When artist Carola Bravo moved from Venezuela to Pinecrest in 2012, the former art professor and department head for 20 years at Simón Bolivar University in Caracas was looking for a way to continue her passion for teaching. She began programs in her home that were equal parts education and art appreciation, and they also served as forums for local artists to speak about their work, their creative processes and their sources of inspiration.
Then, two years ago, while strolling through Pinecrest Gardens, she passed a desolate Cypress Hall. There it was—the perfect space for her popular art-immersion tastings, brunches and multicourse dinners. The feasts had grown so popular, she was outgrowing the space to host them inside her home art studio.
The timing for the move to Cypress Hall couldn’t have been better. The space had been lying in a state of demolition and disrepair, but Pinecrest Gardens director Alana S. Perez said the village council had voted to completely renovate the space.
“It would be for the purpose of having a multifunctional venue like our Hibiscus Gallery [artist in residence Xavier Cortada’s gallery], or even our Historic Entrance. Carola came to us during the planning stages of the new space with this beautiful program concept,” Perez says.
And the space that had been Parrot Jungle Restaurant needed to remain special, Perez says. “This was iconic, and a favorite destination for family weekend breakfasts and other daytime fare,” she says. “We are reminded daily of the love they had for this space as a gathering place for the community.”
With a renovation of the hall, the HARTvest Project at Pinecrest Gardens began in January, hosting its ARTastings the first Saturday each month in the main lounge area from 7 to 10 p.m. and ARTfeasts the second Sunday each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On the second Wednesday each month, from 9 a.m. to noon, is ARTbreak. And there’s an afternoon ARTea, inspired by the British high tea experience, on the fourth Thursday of each month.
“These are meant to be multisensory experiences,” Bravo explains. The signature program is the ARTasting. “The tastings are related to the art and the talks. We invite three artists and a chef and/or a sommelier. We’ve even done chocolate tastings.”
Along with the artist’s talk, which lasts about 15-20 minutes, there is a tasting. “It’s art education for all the senses. We’re creating a new pathway to connect people with art.”
The art brunch is a thematic food event. “We invite an art historian or a curator that offers insight into a particular artist, and then there’s a multicourse meal prepared by a chef, who creates a menu inspired by the artist,” Bravo says.
She gives an example of a previous feast, which she hosted in her home, and would like to re-create at Cypress Hall. It centered on the work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The art was Kahlo’s, and the menu was created from a cookbook called Frida’s Fiestas, assembled by the painter’s stepdaughter, with recipes Kahlo served to family and friends.
“These feasts become educational, social and entertainment events,” Bravo says.
The HARTvest Project is going beyond the tastings, feasts, brunches and teas, however. There are films, weekly art workshops, and an art collectors club for teenagers. The HARTvest Food Lab focuses on food as art, and HARTvest Coffee, which serves coffee and tea all day long, hosts special events where baristas show guests how to make the perfect cup of coffee, and local farmers talk about the fruits of their labor.
There’s also the HARTvest Worklab, a shared, co-working space that provides mentoring and coaching.
Bravo, along with members of the village staff and Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano, curated the furniture and furnishings. Bravo made the hall’s terrazzo floor artwork too, using embedded metal and poured terrazo with quartz and glass.
“It is meant to continue the deep roots from the garden coming inside the room,” Bravo says.
Bravo and Perez are proud that Cypress Hall is becoming a destination for art and creativity inside Pinecrest Gardens. “Cypress Hall is once again a lively space that brings our residents and the greater community together, and offers yet another reason to come to Pinecrest Gardens,” Perez says.
Learn more at pinecrestgardens.org.