s Danzabierta.

February 1 (Sunday) Roots of Afro Cuban Art & Community Projects

Meet our friend Elias Aseff Alfonso, authority on Santeria religion and assistant to muralist Salvador Gonzales. He invites us into Salvador’s home for an informal discussion of Santeria practice. Afterwards experience how Salvador’s amazing murals make Calle Hamel a showplace and meeting place for locals and tourists alike at a weekly event known as “Rumba Sunday”.
Lunch awaits at another art enclave known as “Fusterland”. Over many years Jose Fuster (known as Cuba’s Gaudi) has been transforming his neighborhood in Jaminitas with eye boggling mosaics. A man for all seasons, Fuster is an artist with a wild imagination and the ability to manifest his vision.

Finally, we meet Pablo Menendez, another visionary who creates musical magic with his group called MEZCLA. His personal narrative is as inspiring as his music. Our intimate encounter reveals why he came to Cuba as a youngster and chose to stay. He introduces us to some of Cuba’s best musicians while sharing background on the roots of Afro Cuban music. Our private concert takes place on the rooftop concert of his home or club/art gallery recently opened by his family.

Tonight enjoy mojitos and a typical Cuban dinner at the home and private collection of an important curator. Mingle with artists and get a behind the scenes preview of the next Havana Bienale.

February 2 (Monday) Advancing the Arts through Education

Today we visit the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) where we witness first-hand how Cuba’s education system promotes and provides the basis for the excellence in all the arts. Meet faculty and watch students working in a variety of media: ceramics, painting, print making and photography. Engage in “art encounters” about how artists are educated and supported in their careers.
After lunch at Aljibe, famous for garlic chicken, we meet Ismael Abelo, former Minister of Culture, at a private art space. His vast experience provides an astute overview of Cuban culture from Revolutionary times to the present. He is a national treasure! Afterwards we are treated to work in progress by one of Cuba’s exceptional dance companies.
Evening at leisure.

February 3 (Tuesday) Outside of Havana: Matanzas & Varadero

Depart Havana to explore Cuba’s northern coastline. We begin our exploration in Matanzas, a quintessential Cuban town, and wind up in Varadero, Cuba’s largest resort area. Matanzas is often referred to as “the real Cuba”. It was here that freed slaves united in secret brotherhoods and gathered to measure out the drum patterns that gave birth to rumba. Therefore, Matanzas has some of the best rumba on the island. Musicians, teachers, students and artists at an art/music  school, sculptors and painters greet us at an outstanding gallery for a discussion of their work and insight into the art world outside of Havana. Learn all about unique approaches to creating art books at a fantastic bookmaking facility. Continue to Varadero and spend the night in an art filled all inclusive Varadero hotel.

February 4 (Wednesday) Varadero to Havana: Art & Tourism

Meet hotel management personnel to explore how art and commerce collide in the hotel and tourism industry. Artists will be on hand to engage in “art encounters” to discuss the challenges of making art for public spaces in hotels. We explore how scale and context effects content. Return to Havana for an afternoon of leisure. Tonight we toast creativity at our Farewell Dinner and wrap-up discussion of “Cuba on the Verge of Change”.

February 5 (Thursday) Adios Cuba!

Transfer to Havana airport for Miami flights. Or you may choose to explore Cuba’s eastern coast on our 4 night/5 day extension.

FOR PRICING AND ITINERARIES FOR OUR MIAMI PRE-TRIP AND CUBA EAST COAST POST-TRIP, please contact Art Encounter:  artencounter@yahoo.com or 847-328-9222

TO RESERVE A PLACE, please send a $1,000 non-refundable check to Art Encounter, or pay with your credit card (3% surcharge added) using the Paypal link below:


Eastern Cuba

February 5-9, 2015

$1290** per person, $100 single supplement

** Does not include return flight cost- TBD
Limited space depending on flight availability. Reservations taken on a first come basis.

Fly from Havana to Holguin, called “a city of parks”. Travel from Holguin by private coach to rural areas and coastal villages seldom visited. Spend a night in the isolated and beautiful seaside town of Baracoa which means Nature. This area is known as Cuba’s Shangri-La. Then on to Santiago, “perhpas the most African, most musical and most passionate city in Cuba”. Here the Caribbean influence of the West Indies permeates art, dance and music. Santiago is also known as the “Cradle of the Revolution”. See where it all began!

 (subject to change)

February 5 (Thursday) Havana to Holguin

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Holguin. Visit the Galeria de Holguin featuring interesting local art. Overnight in Holguin.

February 6 (Friday) Holguin to Baracoa

Enjoy a beautiful coast drive on the way to Baracoa. This remote town is nestled beneath rugged mountains and pristine ocean beaches.Lunch awaits! Visit Spanish forts, the Museo Arqueologica containing some of the most important Taino Indian “finds”. Meet painters and sculptors enjoying the arty leisure lifestyle in this isolated seaside town.
Spend the night and enjoy the “happening” scene.  Overnight in Baracoa.

February 7 (Saturday) Baracoa to Santiago

Travel from Baracoa to Santiago through stunning scenery.
Arrive in Santiago and get your bearings on an orientation tour. Santiago is one of the most interesting and historically important cities in Cuba. Today is packed with historic sights and the main monuments to the Revolution around the Parque Cespedes. This afternoon we visit the Union Nacional de Escritoes y Artistas de Cubain, a gorgeous colonial courtyard for an intimate people-to-people exchange. Learn more about Afro Cuban religions and culture at the Casa del Caribe.

Tonight enjoy music from salsa to son! A percussion lesson or dance lesson may be scheduled.

February 8 (Sunday) Santiago

This morning we visit fascinating studios of local artists.  We compare and contrast the Afro Cuban influence on art made in Santiago with the art in Havana/Matanzas/Veradero.
Pursue your own interest before our gala Farewell Dinner.

February 9 (Monday) Return flights to the USA

We anticipate noon arrivals in Miami on a direct flight from Santiago (to be confirmed).