Experiencing Haitian Art

  • Posted on: 10 January 2009
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
News: 
Blog Tags 2 Terms: 

Art is the medium through which some first come to know Haiti, and for others, to know Haiti better.  Haitian art is too expansive to be confined to shops and galleries – it is found on public transport, on the walls, in churches and Vodoun peristyles alike.  Art is Haiti's only inexhaustible resource.  When others use the tired phrase "Haiti - the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere", let us counter that Haiti is the culturally richest country in the Western Hemisphere instead.

 

 

Haiti’s art is imaginative, colorful, and often surreal.  With its echoes of Africa, it tells stories of resilience, resistance and hope not reflected in the mass media.  Haitian art is readily recognizable.  A friend once invited me to her home to see her Dominican art, which was in reality Haitian. I was frustrated that Haitian artists would feel that had to either leave their country or sell their works to the Dominican Republic for lack of a national market.

 

 

Tourism in Haiti remains under-developed. Haiti has nice beaches, but other countries have nice beaches.  Haiti is close to the United States, but other countries are close to the United States.  Haiti has a compelling history, but that in itself will not be enough to entice tourists.  Art, music, and other cultural events could ressurect Haiti's ailing tourism sector.

 

 

 

 

This lack of visitors directly impacts the ability of a Haitian artist to sell his or her works.  For some, there are opportunities to sell art aborad. Unfortunately, by the time a piece of art arrives lot bo dlo, whether in the United States or elsewhere,  it has changed hands so many times that the price increases dramatically. One street away from my apartment is a gallery that sells some Haitian iron-work.  What would cost ten dollars in Haiti is two hundred and fifty dollars here.  

 

 
Some organizations, such as Aid to Artisans, have set in place programs to help expand markets for Haitian art. In 2006, ATA helped aristans generate 440,000 in sales by securing contracts Aveda, Williams-Sonoma, Pier 1, Smith & Hawken, and Cost Plus. Aid to Artisans also arranges for  Haitian artists to participate in festivals such as the 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Santa Fe Folk Art Festival in 2005 and 2006.  In the USA, Aid to Artisans participates in Haitian cultural activities with the Haitian Association in Hartford, Saint Boniface Haiti Foundation in Boston and a unique store, Haiti's Back Porch in nearby Middletown, CT.

 

 

Aid to Artisans also published a book entitled Artisans of Haiti,  a great starting point for those wanting to learn more about the different kinds of Haitian art.  The book is available in both English and French and features photographs and interviews with renowned Haitian artists. To buy Aid to Artisan products, including several Haitian pieces, visit their online store. For more information, you can view a video clip about the organization here.  You can also sign up for their email list.    

 

 

The best way to experience Haitian art is to visit Haiti.  Once in Port au Prince, you dont have to go far as there are many different options.  You can go directly to Croix-des-Bouquets, a short drive from Port-au-Prince, to the area of Noailles.  There are over 60 metal workers there.  You can watch them work, discuss the process, and negotiate a more reasonable price than would ever be possible in the United States.  One could hire a driver or take a taxi. According to Corbett's List colleagues, the new Lonely Planet Guide for Haiti/DR gives instructions on taking tap-taps there, but this takes time. You have another option though. Jacqui Labrom of Voyages Lumieres offers well guided tours of this and other areas in Port au Prince.  You can contact her at: voyageslumierehaiti@gmail.com.

 

 

Artists in other neighborhoods, and Bel Air in particular, specialize in the creation of Vodoun flags.  Sequin by painstaking sequin, veves of Haitian spirits emerge upon sheets of silk. These beautiful flags can take over a month to create.  There are many poor quality flags out there, but there are flags of extraordinary quality as well.  Many shops and galleries carry them, although it is better to buy directly from the artist if you can.

 

 

 
For those who are patient and not averse to tight spaces with a lot of people, there is always the Iron Market downtown.  It is a very old market, of which a portion is devoted to arts and crafts. While loud, crowded, and hot,  there are interesting things to see.  We continue to argue that building a large artist’s pavilion in a more central and stable part of Port au Prince, perhaps in the Champ de Mars neighborhood, would help promote the livelihoods of Haitian artists.  The Iron Market has too many disadvantages, artists deserve better.

 

 

Heading up LaLue (John Brown Ave.), there are many roadside art stores.  Almost all are very small but worth a visit.  Just watch out for the traffic.  Once in Petionville, there are vendors selling art on the street, particularly outside of the hotels and Place Boyer.  Perhaps the most amazing gallery in Haiti is Nader Galerie, as much a museum as a gallery. 

 

 

 

Haitian art consists of more than paintings, iron work, and flags.  There are sculpters, craft-workers, and many other varieties.  The art community is also bigger than just Port au Prince.  In fact, Jacmel is widely regarded as Haiti's artistic center of gravity.  Jacmel is known for its excellent paper mache masks as well as the country's best Carnivale.  Jacmel is also home to an annual film festival. Cap Haitian has an artist community although not to the extent that Jacmel does.

 

Can’t make it to Haiti?  You can also experience Haitian art online.  Many galleries have websites that feature Haitian art including Medalia, Gallery of West Indian Art, Loblolly Gallery, Fine Caribbean Art Gallery, Galerie Makondo, Haitianna, Galerie Martelly, Art Haiti, Carrie Art Collection, Art Lakay, Haitian Paintings, Haiti Art Cooperative, Ridge Art, Valcin II, Artickles, Barrister's Gallery, Voodoo Authentica, Gallerie Des Antilles, Expressions Art Gallery, Studio Wah, the Lady from Haiti, etc.  Some non governmental organizations such as Friends of Hospital Albert Schweitzer, Alternative Chance Haitian Art Gallery, Project Medishare, and HELP Haiti sell Haitian art to expand their programming. 

 

 
Other good resources include the Haitian Art Society, Bonjour Haiti, Discover Haitian Art, Art Media Haiti, the Haitian Art Collection, Haitian Art Education and Appraisal Society and the Webster Guide to Haitian Art, Music, and Dance

 

 

 

I am very fond of Haitian art but am by no means an expert.  You dont have to be an expert though to develop a deeper understanding, through art, of a special but minunderstood country.  Art, music, and dance keep Haiti strong during the hard times and will see the country into better times. Should you know of places where people can experience Haitian art, in Haiti or abroad, that I have not mentioned, please feel free to post links in the commments section below.  Thanks!

 

 

Bryan

Comments

This is a good post. its important to point out that Haiti is not simply a disaster zone as is often suggested by the newscasts on cable--

Haiti's irrepressible artists are like Jamaica's musicians...unrelentingly creative. adversity only seems to strengthen their product.

congrats!

Thank you for publishing this post, I am enjoying visiting the links. It is strange how the world and the media in particular, always focus on the negative and, mostly, impersonal aspects of everyone's lives. It is thanks to people like you that we are able to glimpse these hidden creative treasures. We do have a store here in Grenada that sells some Haitian art, your post enables us to enjoy the diversity.

Been buying art from www.medalia.net for about 5 years...the best! Extremely honest and dependable.

Haiti is known for its devastating hurricanes, violent political clashes and crippling poverty. But there is a village on this island country that is also becoming known around the world for its art, unusual art at that.
.
Sculptor Jean Eddy Remy, president of the artists and artisans association of Croix-des-Bouquets. Sculptor Jean Eddy Remy, president of the artists and artisans association of Croix-des-Bouquets. (CBC)
.
Artists here are recycling old metal oil drums and transforming them into everything from landscapes to mythological sea creatures.
.
Their products are not only visually stunning. There is a rhythm to their creation that can stop the visitor cold.
.
About an hour out of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, you can hear it, the soft, sometimes frantic pounding of metal. Turn down the small dusty dirt road leading to the village of Noailles and you see them squatting under umbrella-like shade trees, pounding and chiselling their metal canvases, turning what once was tossed into ditches to rust into art.
.
CBC reporter Stephen Puddicombe's video of the Haitian artists' colony can be seen here. (Runs 2:26)
.
There are almost two hundred metal artists in this small community, practising an art form that has been around since the 1950s. Metal sculptor Jean Eddy Rémy, the president of the association of artists and artisans of Croix-des-Bouquets, says this artist colony owes its existence to a simple blacksmith, Georges Liautaud.
.
In his time, Liautaud constructed simple metal crosses for the graves in his village because so many Haitians couldn't afford headstones. With the help of an American teacher, the blacksmith would create decorative metal sculptures that went on to shape the sensibilities of a whole generation of imitators.
.
Each work is unique, Rémy says, crafted by hand with a few simple tools and whatever is at hand. Dried banana or sugar cane is first placed inside the oil drum and set on fire to burn away any impurities.
With a minumum wage of only about $2 a day, recycling scrap metal has become a grinding way of life for many in Haiti. (Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press)With a minumum wage of only about $2 a day, recycling scrap metal has become a grinding way of life for many in Haiti. (Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press)
.
Once cooled, the artisan flattens the drum with a hammer, pounding it into a metal canvas. Then they often use chalk to sketch a design. Salvaging metal for some secondary use has been both a blessing and a curse in this poor, benighted country.
.
But here in Noailles, on the west coast, the magic seems to come in a flurry of hammer and chisel strokes as these artists create everything from large suns to sea goddesses and luminous Haitian landscapes.
Each work has a three-dimensional quality, courtesy of the bumps and hammer marks. Most are coated with varnish, a few are painted, but many are left to rust in places to heighten the effect.
.
Metal art has helped this area in many ways, says artist Jean Bruneau. Apart from the almost 200 artists in the community, there are hundreds more selling the work in the larger centres and more still gathering the unwanted drums.
.
Economically and socially, this work has changed the village and the region, Bruneau says. Its importance to Haiti's reputation abroad has even helped them get the ear of government. Measure twice, cut once. Haitian metal artists in Noailles examine a canvas. (CBC)Measure twice, cut once. Haitian metal artists in Noailles examine a canvas. (CBC)
,
Buyers of Haiti's metal art include Canada's Governor General, Michaëlle Jean as well as Hollywood celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The artists' association is currently preparing for exhibits in France and Los Angeles.
,
But for many of those here, the real importance of their work is how it has changed their lives. His fingers taped with small bandages, Felix Calixte sits beside the yellow wall of the artists co-op, gently pounding a piece of metal that he holds steady with his feet.
,
He grew up in the slums in Port-au-Prince and says that before he became an artist he was in school only when his parents could afford it. He likely would have grown up poor and in a gang, he says. But he happened to see the metal artists at one point and began the long apprenticeship of learning how to seek out the best drums and mould the steel sheets.
,
The metal called him, he says. And his life was changed.

