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Catherine Beaudette @UNPACK Havana

Unpack Studio, 7 y C, Vedado, Habana

April 2017

Fossil

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Week 1 

I arrive in a heat wave so hot I will need a coping strategy. I rent a bike that’s too expensive and realize I should have bought one to donate to Unpack. Oh well, I am happy to be freewheeling through the colourful streets of Habana. I head west beyond the seawall searching for ocean access. Beach #1 is rocky with what looks like tufa and fossils, hard to walk on. I cool my feet but not much more, something nibbles at my toes. Beach # 2 is as rocky and looks too dangerous to enter. Beach #3 holds potential but I must traverse a thin ledge to reach the shore. Courage required and soon I’m swimming in the cool clear water with los muchachos. It’s over the bridge at Calle 12, doable on bike for a daily swim.

Study #7

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 Week 2

I settle into a routine making art in the mornings, reading Spanish, buying provisions para la comida. I find milk for café con leche, guavas for shakes and peanut bars for strength. On my outings I venture deeper into Centro Habana, gaining confidence and inspiration. Small architectonic paintings develop from the forms and colours noted. I’m interested in the space between house and street where public meets private with brightly painted pillars, gates and steps; each plane a different value that satisfies my painterly gaze. It hits me that Cubans decorate with concrete! I visit art galleries and begin to grasp the conceptual sophistication of contemporary Cuban art.

Papa’s

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Week 3

We visit Ernest Hemingway’s house and are swept away by the tale evoked in the objects and spaces he occupied. We linger by the pool… I reread Old Man and the Sea and am struck by his visceral descriptions. Hemingway loved Cuba, It fed his complicated soul for over 30 years. I begin to grasp the contradictions that exist in parallel worlds. The dual currency is emblematic – collectivo taxis cost 10 pesos to Habana Vieja (a few Canadian pennies) while regular taxis are 10 cuc’s ($14). We use both depending of what we’re buying. Cubans love to shop… yet there is little available. Advertising is absent yet slogans are everywhere, architecture is outstanding though much in ruin, streets are alive, detritus abundant. Cubans are warm loving people and I am grateful for the care and hospitality I feel (gracias Omar, Laura y Matilda). There is irony in the evening ritual on the Malecón where lovers gaze out at the dividing sea. What will linger for me are my wanderings through Centro Habana feeling the pulse of the neighbourhood and the beauty of its buildings while peering through grated windows into tiny dark rooms where life unfolds in the shadows.

Thank you Unpack, it’s been a crazy and wonderful adventure.

Catherine Beaudette

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Gabrielle Lockwood Estrin

My residency at Unpack was my second visit to Cuba. My first was in 2008 when I was a student at ISA on a study abroad placement. This was an incredibly influential time and I was keen to return and experience working in Havana again. I found my visit to be extremely interesting to see… Read Full Post

Kern Saunders

Cuba felt like home but with its unique twist. I’m a visual artist hailing from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago… So being introduced to my Caribbean cousins was, in short, an experience like none other. The people are some of the warmest hearts I’ve felt. Starting with Omar Alberto, the ever smiling daily coordinator… Read Full Post

Norman Barney @UNPACKSTUDIO

My name is Norman Barney, from Ontario, Canada. I just returned home from a short fifteen day stay at the Unpack Studio Artist Residency in Havana, Cuba. I have had two residencies at the Banff Centre last fall (2016) as well as the spring residency in 2015. Having gone to Cuba now and then for… Read Full Post

Laura Barron Havana Art Residency

I am a photo-based artist. I’ve been working on a long-term project that involves travelling in Latin America. I have participated in numerous artist residency programs while pursuing this project, but my experience at Unpack Studio Havana Art Residency has been my favourite. I’m Mexican, but I have a long personal history with Cuba. I… Read Full Post

Jennifer Ray @UNPACK Havana

Upon my arrival to Havana, it quickly became clear that Cuba is not an easy place to navigate for a foreigner, much less if you don’t speak Spanish. During my stay at Unpack Studio Havana Art Residency  they arranged studio visits with artists’ whose work was relevant to my own, planned excursions outside of the city, and… Read Full Post