By SAMUEL EISEN-MEYERS
In March of 2016, President Obama lifted restrictions on travel to Cuba by individuals for “people to people” educational trips. I quickly started planning a way to take advantage of this sudden crack in the wall separating us from the island and its people. For the past decade, I had dreamed of going to Cuba and tried to imagine what it was like. And in April I landed in Havana, intending to spend a month observing and documenting Cuban art and artists.
After a week in Havana, my path finally emerged from a series of chance encounters with Cuban artists and their friends—I was going to Galeria Taller, an artists workshop in Matanzas, a city of around 150,000 on the north coast of the island, less than 60 miles from Havana. The taxi ride to Matanzas is close to an hour-and-a-half long, I found, but once I arrived there, things started moving quickly.
The building that houses Galeria Taller seemed like a museum that had come from the leftover materials used to build the foundation and interior of one of Gaudi’s churches. The vast 100-foot pastel walls, softened by the prevailing weather, charred bricks and the obvious hard labor of restoration, gave a sense of dignity to the 160-year-old structure. Birds guarded the roofless walls from the sky, and the echoes of the streets provided a soundtrack for Matanzas’s finest sculptors, painters and creatives.
“We are open.”