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti—Music and art are part of the fabric of life in Haiti, whose creations are found in galleries of world capitals and sold on street corners of Port-au-Prince. Oil paintings, wood carvings, metal sculptures, Compás music. They all grow out of the long history of African and Caribbean influences nurtured over the centuries.
.
Haitian painting depicting the nation’s colorful tropical landscape. Haitian painting depicting the nation’s colorful tropical landscape. A riot of colors is everywhere.
.
They adorn the Tap-Tap painted trucks that transport Haitians through crowded streets. A kaleidoscope of art and messages abound with whimsy as well as religious themes as murals on dilapidated walls left by anonymous artists.
.
Music of Haiti and its Caribbean region has shaped the world’s tastes. It is always in the background in Haiti but emerges in its own right mostly at night, when the noises of the day diminish.
.
To tap into the creative talent of Haiti and use it as a catalyst for economic growth, USAID has partnered with Aid to Artisans (ATA), spreading Haitian art and music beyond this island nation.
.
Einstein Albert’s woodworking skill in crafting bowls has found outlets in such high-end retailers as Nieman Marcus. He is one of many who benefitted from an ATA/USAID grant.
.
When asked how he got his name, Albert smiled in anticipation of the question. He came from a family of musically talented siblings.
.
He was the last child and his parents thought his name would destine him for celebrity. This was perhaps not a matter of pure whimsy since high schools on the island have been named after John Paul Sartre, Sir Isaac Newton, and Immanuel Kant. Applying the names of geniuses may be seen as a way to encourage genius.
.
Albert uses the wood from the obeechi tree for his bowls and has a plantation of 22,000 trees to sustain his enterprise. “Obeechi is a soft wood,” he explains, “so it can’t be used for charcoal.” It is also a fast growing tree that makes it ideal for soil reclamation and redeeming the deforested hillsides that afflict so many people with mud slides, flooding, and erosion.
.
He would like to see the tree more widely planted and exploited for commercial purposes—furniture making, for example. The Haiti MarChe Project builds local skills and links producers with regional and international buyers. Those links were severely damaged when the United States imposed a comprehensive trade embargo on Haiti in the 1990s to force a return to constitutional government.
.
Small scale exporters were devastated, Albert said. MarChe also targeted the tourism sector by getting local talent better known in hotels and resorts throughout the region.
.
Over the past 10 years, ATA efforts have produced $230 million in retail sales, helping 125,000 artisans—70 percent of whom are women—sell products in 41 regions of the world.

“Here… There and Beyond” The Work of 16 Haitian Artists of Florida
By: Christian Nicolas and Fred Thomas
.
The book presents a collective effort to define this new breed of artists in the Haitian Diaspora and to provide them the means to access mainstream art world. Each chapter is divided in several themes. Each artist’s biography, styles and art work are presented to give the reader an interesting
insight about the man or woman behind the brush and the canvas.
.
2009, 328pp, Perfect Binding, Hard Cover
ISBN: 9781584325314
.
The cover can be seen at
_http://www.educavision.com/catalog.php?c=28&b=B520_
(http://www.educavision.com/catalog.php?c=28&b=B520)

BY Elizabeth Lazarowitz
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
.
Most New Yorkers are moaning about the soggy summer weather, but for Catherine Charlot all those
clouds have a silver lining.
.
The Haitian-born, Carroll Gardensbased
designer turns discarded umbrellas into boutique-ready bags and clothing,and blustery, wet days have meant a broken-umbrella bonanza.
.
"I'm so happy. I wish it could rain every day," said Charlot, 44, who immigrated to Brooklyn in 1994
and has spent most of her time in Marine
Park"I'm thinking of moving to
Portland just for that."
.
After big storms, Charlot scours her neighborhood for material. Last week, just two days of searching on her way to and from work yielded nearly 20
busted umbrellas from garbage cans and off the streets.
.
"This year I've collected more than ever," said Charlot, who now has about 425 umbrellas in her basement-level studio ready to be transformed.
The damp weather couldn't have come at a better time, because demand for her products is picking up.
.
"People like it because it's waterproof and of course recycled," said Jean Tanler of New York City made goods retailer Local Labels, which sold Charlot's totes at a kiosk in Grand Central Terminal
this summer and also took in old umbrellas for her to convert. "I do think a lot of people are more environmentally aware."
.
Charlot's handbag line ranges from simple black tote bags that she decorates with paint or embroidery to evening bags fashioned from patterned umbrella fabrics. Prices range from $18 to $100. Jackets, dresses and suits cost $150 to $300.
.
While selling anything in such bleak economic times is tough, green goods have a growing cachet and give shoppers a reason to stop and look, said Candace Corlett president of New York based retail research firm WSL Strategic Retail "Recycled everything has an audience," Corlett said. "A third of shoppers tell us that they'll go out of their way to buy earth-friendly products."
.
Charlot had a busy clothing business in
Haiti but pushed that aside when she moved here and began doing medical billing and French translation work. In 2002, she returned to fashion full-time, launching Himane, a custom clothing, pattern and sample-making business, but she longed to find her own niche.
.
Four years ago, she decided to try making water-resistant but fashionableclothing and accessories after getting drenched in a rainstorm. Water­proof
fabrics proved to be pricey, so when she stumbled across an old umbrella in her closet, a light bulb went off.
.
"You see them on the street all the time," she said. "You can take an old umbrella and turn it into something nice and beautiful." Charlot admitted Dumpster diving has its hazards. Once while digging in a sidewalk garbage can for an appealingly patterned umbrella, she was mistaken
for a homeless person by a well-meaning woman who offered her lunch.
.
Charlot said she's surprised at how excited people get when they realize something that seems unusable can find a new purpose. One woman brought her
50 umbrellas she'd collected over the years and was reluctant to toss. "It's amazing the way people react to this."

Ghetto Biennale:
..
BY RICHARD FLEMING Special to The Miami Herald
.
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- On the Boulevard Jean Jacques Dessalines stands an enormous sculpture of Papa Legba, the vodou spirit guardian of entryways and crossroads. Some 25 feet high, it has been welded together from an abandoned truck chassis, with its head a battered oil drum. The rusty giant is an incongruous sight among the bustling street vendors and small businesses crowding this busy street in Haiti's capital. Behind Papa Legba are more sculptures, an uncountable tangle assembled from chunks of carved wood, ironing boards, car parts, lengths of scrap fabric, even human skulls. This army of gargoyles, most representations of the pantheon of African lwa still so present in the spiritual life of this country, are the work of the sculptors of the Grand Rue, a loose collective of artists born and raised in the dense slums here.
.
Their work is a spectacular combination of recycling and imagination. Although drawn from the same deep well of Afro-Caribbean culture as
traditionally exported examples of Haitian art, it looks nothing like them.
.
``When we first started going around the neighborhood and collecting stuff in order to work, people said we were crazy,'' says Céleur Jean Herard. `They said, `Look at all these useless metal parts they are taking.'Really, it was a struggle not to be discouraged.''
.
Herard and André Eugene, the Papa Legba sculptor, pioneered the Grand Rue phenomenon. Both once worked within the traditional economy of this neighborhood of artisans, carving wooden ashtrays, candy bowls and statuettes. Such tourist trinkets are still mass produced here for export to more popular Caribbean vacation destinations. The slum's narrow cinderblock alleys are filled with the sound of hammering and the scent of varnish.
.
This shared past spent struggling on the handicraft production line may be one reason why the sculptors of the Grand Rue are adamant that their work be taken as fine art, not compartmentalized as ``ethnic'' or ``outsider.'' Behind his sculpture garden, André Eugene lives in what he calls the E. Pluri Bus Unum Museum, three small rooms crowded with neighborhood art. Eugene says that after traveling to galleries and museums around the world, he was struck that only the wealthy seemed to build arts institutions and determine what should hang in them. In Haiti the exhibition and selling of art has generally been dominated by the tiny upper-class *boujwazi*.
.
``I had the idea of making a museum here in my own area, with my own hands, because the artists you see here never had their own thing. They always let the Big Man exploit them,'' Eugene says. With similar intentions, the Grand Rue sculptors spent three weeks in November and December hosting the first Ghetto Biennale. Assisted by two outside curators, they used the Internet to solicit project proposals from
international artists and selected 35 from more than 100 applications. But instead of bringing completed artworks, as at a traditional biennial, the chosen artists were asked to create work in the Grand Rue environment. For many, the harsh realities of life in a Caribbean slum meant completely reformulating their ideas. London-based Jesse Darling had wanted to build ``a trash church,'' a sacred space made of found materials.
.
``When I got to Grand Rue, the first thought was, `Well, what is waste
here?' '' Darling says. ``Every little fan grate, every little nothing has
been reincorporated into the structure of someone's home, the structure of somebody's life, reused, made to work again.'' Forced to reconsider her materials, she ultimately used hundreds of the tiny, discarded plastic sachets in which small servings of fresh water are sold on the streets. Hugo Moro, a Cuban-born artist based in Miami, says that despite a familiar Caribbean feeling he recognized from trips to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Haiti was a shock.
.
``It was a kind of terror,'' he says. ``The Grand Rue was definitely a
mind-blowing, unexpected level of poverty.'' Moro quickly realized that even the modest materials he had brought along were inappropriate for the environment. He describes his project, *7,000 Trees for Haiti*, as a version of the famous *7,000 Oaks* project by Joseph Beuys, the late pioneer of social-environmental artworks.
.
``I see it like somebody going to the Louvre 100 years ago and copying the masters.'' Moro says. ``I'm taking Joseph Beuys and attempting to recreate his piece for the Antilles.'' Haiti, he says, ``is the most obvious place to do a reforestation-based piece of work.'' Moro sees the time he spent in Port-au-Prince as the beginning of a long-term relationship. To continue it he is collaborating with the Lambi Fund of Haiti, a grass-roots not-for-profit dedicated, among other things,
to environmental causes.
.
Building long-term links with artists outside of Haiti was undoubtedly one
of the goals of this unique take on an art expo, even though Eugene, Herard and other Grand Rue artists have now traveled to show their work in Paris and London and, notably, at Florida International University's Frost Art Museum. Whether those connections will sustain is a question that may have to wait two years, until the next Ghetto Biennale. But especially after the recent influx of visiting artists from around the globe, nobody in the neighborhood calls the Grand Rue artists crazy anymore.

