It's a warm, tropical night and the sounds of laughter and spirited conversation fill the air. Couples sway to a Latin beat, the aroma of fresh Cuban food tempts your palate, and vibrant works of art by renowned graphic artists enliven the walls. You could be in Cuba, but you haven't left the mainland—you're at "Havana Nights," a benefit to raise funds for student scholarships at Santa Fe College. Billed as "a celebration of the Cuban soul," the event takes place 6-10 p.m. Friday, August 1, in the college's Fine Arts Hall at 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville.

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"Havana Nights" Benefits Scholarships at SF College on August 1, 2014

Jun 5, 2014

It's a warm, tropical night and the sounds of laughter and spirited conversation fill the air. Couples sway to a Latin beat, the aroma of fresh Cuban food tempts your palate, and vibrant works of art by renowned graphic artists enliven the walls. You could be in Cuba, but you haven't left the mainland—you're at "Havana Nights," a benefit to raise funds for student scholarships at Santa Fe College. Billed as "a celebration of the Cuban soul," the event takes place 6-10 p.m. Friday, August 1, in the college's Fine Arts Hall at 3000 NW 83rd Street, Gainesville.

Seating is limited and tickets are $100 per person, which includes a one-year membership in the SF College Arts Patron program at the Lecturer level. To reserve your space, call 352-395-5355 or click Events/Tickets at sfcollegefoundation.org.

"Havana Nights" was inspired by a cultural tour of Cuba that was sponsored by the SF College Foundation and led in March 2014 by Astrid Martinez-Jones, president and founder of Latin Art Space. Raul Villarreal, a painter and expert on Ernest Hemingway, accompanied the tour and led discussions about the author's life in Cuba as the group toured Hemingway's home, La Finca Vigia, and Cojimar, the village that inspired The Old Man and the Sea.

"People on the tour had such a good time and were so impressed that we wanted to share the Cuban cultural experience with others," explained Kathryn Lehman, the college's coordinator of cultural affairs. "Many people purchased works of art by the artists they visited, and those pieces will be on view during ‘Havana Nights.' We'll also have a slide show of some of the remarkable photographs that were taken on the tour."

"The trip was spectacular," said Carrie Lee, one of the participants. "We attended a rehearsal of the ballet company ProDanza that is directed by Laura Alonso, the niece of Alberto Alonso who taught dance at Santa Fe College for many years. On a lark, we visited an Episcopal church and found that the pastor has a connection to Holy Trinity Church here in Gainesville and his son was a student at Santa Fe! We had a personal tour of the Cuban wing of the national museum. Every day we thought the tour couldn't get any better, but of course it did!"

According to Lee, Cuban printmakers and graphic artists are among the best in the world. Each person on the tour received an exclusive print with a Hemingway theme created by artist Janette Brossard, who donated one of the prints to be auctioned at "Havana Nights." Other artists whose work will be on view include Ibrahim Miranda, Angel Ramirez and "Choco," Eduardo Roca Salazar.

"'Havana Nights' is a unique opportunity for people in Gainesville to see the work of contemporary Cuban graphic artists and to view or buy some of Vicki Santello's wonderful photos that she took while on the tour," Lee explained. Photo sales will also benefit the scholarship fund.

"Combine the art and photography with music, dancing, and food, and ‘Havana Nights' will be a lively immersion in the Cuban cultural experience," Lehman added. "You'll have fun and know that you're helping our students at the same time."

For more information about "Havana Nights" and the Santa Fe College Arts Patron program, call Cultural Affairs Coordinator Kathryn Lehman at 352-395-5355.

For more information about the Santa Fe College Foundation and scholarship programs, call Assistant Vice President for Development Michael Curry at 352-395-5200.