Havana: Here and NOW! February 11-18, 2017

Art Encounter’s 2017 State of the Arts Cuba Trip

CUBA: Here and NOW!
February 11 -18, 2017
with optional  February 18-22, 2017 extension to Trinidad and Cienfuegos

Join us for a Personalized Small Group Experience!
(16 maximum group size)


Art Encounter’s February trip catapults culture lovers into the center of what’s happening in Cuba NOW. The historic Hotel Nacional is our home base for a full week immersion in the arts. At private homes, studios and galleries you will meet the most prominent and interesting visual artists, dancers, curators and musicians in intimate art encounters. Our people-to-people trip puts you in direct contact with amazing creative people that have become heartfelt friends over 15 years of Art Encounter trips to Cuba. Return home knowing first-hand the power of art in sustaining the spirit of the Cuban people living under the duress of the embargo. Our 15 years of experience and contacts provide access to a still uncommercial Havana – HERE and NOW – yet poised on the cusp of change.

Note:  Itinerary is subject to change
Meals included are noted: B (breakfast), L (lunch), D (dinner)

Day 1
Saturday February 11: History & Old Havana
Your escorts, artists Joanna Pinsky and Ellen Kamerling will be on hand to meet you at the airport. A private motor coach awaits your arrival for an orientation tour. At the Plaza de Revolution discuss the immense sculpture of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero. At the Imperialist Plaza learn more of Cuban history when discovering another evocative sculpture of Jose Marti.

Get to know fellow travelers at our Welcome Lunch in Old Havana. Discover Old Havana on a walking tour to Plaza de San Franciso, Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja.

Check-in to the historic Hotel Nacional overlooking the Malecon – your home in Havana. This art deco/neo classical architectural icon is steeped in the history of illustrious past occupants from movie stars to mobsters. Relax and refresh before our Welcome Dinner.

Day 2
Sunday February 12: Contemporary Art & Artists
Bring your cameras and get your local bearings with Joanna and Ellen on a walking tour through the Vedado neighborhood. Discover La Rampa, famous jazz clubs and Coppelia -”the largest ice-cream parlor in the world …serving 30,000 customers a day.

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 a private lunch in the home of a curator/collector and discuss the impact of the Havana Biennial. Meet some of our favorite artists who were Biennale participants on exclusive visits to their homes/private studios. Over mojitos, enter the discussion of how current changes in the art market impact their ideas, content and careers.
Evening at leisure


Day 3
Monday February 13:
 Advancing the Arts through Education
Today visit the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). 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. Meet an artist who designed a dramatic gallery space to feature innovative artwork in clay. The adjacent workshop is available for children’s classes and other artists use.

Enjoy a family style lunch at Aljibi, known for a family recipe of garlic chicken.

Meet artists who attended ISA and formed art collectives to help one another after graduating. Visit an all-male community of artists and an all-female community of artists. Get to know an exceptional artist who extends a long term commitment to mentoring his students. Compare and contrast the expectations of artists competing in art markets in Cuba and the USA.

Discuss the importance of the Havana Biennale and the role of curators and gallery dealers in creating the growing demand for Cuban art at dinner in a private home.

Day 4
Tuesday February 14:
Roots of Afro Cuban Music & 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”.

The amazing artist KCHO has created a one of kind art compound that welcome the surrounding community to hang out and even share his internet service. He has had a major impact on the changing the daily lives of locals. With major exhibitions around the world, he embodies the Cuban spirit of giving back to his community. We discuss his mammoth sculpture installations and visit the gallery he created as an homage to Wilfredo Lam, a Cuban treasure from another time.

Lunch awaits at another art enclave known as “Fusterlandia”. You will have time to digest the artist’s huge imagination as you enjoy a typical Cuban meal. Over many years Jose Fuster (known simultaneously as the Picasso of the Caribbean and 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. A walk through the community will confirm Fuster’s impact on the surrounding community.

Finally, 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. Now a Grandpa, 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.
BL + Surprise Valentine Day Party

Day 5
Wednesday February 15:
Dance & Art in Old Havana
Today, Ismael Abelo, former Minister of Culture, greets us 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! After our discussion, we are treated to work in progress by one of Cuba’s exceptional dance companies. Relax at lunch on your own in Old Havana. Stroll through Old Havana to the Plaza de la Cathedral to watch highly skilled printmakers working at the famous Taller Experimental de Grafica. You may come home with a print or two. Discuss current exhibitions at new art spaces erupting in Old Havana. Our day ends with a private performance of Retazos – Isabel Bustos renowned dance company. In a Q & A with Isabel and her troupe, learn how the choreographer mingles visual art and dance in her productions.

For those who want to capture images of “HAVANA, Here and NOW”, Joanna and Ellen lead a back street photography walking tour from Old Havana to the hotel.

After dinner, join the “happening scene” at Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC).

Day 6
Thursday February 16: Matanzas & Varadero
Arrive at the Matanzas Music and Art School in time for a spontaneous performance by talented high school students. Meet faculty members and observe art classes in progress. Wander into the studio and workshop of LOLO, a famous local artist. Discuss his enormous sculpture constructed on site. Meet local artists and discover what Mantanzas has to offer in contrast to Havana. Linger at a unique paper making facility known for their beautiful hand-made books. You’ll be inspired to make your own!

Spend the afternoon in the famous beach resort of Varadero. A leisurely lunch is served at the elegant Casa Dupont (also known as Xanadu), the former estate of American millionaire Irene Dupont. Tour the mansion and learn the story of the Dupont family. There may be time to stroll the shore of the adjacent beach or even wade in the crystal clear Caribbean.

Evening at leisure

Day 7
Friday February 17: Hot Shot Artists’ Studios
Joanna & Ellen introduce you to a few or their favorite artists who have gained international recognition over the years we’ve been visiting. Their work is collected world-wide. Learn how they have flourished and dealt with the constraints of the USA embargo.

The afternoon is at leisure to explore individual interests or for an optional tour to Hemingway’s farm/home.
Farewell Dinner Party

Day 8
Saturday February 18: Departures


  • Art Encounter Letter of Authorization to travel
  • Roundtrip Miami/Havana airfare
  • Copperbridge Foundation representative airport assistance for flights from Miami
  • Visa
  • 7 nights at the Hotel Nacional with optional Executive Floor upgrades based on availability at time of booking
  • 17 meals: 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners, 1 Surprise Party
  • English speaking guide throughout
  • Exclusive visits to the homes and studios of internationally recognized and emerging artists, gallery dealer, curator and Cuba “luminaries” as per the attached itinerary
  • Daily tours facilitated by Art Encounter escorts 
  • Historian led city tour of Old Havana 
  • Bellas Artes Museo entrance fee
  • Visit to ISA or another school with an advanced art program
  • Private air conditioned motor coach as per the itinerary
  • Airport transfers
  • Medical insurance while in Cuba
  • 2 bottles of water per person per day

Contact Travel Director Ellen Kamerling at eldonkam@msn.com

REGISTER with a $1,000* deposit by Friday November 25, 2016!

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Art Encounter, 927 Noyes St. #104, Evanston, IL  60201
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* Deposit is per person and non-refundable.  We encourage the purchase of trip cancellation insurance.