The Miami Herald
BY LESLEY CLARK
.
The vibrant murals that once adorned the walls of the Cathedrale of Sainte Trinite -- created in the 1950s by some of the giants of Haitian art -- are now largely dust, part of the gray rubble that covers most everything in Port-au-Prince.
.
The earthquake two weeks ago buried hundreds of thousands and struck deep into Haiti's vibrant arts community, erasing in seconds cultural touchstones like the murals that depicted Christ's birth, crucifixion and ascension. Even as talk turns to rebuilding, artists struggle to account for the loss of thousands of expressions of artwork that shows themselves -- and the world -- a creativity that persists through years of political strife, turmoil and poverty.
.
``We'll be knocking on every door possible to save whatever is left,'' said Gerald Alexis, a Haitian-born curator and expert on Caribbean art who from his home in Quebec is trying to mobilize arts groups to find a way to preserve the portions of the mural that survive. ``It is essential for future generations, for our identity.''
.
The losses on the cultural front are staggering. At the Centre d'Art -- the successor home of the original movement that launched Haitian art -- the front of the building has been torn off and reduced to rubble. Neighbors were able to salvage some pieces, Alexis said, though many are visible but out of reach on the second floor.
.
Private collections across the city, and at least one artist and several arts patrons, perished in the quake. The Haitian government has asked former Culture Minister Daniel Elie to conduct an inventory to determine what is lost.
.
Among the biggest losses: one of the most significant private collections of early Haitian art -- 15,000 pieces collected over the past 40 years by Georges Nader and housed at his home and museum, Musee D'Art Nader.
.
The pieces included works by Philome Obin and Hector Hyppolite, masters of Haitian art who painted at the Centre d'Art in the 1940s and have influenced generations of artists.
.
``They were the founders of Haitian art,'' said Georges Nader's son, also named Georges, who made four trips and spent hours combing through the rubble of the house to salvage what he could of the collection that his father so loved.
.
Among the 100 or so pieces he was able to rescue: several primitive landscapes and a playful self-portrait by Obin, who painted himself in the 1950s standing next to his ``dedicated friend,'' Georges Nader.
.
Several pieces by Hyppolite, considered Haiti's leading artist, were pulled from the debris. Haitian art is alive with rich color, yet every piece that was rescued is coated with dust and grime. Several on cardboard were ripped in half or suffered gouges. The younger Nader hopes to find restoration experts in the United States or Canada, but he fears art restoration will not be a priority as the country struggles to feed and house the hundreds of thousands made homeless by the earthquake.
.
``My parents survived, that's the important thing,'' he said, noting that his parents -- both 79 -- had decided to retire to their bedroom for a nap when the quake struck. The bedroom was the only part of the house that survived. The Nader Gallery in nearby Pétionville, which carries some traditional work, but mostly contemporary Haitian art, survived the earthquake with hardly a single frame askew. A month ago, the multistory gallery was the site of an exhibit of the works of the old masters.
.
``They were all here and they might have made it,'' Nader smiled ruefully, gesturing to the artwork that hangs brightly on the gallery walls. ``We returned them to my dad's just three weeks ago.''

The Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa, which has the largest public collection of Haitian art in the United States, is setting up a relief fund and serving as a clearinghouse for information about the lost art and affected artists, said Cammie Scully, the museum's executive director.
.
The museum has contacted some artists but believes at least one compound was hard hit.
.
``With unemployment at 85 percent, art has been one of the ways people have been able to make money,'' Scully said. ``A lot of people are taking care of extended families through the arts. It's an unbelievably creative culture.''
.
Some artwork that hung in Haiti's now collapsed presidential palace has been pulled from the rubble, but not the most significant piece -- a painting by the French neoclassical painter Guillaume Guillon Lethiere. The painting had recently been rehung after being restored at the Louvre, Alexis said.
.
Haitian artist Phillipe Dodard's Culture Creation Foundation, which promotes arts in the schools, lost its offices -- and 18 years of work, Dodard said. But Dodard, whose work has met with international acclaim, said he was grieving the loss of the murals at the Episcopal cathedral, dozens of colonial-era gingerbread houses and the Nader collection.
.
``All those major artists, we don't have them anymore,'' he said of the old masters. ``Haitian culture isn't just buildings and art, it's people. But this is like losing part of our memory.''
.
Haitian artists also lost a leading arts patron and collector with the death of Carmel Delatour, 85. Her private collection -- which included works by some of Haiti's most significant artists -- was lost in the earthquake, and son Lionel said he's uncertain if any of her sons will continue her work.
.
Still, Delatour said, he believes artists, like the country, will rebound.
.
``I have no doubt the creativity of the Haitian people will not have been extinguished by this event,'' he said. Indeed, as soon as the dust settled -- and international reporters and relief workers began landing in the country -- street vendors were back at work, selling paintings, steel sculptures and vivid flags beaded with various Vodou spirits.
.
But Jeanguy Saintus, the founder and artistic director of a dance school, Artcho Danse, and a dance troupe, Cie Ayikodans, said he is running short on optimism. The gingerbread house on a quiet tree-lined street in Pétionville that houses his school and studio is still standing, but the back wall threatens to peel away. Parents are pulling students out of class to leave for the United States and Canada. Most of his troupe -- six drummers and 10 dancers -- lost their homes. His principal dancer, Linda Francois, is leaving shortly for the Dominican Republican to stay with a sister. She promises to return.
.
``The arts in Haiti, particularly dance, have always been like a catastrophe, chaos,'' Saintus said, noting there is no government and little private support for dance. ``People think you are crazy to do professional dance in Haiti.'' But over 22 years, Saintus has built a respected troupe of Haitian-born, Haitian-trained dancers. One dancer, Vitolio Jeune, was a recent contestant on the hit American TV show So You Think You Can Dance. Cie Ayikodans has performed around the world, proving to audiences in Amsterdam and at Carnegie Hall that Haiti is more than political turmoil and poverty. It is movement and heart and joy.
.
The scope of the damage to the school -- and the uncertainty -- threaten to sap Saintus' resolve.
.
``I want to be positive, I want to be optimistic, but I can't say everything is going to be all right, because I just don't know,'' he said, sitting on the porch steps, outside the studio. ``No one knows.''
.
Miami Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report

