We caught up with our OLLI instructor and professional artist, Kathy Rennell Forbes, who recently returned from Cuba where she led an eight-day art tour of Havana. Several of her art students joined her on this adventure.
The goal was to capture the beauty of the island in daily watercolor journaling while exploring art studios, museums, and the historic architecture. They also experienced the music, dance and culinary cuisine of this place lost in time. They traveled with the Atlanta-based nonprofit, Go, Eat, Give, in March 2015.
Besides painting and photographing the local scenery, some highlights of the trip were visiting the studio of Eduardo Roca, completing a ceramic mural at Fusterlandia, painting at the senior center, and visiting the Museum of Fine Arts.
Kathy shared her favorite moments:
Meeting an Influencer
We met famed Cuban artist, Eduardo Roca, better known as “Choco” at his spacious studio. His studio/gallery was divided into several rooms, which were all bathed in natural light.
One of his five assistants demonstrated prepping his printing plates made from crushed soda cans, which provided intriguing repetitive texture to his prints. The room had a large printing press and multiple rollers in a variety of sizes and weights. It was all well organized with the high walls adorned with his artwork everywhere.
The next adjoining studio was larger and sanctioned off into areas of storage, shipping, painting, sculpting and glazing ceramics. Choco used repurposed materials in all of these.
Another offsite artist created the ceramic bowls and plates, which Choco decorated with colorful glazes. He had two separate tables where he painted and worked on his sculptures. Two large packages arrived from the local foundry, which he opened to reveal two gorgeous bronze statues. He was very generous with his time and answering questions, while also selling his creations to the group.
Historic Site Visits
We visited the home studio of renowned ceramic artist, Jose Fuster. He is Cuba’s version of Howard Finster from Georgia. Fuster has created a colorful wonderland of recycled tile called “Fusterlandia.” It all began with his vision and decorating his house. When a neighbor’s roof leaked and roofing materials were in short supply, Fuster built a repurposed tiled roof. Word spread and he continues to adorn his neighborhood in colored tile with the assistance of his artisans and volunteers.
A true highlight for the Atlanta group was completing a rooster mural. Later they enjoyed a guided tour of his studio where they purchased original paintings or tiles.
In addition to painting scenery around Havana, one morning the group visited a local senior center in the quiet oasis of a shaded organic garden within the city. The residents were thrilled to have their portraits made. As time did not permit to paint everyone, I took photos of each resident and later completed quick watercolor sketches, which the next Go, Eat, Give tour group will present to them.
The Museum of Fine Art housed an amazing collection of Cuban artists, many still creating today as Cuba has the highest number of artists per square foot of any country. The museum is a must see for any visitor to Havana. It also has the largest collection of paintings by Cuban artist Wifredo Lam. If you cannot get to Cuba, you can see many of his paintings from traditional to surrealistic at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art until May 24. Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta artfully curated this exhibit.
Upcoming Art Tours
Kathy is leading several exciting tours including:
- Tuscany and Le Marche, Italy, Oct. 31 – Nov. 7, 2015
- Barcelona, Spain, June 6-13, 2016
- Venice, Italy, October 8-15, 2016
If you would like to learn more about these trips, contact Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.