Monthly Member Highlight: Abby Bartell

VATA President and Danville Middle & High School Art Educator, Abby Bartell, traveled to Cuba for February break. Read about her experience and highlights from this culturally rich and vibrant country!



I’m Abigail Bartell. I have been teaching middle and high school visual art at Danville School for 10 years. I earned my Masters in Art and Design Education this past summer from the Vermont College of Fine Art. I’ve been a VATA members since my student teaching days, and have been on the Board for several years- most recently as the current president. I live in Danville with my partner, Jason, our four boys, three dogs and a cat.

For February break I traveled with Northern Vermont University to Havana, Cuba for a week long course called The Art and Culture of Cuba. Along with lots of amazing music, inspiring art, fantastic mojitos, history, many generous and lovely Cuban people, and miles of walking, I helped teach a bookmaking class to a group of students from the Academy of Art San Alejandro. Along with Ken Leslie from NVU-Johnson, we shared several simple bookmaking techniques, talked about our own artwork, and had a short critique session with students about their own work. The students were amazing, very talented, and eager to set up an art email exchange with students from Danville High School. Along with the more formal class with the San Alejandro students, I ran into kids everywhere in Havana. They love having their pictures taken and enjoyed practicing English.

We visited the National Theater, The National Museum of Fine Arts, the Cuban Art Factory (FAC), the Taller Experimental de Graphica (a cooperative printmaking studio where we made monoprints and learned about lithography), Ediciones Vigia (an independent bookmaking/publishing studio in Matanzas), Fusterland (a mosaic paradise), the gallery of Roberto Fabelo, and much more. I was extremely lucky to have a private visit to the studio and home of Sandra Dooley, an artist I’ve admired for years. I purchased a lot of art, and have been so inspired to incorporate Cuban art into my classroom practice."

In addition to around 600 photos, I kept a daily visual journal of the sights, foods, and excursions I experienced.

While the US embargo continues to make travel to Cuba almost impossible, I would highly recommend an educational or cultural exchange program like the one I participated in. Cubans are some of the kindest, most welcoming, warm and generous people I’ve met. I look forward to my next visit!