The Miami Herald
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com
.
From Homestead to Pompano Beach, art communities in South Florida are responding to the tragedy in Haiti by fundraising for relief organizations through art sales and exhibitions and offering programs to help survivors. The Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, headed by Haitian-born Miami artist Edouard Duval-Carrié, has launched a multifaceted effort to help Haiti's artists by fundraising to commission works and find venues for exhibits. The organization is also searching for artists in the United States who can temporarily house and mentor Haitian artists.
.
``It's not just to give them money but to do something of quality so that they can put their best foot forward,'' Duval-Carrié says. ``Haiti is very isolated. We want to get them out of the traumatic situation they are in and give them an aperture.''
.
The alliance is fundraising through an Internet art sale at haitianartrelief.com. In North Miami, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has announced a program designed to help local Haitians coping with the tragedy. Children and their parents or guardians who have been affected by the earthquake are invited to participate in an afternoon of therapeutic art-making at MOCA.
.
Museum instructors, including Creole speakers, will guide children and adults through exercises designed to encourage expression, exploration and healing from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 13. Admission is free.
.
``Art can serve as a great tool in helping people who are affected by catastrophic events,'' says Bonnie Clearwater, executive director and curator of MOCA. ``We want to extend the resources of MOCA's HeART to HeART program to children and families in our community who have been so deeply impacted.''
.
MOCA's year-round HeART to HeART works with people with physical, mental and emotional challenges through partnerships with Jewish Family Services of North Miami and Miami-Dade County Public Schools' Exceptional Student (ESE) program.
.
The Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 770 NE 125th St.in North Miami. For reservations and information, call 305-893-6211 or visit mocanomi.org.
.
Other events:
.
* A panel discussion ``How to Inject Funds into Artistic Community of Haiti'' takes place at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. It features Duval-Carrié and Arthur Dunkelman, director and curator of the Jay Kislak Foundation and will be moderated by ArtTable member Elisa Turner.
.
Duval-Carrié will discuss plans to stage exhibitions by Haitian artists at Miami International Airport galleries and at a fundraising booth at the upcoming fair arteaméricas, which has donated the space for the effort.
.
``I'm issuing a call to all Miami-based artists to give a piece of work not worth more than $500 to the start-up fund,'' Duval-Carrié says.
.
* The artists' collective Fine Arts R Us is presenting the exhibition Rhythm and Color with donated artworks from artists to be raffled with the proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders working in Haiti. Opening receptions start at 6 p.m. Feb. 19 and 2 p.m. Feb. 20 at Fine Arts R Us, Art Gallery/Studios, 3685 N. Federal Hwy., Pompano Beach; more information at 954-224-5090.
.
* Little Havana's Leal Gallery exhibits ArtxFood / FoodxHaiti featuring the works of a group of artists who will exchange their work for food and money to be sent to Haiti.
.
``In this equation, the real value of food can replace the symbolic value of money, erasing the differences between art and life,'' says artist Rafael López-Ramos. ``An artwork can make the difference between life and death for a citizen of Haiti.''
.
Each piece on display will have a retail value. Artworks can be purchased with checks payable to the American Red Cross. Organizers also encourage donations of non-perishable food. The sale is Feb. 12 at Leal's Gallery, 1555 SW Eighth St., Miami; more information at 305-642-3133, 786-337-1628 or lealartframe.com.
.
* In Homestead, artwork in the exhibit Island Colors Haitianda is being sold between Feb. 13 and March 6 to raise relief funds. An opening reception is at 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at ArtSouth Cultural Arts Center, 240 N. Krome Ave. Works include Joey Kernisky's photography and watercolors depicting the Virgin Islands along the Sir Francis Drake Passage and a Valentine's fashion-design event with Haitian designer Marie Joeberthe. More at artsouthomestead.org.

The Guaridan
By Tom Phillips
.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/15/haiti-earthquake-art-destroyed
.

Number 18 Rue Bouvreuil was once a mecca for lovers of Haitian art. Outside the Musee Galerie d'Art Nader, perched on a hillside overlooking Port-au-Prince, a sign greeted visitors.
.
"On top of the town, top in the arts," it boasted. Inside, the walls were plastered with thousands of paintings recording nearly a century of Haitian history. Now the three-storey art gallery is gone, reduced to a dusty heap of rubble and torn canvases. Broken picture frames from irreplaceable local masterpieces poke from the gallery's ruins. "My dad has about 12,000 paintings here and we are trying to save what is left,"said Georges Nader, the son of Haiti's best-known art collector and the owner of the gallery, as he scanned the debris. "We have only been able to save about 2,000 of them."
.
The human cost of Haiti's worst earthquake in more than 200 years – at least 150,000 lives lost – has been well documented. But the disaster also struck a knockout blow to the heart of Haiti's vibrant arts community. Several galleries were destroyed and thousands of paintings lost under the rubble of flattened government buildings and art museums.
.
The Cathédrale Sainte-Trinité, built in the early 1920s, was almost completely destroyed, taking with it a series of celebrated 1950s murals depicting scenes from the life of Christ. A painting by Guillaume Guillon Lethière, the 18th century French neoclassical painter, is thought to have been destroyed when the presidential palace collapsed.
.
"There are paintings from 1905 that have been lost," said Cedoir Sainterne, an artist from the city's Pétionville district. "It's terrible. We are going to have to start all over again." Nowhere was the destruction greater than at the Musee Galerie d'Art Nader, Haiti's largest private collection of Haitian and Caribbean art. "When it [the earthquake] started I said, 'What the hell is that?' And I ran out," said Nader, whose father, also called Georges, was one of the biggest patrons of the local art scene. "I was in an 11-storey building and I saw the building dhaking and shaking and moving in all directions.
.
"The next day when I came here and I went downtown I saw everything. I don't think there is any word to explain that [what happened] to the world … You have to be here to see what is going on." Nader's parents, both 79, survived. When the quake struck they were sleeping in the only room of the museum that emerged unscathed. Stunned, they fled to the neighbouring Dominican Republic, where Nader says his mother suffered a heart attack. They then headed to Miami. "The first day my reaction was that anything material was not that important for me. When you see your dad is safe and your mum is safe I
was OK," said Nader.
.
"But when I came it was very sad. My dad loves Haitian art. He lives for Haitian art. His life is Haitian art. This is a guy that won't buy a house [because] he would prefer to buy Haitian art." Nader quickly called in some Haitian friends from New York in an attempt to save some of the collection. Several paintings by Hector Hyppolite, Haiti's most revered painter, have already been plucked from the wreckage. At the Musee Galerie d'Art Nader dozens of men were wading through the rubble. Occasionally they emerged clasping canvases depicting scenes of rural life or voodoo ­ceremonies. Some of the paintings were by Alexandre Gregoire, one of Haiti's first generation of naive artists, whose work has been sold at Sotheby's in New York.
.
Also among the rubble was an information card from an exhibit by the Haitian artist Adam Leontus. "Leontus has taken part in many national
and international exhibitions," it read in black typewriting. Leontus's paintings were nowhere to be seen. Nader said the museum's losses, estimated at up to $30m (£19m), could not be replaced with any amount of money. "We have lost the biggest collection of Haitian art, not only in Haiti but in the world," he said, clambering down from the roof of what was once his family gallery. "There are pieces that you won't be able to find any more. This is finished."
.
Amid the destruction and despair, some Haitian artists are seeking inspiration in the disaster. One graffiti artist has taken to daubing a map of Haiti on walls around the city: a weeping eye looks out from Port-au-Prince's location, above the words "We need help". Artist Frantz Zephirin has painted more than a dozen canvases inspired by the quake, showing distraught faces trapped in ruined buildings and hands reaching up through a sea of blood.
.
Elise Francisco, an artist who has sold paintings to Nader's father, said it was important artists registered the earthquake. "I'll paint the houses that have fallen, the buildings that are destroyed, the cracked land," he said.
.
"We are going to show our children what happened here. This is our history." Haiti may be the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but fans of its art say it is the Caribbean's most culturally wealthy nation.
.
From the intricately crafted tap-tap buses that clatter through Port-au-Prince to the explosively colourful paintings that once adorned the walls of its many art galleries, it is impossible to miss the creative spirit of the world's first independent black republic. While there are records of art schools dating back to the early 19th century, Haitian artists only began to gain international recognition in the 1940s, following the creation of Port-au-Prince's Centre d'Art. Dozens of "naive artists", among them voodoo priests and small-time farmers, gathered there to depict Haiti's turbulent history in unmistakably colourful and often surreal paintings and patchworks of "voodoo flags". The centre's role in promoting Haitian art is disputed. Some say it discovered and nurtured a generation of talented but untrained artists; others say it merely helped already skilled artists make contact with overseas buyers, bringing much-needed funds to the local art scene. Through the centre, Hector Hyppolite, a one-time shoemaker and voodoo priest, became Haiti's most internationally revered artist, leading a generation of local painters whose instantly recognisable canvases featured religious imagery and scenes of the country's life.
.
More than 60 years after his death, Hyppolite's works fetch six-figure sums while several other Haitian folk artists, including Philome Obin and Wilson Bigaud, have become well-known. The Haitian-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, a one-time collaborator of Andy Warhol, often alluded to his Haitian roots in his paintings, which have been sold for millions at auctions.

Washington Post
By Edward Cody
.
Since it was devastated by an earthquake Jan. 12, Haiti has been synonymous with death, destruction and misery. But a month later, out from under the rubble has come a sign of the irrepressible human spirit that makes this tragic country someplace special. Earthquake art has arrived.
.
Haiti has long expressed itself through its world-renowned painting. Now, in their ramshackle studios or in borrowed back rooms, using scavenged oils and makeshift easels, Haitian artists have begun painting the first canvases that seek to depict the horror of the quake and proclaim a tenacious hope that things will get better, if only because they can't get worse.
.
Dorvelus Gerald put the finishing touches on his first earthquake art here Saturday, daubing acrylic paint on a clock marking 4:57 -- the hour the magnitude 7 tremor struck -- that was set in pale yellow high on a towering church steeple. Under the steeple, a titanic struggle was underway, matching a dragon-like monster emerging from the bowels of the earth to devour Haiti against a deep blue angel trying to protect the country from evil.
.
Gerald, 50, said he began the work about four days after the earthquake. The quake destroyed his mother's house in Port-au-Prince, the capital, where he normally lives and works, and he was forced to take refuge in this little town atop terraced hills about 15 miles to the southeast. He lost most of his oil paint in the rubble, he said, and could resume painting only after a friend gave him some salvaged tubes of acrylics.
.
"He wanted to give me some money," Gerald recalled. "But I said I didn't want anything but paint. Just give me paint." Gerald, who sells his work in galleries in Port-au-Prince and Miami, said he hopes the first earthquake canvas will bring in $2,000, money badly needed to repair or rebuild his family home. He recently started a second earthquake painting, showing a cemetery where endless rows of grave markers seem to reach up to flowers floating by in what appears to be turbulent air.
.
After signing the completed painting, Gerald took a late-morning swig of Haiti's celebrated Barbancourt rum and stepped back to admire his works. A row of a half-dozen empty rum bottles sat atop the refrigerator in his little farmhouse. Just behind him, facing the easel, hung a dime store portrait of the Virgin Mary, who seemed to be looking down with motherly indulgence.
.
With one painting completed and another underway, Gerald said he has no plans for any more works dealing with the tragedy, at least for the time being. "The earth turns, and so does our spirit," he said. "With these paintings, I have expelled the evil of the earthquake from my brain."
.
Haiti's musicians have also composed their first earthquake songs, loping Caribbean tunes promising that, although times are tough, the country's tears will dry one day. "There are many artists in Haiti," said Markaens Midy as an earthquake song, with its promise of a brighter future, played on his car radio. But the status of painting has long been particularly high here. For decades, painting has been a splash of color, humor and success in a history otherwise benighted by dictatorship, corruption and poverty so grinding that people go to sea in little boats to get away.
.
One of the few things people here remember fondly about the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, for instance, was that he contributed to the founding of the National Art School in the early 1980s. Gerald was in the first graduating class in 1984.
.
After a violent uprising in 1986, Duvalier, son of the infamous "Papa Doc," was put aboard a U.S. Air Force transport plane and flown to exile in France, where his wife, Michelle, left him and he lives in a modest Paris apartment. Duvalier's departure, however, did not end Haiti's problems. It only changed the cast of characters, evolving into one more disappointment for the country's 9 million people. Through it all, Haiti's painters stayed true to their tradition, using their art and whimsy to comment on the country's political and social upheavals, invoke the mysteries of life and Voodoo, and give people relief from the misery of their daily lives.
.
The mystical personality of Haitian painting was popularized on the international market in the 1970s by Andre Malraux, the French literary figure and culture minister. During a visit here, historians have written, Malraux was approached by artists from the populist Saint Soleil movement carrying their works toward him in a sort of procession as he sat amazed on a little knoll, his interest aroused for the rest of his life.
.
More recently, Haitian painters, some of them world famous, have been selling works at competitive prices at galleries in Port-au-Prince and in art capitals such as New York, Paris and London.
.
Toni Monnin, a transplanted Texan who with her husband runs the Galerie Monnin in the capital's upscale Petionville suburb, said she expects that over time Haitian artists will represent the earthquake as a challenge to be overcome by spiritual resilience rather than as a hopeless tragedy. "Haitian artists don't like to show that side of life," she added. "So they embellish things. It's unusual to see them emphasize the negative side of things."
.
To provide stipends to keep most stricken artists going, Monnin said, she and her husband have diverted funds from their reforestation foundation, Fondam (http://www.fondam-haiti.org).
.
Some of Haiti's best-known painters have brought in earthquake art for sale in Monnin's gallery, including Reynald Joseph and Frantz Zephirin, the Voodoo master. Prefete Duffault, whose fantasy scenes of crowds marching ant-like across bridges and arches are appreciated around the world, told Monnin that he is reflecting on how to portray the earthquake in his own, much-imitated style.
.
"Zephirin just started painting like crazy the minute it happened," Monnin said. "He's the champion. Of course, he was before the earthquake anyway. He's so prolific." One of four paintings he brought in for sale showed a mouth devouring Haiti. Another showed skeletons standing amid the ruins holding up signs in English vowing, "Haiti will reborn," and proclaiming, "We survived the ocean's blood earthquake." "We need shelters, clothes, condoms and more," reads the sign held by another skeleton in the rubble. "Please help."

Reuters
By Pascal Fletcher
.
Shifting debris and twisted metal by hand, Haitian workers backed by Japanese U.N. military engineers on Monday rescued remaining valuable paintings and sculptures from the collapsed rubble of one of Haiti's most notable art museums. The workers and U.N. troops were trying to salvage what they could of Haiti's rich artistic heritage, ravaged by the Jan. 12 earthquake that may have killed up to 300,000 people, according to the country's president.
.
Port-au-Prince's Nader Art Museum, which with 12,000 paintings housed probably the world's most important private collection of Haitian art, was reduced to rubble by the quake, which also badly damaged the presidential palace, the city cathedral and many other historic buildings. Since the quake struck six weeks ago, gallery staff have been carefully extracting the most important works from the wreckage. Brightly-colored canvases, many torn and smeared with dust, are piled to one side, while empty wooden frames are stacked in another pile.
.
Workers carry away wooden and metal sculptures, some missing arms and legs in a grotesque reflection of the horrific human injuries inflicted by the quake. Georges Nader Jr., 40, son of museum owner Georges S. Nader, said the 'search and rescue' phase of the museum salvage operation was almost over."We've been digging for a month ... the hand removal stage is almost over, then heavy machinery will move in," he said. "But if you put a mechanical digger in there right away, you will lose everything."
.
He was philosophical about the loss to the collection. "I think about 50 percent, with some kind of restoration, will be salvageable," Nader said. A separate Nader gallery in Petionville district survived the quake. About 95 percent of the Haitian masters part of the museum collection, including works by Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948) and Philome Obin (1892-1986), survived because they were housed in a front part of the collapsed building, Nader said.
.
"Some are not even scratched. We have someone working on restoration, where necessary, right now," he added. Asked if the collection was insured," Nader laughed wryly: "If it was, I wouldn't be here". Of the museum's sculptures, reflecting the rich African heritage of Haiti, which won independence through an 1804 slave revolt, Nader put losses at 60-70 percent.
.
"When we pulled the sculptures out, some of them had broken arms and legs," he said. Japanese U.N. officers wearing blue caps and helmets and the shoulder patches of Japan's Central Readiness Regiment, supervised laborers and a mechanical digger. Around 200 Japanese troops are participating in the international relief operation in Haiti, and this number would rise to over 300 in March, said Captain Shingo Hayakawa.
.
Nader's father George, 78, who started the collection in 1966, and his mother, both survived the quake. Nader said he believed much of the Caribbean's country's artistic patrimony, including the famed 1950s mural paintings of the Sainte Trinite Cathedral, had been lost.
.
But amazingly, many of the city's oldest houses, which are built of wood in the elaborate "gingerbread" Caribbean style, withstood the magnitude 7 quake, while hundreds of more modern concrete, steel and mortar structures crumbled. "This would a good time to restore the old houses," Nader said.
.
France, Haiti's former colonial master, will draw up a preparatory study for reconstruction of the wrecked presidential palace, and has offered to restore a damaged 1822 painting depicting Haitian independence heroes which was salvaged by a French team from inside the ornate white palace. (Editing by Alan Elsner)

Where there’s love, there’s life,” said Gandhi and Port-au-Prince has been overflowing with both since the arrival of the Martha Machado Artists’ Brigade here in Port-au-Prince. The brainchild of Cuban artist Alexis Leyva Machado (Kcho–pronounced KAHcho) the artists’ group aims to alleviate the psychological and emotional effects of natural disasters. Watching children’s beaming smiles and hearing squeals of delight peal from teens and adults alike as the group performs, I’d say it’s working.
.
Founded after a trio of hurricanes hit Cuba in 2008 causing $10 billion in damages, the Brigade features a rotating roster of painters, musicians, magicians, clowns, puppeteers, and circus performers. Fifty of these Cuban artists are now in Haiti to help heal through laughter, dance, art, and play; many are veterans of the original Brigade that visited the Cuban provinces hardest hit by the 2008 hurricanes. One of those provinces was the special municipality of Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth), from where Kcho hails. The Brigade is named after the artist’s mother who gave shelter to family, friends, and neighbors affected by the storms.
.
The healing properties of laughter and play are well documented and serve particularly well for children in post-disaster situations. Young survivors are often unable to express the resulting trauma verbally, complicating mental health diagnoses and the work of health care professionals. For this reason, the Martha Machado Brigade is formally a part of Cuba’s post-disaster mental health program in Haiti, coordinated by psychologist Alexis Lorenzo of the Latin American Center for Disaster Medicine (CLAMED) in Havana. “Much of what we’re seeing are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances,” he told me, including anxiety, fear, stress, and sadness – a trio that gets blown to the four cardinal points when people become engaged with the Cuban artists in their midst.
.
“The situation is so sad here, but you can feel the energy shift when the Brigade shows up. The kids enter a new world,” artist Ernesto Rancaño told me as we watched an event unfold at the Renaissance Hospital. A magic trick deftly executed; stilt walkers rocking babies and clowns kidding teens; a Cuban artist and Haitian child painting side by side–these are the building blocks of happier memories for Haitians traumatized by the January 12 earthquake. The more the children can express their feelings the better, according to psychologists, since drawing and other types of creativity help them gain symbolic control over confusing and frightening events.
.
One of Cuba’s most talented contemporary painters and original member of the group in Cuba, Rancaño and several other painters supplied all the materials for the post-hurricane work in Cuba, creating alongside Cuban children affected by the storms. This experience is being replicated in Haiti; the resulting works of art by Haitian children, together with over a dozen paintings by Cuban children brought by the Brigade for this purpose, will be installed in public hospitals in Haiti. Twenty five works of art by Kcho, Rancaño, Sander Gonzales, and Juan Carlos Balseiro will likewise be permanently installed in Haitian hospitals. All told, the collection comprises over 150 works of art.
.
“This goes beyond Cuba, beyond Haiti. Our mission is to bring smiles and hope to people who have suffered natural disasters. The healing power of art and laughter are universal and this is what our Brigade tries to do,” said Kcho later at an event at the Cuban field hospital in Carre Foure west of Port-au-Prince. The group of artists has pledged to stay as long as necessary. Still made up as clown and musician, Ronny Fernández from Havana told me why he joined the team in Haiti: “It’s beautiful to be able to use our skills to take these people away from the catastrophe, if only for a moment…. We’re living in tents and conditions can be tough, but the smiles on the kids faces–that’s plenty compensation.”
.
Combining caring and science is part of psychologist Diaz´s work, including a methodological framework for addressing disaster-related mental health disorders. As coordinator of CLAMED’s master’s degree program in Mental Health and Disasters, Diaz is accompanied in Haiti by the two-year program’s first graduate. Also in Haiti to address the mental health needs of earthquake survivors are four sychologists, 12 child psychiatrists, and 7 general psychiatrists. Psychologist Mariela Almenares is among these Cuban volunteers working with Haitian children and teens who survived the quake.
.
In an initiative launched on March 17, Mariela leads a team comprised of Argentine and Haitian doctors and 5th year students trained at Havana’s Latin American Medical School. They are providing integrated medical and psychological services to several orphanages in Port-au- Prince, where the Artists´ Brigade also performs. All agree this is one of their hardest assignments. “Yet, ten years down the line, hopefully these kids will remember today and have at least this one good memory from this terrible tragedy,” Rancaño told me. I’m betting he’s right.

3/18/2010
New York Times
By HOLLAND COTTER
.
In a disaster, you focus on lives first, all else later. When the earthquake hit Haiti in January, the news was about the dead and missing, miraculous survivals, towns smashed to bits. Behind this news came other news. One of Haiti’s proudest cultural monuments, the Episcopal cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, had collapsed, destroying murals painted in the late 1940s by some of the great artists of what is often called the Haitian Renaissance: Philomé Obin, Castera Basile, Rigaud Benoit, Wilson Bigaud, Prefete Duffaut. Their images of verdant, fruit-colored tropical heavens had helped turn a politically volatile nation into a tourist destination, and art itself into an export industry.
.
The Centre d’Art, where these artists once met with André Breton, Aimé Césaire and Wifredo Lam, was seriously damaged, as was the Musée d’Art Haitien. Catastrophically, many of the 12,000 Haitian works, accumulated over half a century, in the Musée/Galerie d’art Nader were lost when the building that housed them, a family home, disintegrated. Objects retrieved from the Centre d’Art and the Musée d’Art Haitien have been locked in containers. Nearly everything recovered will need conservation.
.
Far more difficult to assess is the survival of art produced outside the fragile museum and gallery network, though some of this work has relatively high visibility through commercial connections with the United States and Europe. A funky downtown section of Port-au-Prince called the Grand Rue was the scene, in December, of a first-time art event called the “Ghetto Biennial.” Based on international models but operating on a tiny budget, it brought in a few artists from abroad but was basically a showcase for a collective of Haitian sculptors who call themselves Atis Rezistans. The group’s three senior members — André Eugène, Jean Hérard Celeur and Frantz Jacques, known as Guyodo — work together in the Grand Rue, in a warren of cinderblock car-repair shops that supply the material for their art: rusted chassis, steering wheels, hubcaps, broken crankshafts, cast-off oil filters. With the help of young assistants, they turn this industrial junk
into demonic doomsday figures with giant phalluses and gargoylish bodies topped by plastic doll heads or human skulls.
.
These artists, all around 40 years old, belong to a generation that is internationally attuned — they have a higher profile abroad than at home — and has experienced life in Haiti at its most abject, which is saying something, given the nation’s scarifying modern history. Their art comes across as a hellish response to the older painters of tropical idylls, though in reality all of these artists share a common bond. To a greater or lesser extent, and in different ways, much of their work is based on the Afro-Caribbean religion of voodoo — or vodou, as many scholars prefer to spell it — Haiti’s majority religion and continuing source of social and cultural cohesion.
.
Where Centre d’Art painters like Andre Pierre (circa 1915-2005) and Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948), who were both voodoo priests, emphasized the religion’s more benign aspects with images of regal deities in bosky settings, the Atis Rezistans group tunnels into its dark, dystopian, underground side. Many of their sculptures depict the ghoulish spirits called Gedes and their paternal leader, Baron Samedi, the lord of death, decay and grotesque eroticism.
.
When the quake struck, much of the Grand Rue was flattened, and unknown numbers of Atis Rezistans sculptures are likely to have been crushed and buried. An exception was a single colossal metal figure of Baron Samedi, which stayed intact and erect as if surveying the havoc he had wrought.
.
But the greater unknown is the fate of voodoo religious art. Anyone who saw the traveling exhibition “Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou,” organized by the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1995, knows how visually potent this art can be.
.
Voodoo has ancient roots in West Africa, where at some point it met up with European Christianity and, later, in the Caribbean, through the Atlantic slave trade, with indigenous New World religions. The result was a baffling, exhilarating, multifarious sacred art, which takes a visually explosive form in assemblage-style altars. These are dedicated to specific voodoo deities, often embodied in a printed picture or statuette of a Christian saint, around which is distributed a purposefully crowded array of devotional objects and substances including dolls, Buddhas, Roman Catholic holy cards, playing cards, political portraits, satin-swathed bottles, perfume atomizers, rosaries, carved phalluses, Masonic diagrams, candles, kerchiefs, money, mirrors, fruit, rum, flowers and human and animal skulls.
.
The largest altars are often in voodoo temples, which can be rooms in homes or shedlike congregational spaces that are decorated with wall paintings and sequined ritual flags called drapo.
.
Wherever it is, the altar is a total, balanced work of religious art, a model of good ritual housekeeping. At the same time, it is unfixed: kinetic and ephemeral, meant to be added to and removed from, to be tasted, touched, lighted, adorned, fanned and fed. It is a form utterly unsuited to conventional museum display, though the Fowler show incorporated several altars, some of them recreations of ones that already existed in Port-au-Prince. At the Fowler itself, and then in museums, as the show traveled to Miami, Washington, Chicago, New Orleans and New York, the altars invariably attracted voodoo devotees who left offerings of money and food. Clearly they saw no distinction between sacred art and museum art. Or, put another way, for them the presence of sacred art made the museum a sacred space.
.
By some estimates, Haiti has tens of thousands of voodoo temples, the bulk concentrated in cities, and most all but invisible. Tucked away in alleys and basements, or behind garage doors, they rarely announce themselves. This makes any attempt to survey them and the art they hold difficult under any circumstances, but particularly now, when the very topography of cities like Port-au-Prince and Jacmel to the south, renowned for its production of Carnival masks, has been altered. At least one of the Port-au-Prince temples replicated in “Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou” is known to have been destroyed in the quake.
.
But word has come that a celebrated maker of sequined flags, Myrlande Constant, after camping with her family in a tent city in Port-au-Prince for more than a month, is back at work in a borrowed studio. The mask-maker and painter Civil Didier, left homeless in Jacmel, is in New York, as part of a new, possibly temporary diaspora of Haitian artists that the quake has created.
.
Meanwhile, long before January, the Fowler had already begun work on a sequel to its 1995 Vodou show, organized, as the first one was, by Donald J. Cosentino, a professor of African and diaspora literature and folklore at U.C.L.A., partnering with the art historian and anthropologist Marilyn Houlberg of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Circumstances in Haiti have greatly changed in the two decades since the earlier exhibition was conceived. In 1991, when research was beginning, Jean-Bertram Aristide was president; the country was giddy with hope for the future. The hope couldn’t last. Mr. Aristide was forced into exile, returned and left again, under a cloud. The country has since endured extreme levels of poverty and violence. The tropical Elysium of older Haitian art has never looked more out of place.
.
This is the reality that Mr. Cosentino has set out to address in the new exhibition, initially titled “Haiti in Extremis.” And voodoo gives him apt images to work with, from the cult of the Gedes and Baron Samedi, guardians of the dead, who could, through cataclysmic fusions of eroticism and destruction, generate a recuperative vitality.
.
The Atis Rezistans collective was on the preliminary list of artists to be in the new show, which is scheduled to debut in 2012, as were contemporary painters and sculptors like Edouard Duval-Carrié, Frantz Zephirin and Mr. Didier, all of whom gave their voodoo sources a deeply fatalistic spin.
.
Then came the earthquake. And even before Mr. Zephirin’s painting of a skeletal Baron Samedi had appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, Mr. Cosentino was rethinking the show. He expanded its title: “Haiti in Extremis: After the Apocalypse.”
.
News came from Port-au-Prince that a particularly vibrant Gede temple overseen by the voodoo priest Akiki Baka, called Emperor Sonson, and situated near the Grand Rue, at the very epicenter of the quake, had survived unscathed. An altar from the temple would be in the new show. So would art being created in direct response to the disaster. In other words, this would be a project whose shape and contents are, like life in Haiti, in the making and unpredictable. And it’s still two years away, which could be, depending on how the Gedes play their hand, never or forever.

AFP
By Andrew Gully
.
Brilliant colors shine through the ruins of the Cathedrale de la Sainte-Trinite, fragments of wonderful murals that were the climax of Haiti's artistic explosion 60 years ago. For gallery owner Toni Monnin, the loss of irreplaceable frescoes by the first generation of Haitian master painters is the most powerful symbol of the cultural devastation wrought by the January 12 earthquake.
.
"There was this explosion of art in Haiti after the Second World War like nowhere else in the world," explained Monnin, a native Texan. "It is a country of painters and artists and it is a phenomenon that exists only here in Haiti." In the capital Port-au-Prince, a teeming mass of humanity fights to recover from unimaginable horror, but the backdrop is a wall of paintings, vibrant colors splashing canvas and somehow masking the smell of death and loss.
.
Haiti could lay claim to having a greater concentration of artists than any other country, but beyond them, it is the buildings, the history, the entire cultural heritage of the Caribbean nation that is at risk. "What we have been trying to do with the minister of culture is raise awareness of the need to protect the heritage because once it is gone, it is gone," Teeluck Bhuwanee, head of the UNESCO mission in Haiti, told AFP.
.
Recorded history dates back to 1492, when Christopher Columbus discovered the island -- which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic -- and named it La Isla Espanola, which became Hispaniola.
.
Artifacts from pre-Columbian times, the era of the Taino Indians, survived the quake largely unscathed at the National Museum of Art, fortuitously located underground. But many important sites, born out of Haiti's compelling history of slavery and revolution, were not so fortunate, and Bhuwanee fears culture has been forgotten in the government's grand reconstruction plan. "In Port-au-Prince, there are about 30 sites that have been identified as really in danger of total destruction or total extinction. Two of them have already been razed," he said.
.
The capital is a graveyard of fallen cathedrals, libraries and cultural sites. Invaluable private collections were also decimated by the quake.
.
Despite the extent of the loss, the word culture is absent from the draft Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) drawn up by the government in conjunction with the international community. "We've been fighting to get the PDNA to include culture but when the executive summary came out, there was not a single line on culture, not a single dollar for the re-foundation of culture in this country," Bhuwanee said. There is an urgent need to protect damaged sites, many of which have been pillaged or, like the Eglise Saint Louis Roi de France, totally razed by the bulldozers that cleared the way for the capital to function again.
.
Haiti can lay claim, as the first black country to gain independence, in 1804, to being at the root of universal human rights and countless documents attesting to those fights and struggles may also have perished. The country, however, has more pressing concerns -- hundreds of thousands of quake survivors are still at risk, perched in camps on treacherous hillsides that could slide away into the abyss when the heavy rains come.
.
Sam Worthington, president of InterAction, which coordinates the work of dozens of US NGOs and their almost one billion dollars of American public money, has a clear priority list. "It is the ability of children to learn to read, it's the ability of an individual to walk through a camp and be safe and not face violence or rape, it's the ability of someone to be able to set up their small business and get back to their life before the quake," he said.
.
But he admitted that culture, too, is important. If properly marketed, Haiti's heritage could be a tool to create jobs, to stir interest, to help get the country of almost 10 million people back on its feet again, according to Bhuwanee. "We are saying 'Let's do something, let's make culture at the root of the development of the country,'" he said.
.
Walking the ruins of Sainte-Trinite, it is easy to see this as a pipe dream, but one wall symbolizes hope, stubbornly standing against all odds and signed by the last living first generation artist, 87-year old Prefete Duffaut. Monnin offered a short history. She spoke of Americans, DeWitt Peters and Selden Rodman, who discovered local talent like Hector Hyppolite, a voodoo priest who painted with chicken feathers and household paint.
.
Rodman's vision produced this amazing collaboration on the walls of Saint-Trinite, a work that put Haitian art on the map -- soon art lovers from all over the world needed a Duffaut or a Hyppolite to grace their collections. "Works by the first generation artists are irreplaceable," Monnin said, sadness in her eyes as she recalled the horrors of the fateful day. So galled was Monnin by the plight of the 50 or so artists she works with that the longtime Port-au-Prince resident opened up another side of her FONDAM foundation, set up in 2004 to battle deforestation, to help them.
.
"Ninety percent of these guys have lost either their entire homes, part of their homes, one or two or more family members," she said. "They didn't have any works left, they lost them all." So how badly was Haitian culture damaged by the quake?
.
"It has lost everything," she said. "All of the major institutions, not only paintings, the archives, the national library, all of these things were ruined, they were wiped out." Dismissing vain attempts to clamp down on trafficking -- where would they find experts who know the difference between a Hyppolite and Haitian street art, she scoffed -- Monnin suddenly hit upon an idea.
.
"I don't know if it's UNESCO's job, but what people should be concentrating on are things like reconstructing the church at Saint-Trinite," she said. "If you can't find the pieces of the mural there is enough photographic evidence. Have somebody repaint them, we have enough artists. Not copying, do it in the same spirit. Now that would be a fabulous project."

3/24/2010
UN News Center
.
The United Nations cultural agency today named the Haitian writer Frankétienne as one of their Artists for Peace in recognition of his contribution to French-language literature, his commitment to preserving Haitian culture and his contribution to the promotion of the agency’s ideals.
The agency’s director-general Irina Bokova bestowed the honour on Frankétienne at a forum in the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to discuss the reconstruction of Haiti’s social, cultural and intellectual heritage following January’s devastating earthquake.
.
A writer, actor, painter and teacher, Frankétienne is considered an emblematic figure in the Haitian culture. The author of 40 books in French and Creole, including Dezafi and Ultravocal, he has received numerous awards and literary prizes. His play Melovivi or Le Piège (“The Trap”) will be staged for the first time at UNESCO headquarters today.
.
Appointed for two years, Frankétienne will provide particular support to UNESCO's programmes to promote books and linguistic diversity. The UNESCO Artists for Peace are personalities who use their influence, charisma and prestige to the service of UNESCO's message. The musicians Manu Dibango (Cameroon) and Gilberto Gil (Brazil), the actress and singer Maria de Medeiros of Portugal and the fashion designer Bibi Russell of Bangladesh are among personalities who have previously been designated.

By A. D. McKenzie
.
As international donors prepare to meet at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss ways to rebuild Haiti, after the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, the country’s artistic community has been mobilising to make culture a key aspect of reconstruction. Led by Haiti’s minister for culture and communication, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn-Lassègue, writers, artists and musicians gathered in Paris this week at the U.N.’s cultural agency, UNESCO, to map out medium- and long-term strategies for "recreating" the Caribbean nation.
.
"Culture is at the basis of our development," Jocelyn-Lassègue told participants Wednesday at a forum entitled ‘Rebuilding the social, cultural and intellectual fabric of Haiti’. "For us, culture is not a luxury, not an accessory," she added. "It is through culture and by culture that we’ll be able to develop certain aspects of our society."
.
She told IPS in an interview that the UNESCO forum, which included internationally known artists such as African writer Wole Soyinka, was necessary to "keep Haiti on the agenda", as the world’s attention shifts in the aftermath of the disaster. She said the agency was helping to re-focus attention on Haiti’s continuing plight and working to find international partners to help in reconstruction.
.
Some of these partners are expected to announce further plans for action at the International Donors’ Conference on Mar. 31 in New York. Organisers of a preparatory meeting held last week in the Dominican Republic have already declared that 3.8 billion US dollars over 18 months will be provided in assistance. Jocelyn-Lassègue, whose chief of staff was killed as he sat next to her when her office collapsed in the earthquake, has been leading a crusade to keep Haiti in the world’s consciousness. She said that recent flooding has added to the country’s woes.
.
Villages in the south have been inundated by seasonal rains, even as Haitians try to come to terms with the losses from the earthquake. The minister told IPS that she herself had lost 58 relatives and friends, among the estimated 222,000 people killed in the disaster. "Everyone has been touched, and our patrimony, material and immaterial, has been all but destroyed," she said.
.
UNESCO’s director-general Irina Bokova visited Haiti earlier this month to see the situation first-hand, and Wednesday she stressed that the agency was committed to helping Haiti recover. "Haiti is a test for humanity," Bokova said. "The Haitian people are masters of their own destiny. But there are moments when one needs help and solidarity, to regain strength and hope, and Jan. 12 was one of those moments’’. Expressing sadness at the immense loss of life, she said that people around the world "all carried lasting images of the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince pulverised, of libraries and museums destroyed, of schools torn apart."
.
In the wake of the destruction, Bokova said UNESCO was focusing on education as well as the preservation of Haiti’s unique cultural legacy, which is "now threatened by vandalism, looting and illicit art trafficking". The agency has taken steps to establish an International Coordination Committee for Haitian culture to "bring together all the organisations concerned with the rehabilitation of the country’s culture". This will be directed by the Haitian government, she said.
.
To highlight Haiti’s cultural contributions, UNESCO is also hosting two exhibitions at its headquarters here – one on Haitian art, and the other showing photographs of Haiti before and after the earthquake. In addition, Bokova has named the Haitian playwright, artist and musician Frankétienne as UNESCO ‘Artist for peace’, to help promote culture worldwide. Accepting the honour before a packed audience Wednesday, the white-haired playwright burst into a song. He said he would carry out UNESCO’s work "conscientiously".
.
Some observers have expressed surprise at the speed with which UNESCO, long considered an almost irrelevant U.N. bureau, has seized the initiative to help provide assistance. But Haitian representatives credit Bokova, who took over the agency’s leadership last October, for the new dynamism. "It seems women do things differently and are more pragmatic," an official told IPS. Davidson Hepburn, the Bahamas’ ambassador to UNESCO and president of the agency’s general conference, said that the disaster had presented UNESCO with an unusual opportunity to take the lead in education, as "macabre as that may sound".
.
He said the agency was focusing on this sector, among other areas of assistance, because "schools and universities matter". The earthquake destroyed hundreds of schools, and killed more than a thousand teachers, according to Haitian officials. Many children in the capital Port-au-Prince still have no formal classes, and the city’s three universities are in ruins. France this week announced that it would send 30,000 books to the island and help in setting up a digital library. The French government is also implementing residence programmes for Haitian artists, and will dispatch experts to repair damaged works of art in Haiti itself, officials said.
.
French minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, plans to go to Haiti in the coming weeks, following a visit by President Nicolas Sarkozy in February - the first by a French leader since the country gained its independence from France in 1804. Some black French associations have been calling on France to repay Haiti the crippling sum it demanded in reparations after the Caribbean country had the world’s first successful slave revolt. But Jocelyn-Lassègue said her country had moved beyond these historical disputes. "We’re no longer there," she told IPS. "France is with us now."

By FABIOLA SANTIAGO
.
Artist Marie-Thérèse ``Marithou'' Dupoux, had just fired the kiln in her studio near Pétionville when she felt the floor undulate and heard the roof rattle. Clinging to a column, she watched the kiln's flames wobble and everything around her bounce, and then the propane tank fell. ``I knew right away it was an earthquake,'' Marithou says.
.
Her ceramics and most of her studio and equipment were ground to rubble on Jan. 12, but a few paintings and sculptures had been stored at a Miami gallery and will be exhibited at a Haiti Pavilion at arteaméricas, the Latin American art fair that opens to the public Friday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Arteaméricas organizers Leslie Pantín Jr. and Emilio Calleja have donated the 30-foot-long booth in which the works of Marithou and 14 other artists who live and work in Haiti will be exhibited and sold to raise money to help rebuild their homeland's arts community.
.
The pavilion, along with Galerie Marassa and Bourbon Lally of Pétionville, will join 45 galleries from Spain, the United States and the Americas to showcase the works of 300 artists. The fair runs through Monday. The schedule includes conferences by museum administrators and curators and a new-collectors program organized by Celia Birbragher, owner and publisher of ArtNexus.
.
``By bringing the artists to the fair . . . we are helping sustain the production of Haitian art,'' says Alina Rodríguez-Rojo, an organizer of the Haiti Pavilion. he Pavilion show, Contemporary Haitian Memory in Motion: From the Ashes We Still Rise, is already commanding attention as some participating artists arrive in Miami and share their stories of survival, loss and hope -- the themes of their new work.
.
``The only way of expressing my feelings is through my art,'' says Philippe Dodard, cultural advisor to Haiti's first lady, who was working in the now-flattened National Palace 30 minutes before the earthquake hit. Dpdard, who was being driven by his son, was photographing the route of the February carnival parade when he felt the tremors and heard a loud sound ``as if there had been a big accident.''
.
He looked back, saw a man running and, all of a sudden, ``this collective `OHHHHHHH' '' rising from the city. ``The mountain fell right behind us on the road,'' Dodard, 55, says. He and his son abandoned their car and walked for an hour and a half to get home. Their house was standing but empty. It took hours of more walking to find out that their family had survived. But some colleagues didn't make it out of the palace alive. Dodard's friend Joel Baussan was trapped for three days before he died.
.
In his memory, Dodard has painted Trapped in the Dark, a haunting black-and-white acrylic on canvas to be exhibited in his one-man show at Galerie Marassa's arteaméricas booth. Marithou, 61, whose symbol-laden work expresses a power often denied to Haitian women by the island's patriarchal culture, will show five oversized paintings in vibrant red, white and black and Children of the Universe, a 12-piece installation that appears to be bronze but is really made of papier-mché, plaster and aluminum.
.
``She is the mistress of a new language in Haitian art,'' says Babacar MBow, coorganizer of the Haiti Pavilion and owner of Miami's Multitudes Contemporary Art Center, 5570 NE Fourth Ave. But she has no new work to sell. The earthquake destroyed all the pieces Marithou had made for a March show in New Orleans. ``I had fired the kiln to finish the last piece,'' she says.
.
She was going to stay in Miami for arteaméricas but decided to return home after she began dreaming of dead relatives. ``I can't explain it, but I feel like I need to get back to Haiti,'' she says. ``I saw things I never thought I'd see.'' Sculptor Ludovic Booz, who will exhibit bronze sculptures at arteaméricas, feels the same way.
.
His body caked with dust, his head dripping blood, Booz, 69, had fled from his house. ``I thought everyone was going to disappear,'' he says. The quake heavily damaged his two houses, foundry and marble artworks. Booz's children, who live in the United States, persuaded him to come to South Florida where he has begun painting and trying to find peace through color and design.
.
But his heart and inspiration remain in Haiti. ``You can't forget,'' he says. For weeks after the quake Dodard could not paint. He worked day and night in the search, rescue and relief efforts and, most recently, assisted with plans to rebuild. He took pictures of the places, now destroyed, he had photographed just minutes before the earthquake. But only after a German television camera crew asked to film him painting did he pick up a brush.
.
``Then, I could not stop,'' he says. ``Sometimes my heart was beating so hard.'' Dodard is helping Haiti's first lady, Elisabeth Delatour Préval, with Plas Timoun -- The Children's Place -- an initiative to convert old buses and tents into temporary shelters where children can engage in art making and sports. The program needs supplies and equipment, and Dodard is knocking on doors in Miami and asking for donations.
.
``Through your culture you can find the strength to rise again,'' he says. ``Painting allows you to reach for the hope. It's about the light of those who left that inspires us to rebuild the country in a better way.''

New Strait Teams
By HOLLAND COTTER
.
In a disaster, you focus on lives first, all else later. When the earthquake hit Haiti in January, the news was about the dead and missing, miraculous survivals, towns smashed to bits. Behind this news came other news. One of Haiti’s proudest cultural monuments, the Episcopal cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, had collapsed, destroying murals painted in the late 1940s by some of the great artists of what is often called the Haitian Renaissance: Philomé Obin, Castera Basile, Rigaud Benoit, Wilson Bigaud and Prefete Duffaut.
.
Their images of verdant, fruit-coloured tropical heavens had helped turn a politically volatile nation into a tourist destination, and art itself into an export industry. The Centre d’Art, where these artists once met with AndrÈ Breton, Aimé Césaire and Wifredo Lam, was seriously damaged, as was the Musée d’Art Haitien. Catastrophically, many of the 12,000 Haitian works, accumulated over half a century, in the MusÈe/Galerie d’art Nader were lost when the building that housed them, a family home, disintegrated. Objects retrieved from the Centre d’Art and the Musée d’Art Haitien have been locked in containers.
.
Axelle Liautaud, an art dealer, removes a painting from the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 21, 2010. “We had so much despite the fact that we’re so poor,” she says
Axelle Liautaud, an art dealer, removes a painting from the Centre d’Art in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 21, 2010. “We had so much despite the fact that we’re so poor,” she says Nearly everything recovered will need conservation. Far more difficult to assess is the survival of art produced outside the fragile museum and gallery network, though some of this work has relatively high visibility through commercial connections with the United States and Europe.
.
A funky downtown section of Port-au-Prince called the Grand Rue was the scene, in December, of a first-time art event called the Ghetto Biennial. Based on international models but operating on a tiny budget, it brought in a few artists from abroad but was basically a showcase for a collective of Haitian sculptors who call themselves Atis Rezistans.
.
The group’s three senior members — André Eugëne, Jean HÈrard Celeur and Frantz Jacques, known as Guyodo — work together in the Grand Rue, in a warren of cinderblock car-repair shops that supply the material for their art: rusted chassis, steering wheels, hubcaps, broken crankshafts, cast-off oil filters. With the help of young assistants, they turn this industrial junk into demonic doomsday figures with giant phalluses and gargoylish bodies topped by plastic doll heads or human skulls. These artists, all around 40 years old, belong to a generation that is internationally attuned — they have a higher profile abroad than at home — and has experienced life in Haiti at its most abject, which is saying something, given the nation’s scarifying modern history. Their art comes across as a hellish response to the older painters of tropical idylls, though in reality all of these artists share a common bond.
.
To a greater or lesser extent, and in different ways, much of their work is based on the Afro-Caribbean religion of voodoo — or vodou, as many scholars prefer to spell it — Haiti’s majority religion and continuing source of social and cultural cohesion.
.
Where Centre d’Art painters such as Andre Pierre (circa 1915-2005) and Hector Hyppolite (1894-1948), who were both voodoo priests, emphasised the religion’s more benign aspects with images of regal deities in bosky settings, the Atis Rezistans group tunnels into its dark, dystopian, underground side.
.
Many of their sculptures depict the ghoulish spirits called Gedes and their paternal leader, Baron Samedi, the lord of death, decay and grotesque eroticism. When the quake struck, much of the Grand Rue was flattened, and unknown numbers of Atis Rezistans sculptures are likely to have been crushed and buried.
.
An exception was a single colossal metal figure of Baron Samedi, which stayed intact and erect as if surveying the havoc he had wrought. But the greater unknown is the fate of voodoo religious art.
.
Anyone who saw the travelling exhibition Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, organised by the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1995, knows how visually potent this art can be. Voodoo has ancient roots in West Africa, where at some point it met up with European Christianity and later, in the Caribbean, through the Atlantic slave trade, with indigenous New World religions. The result was a baffling, exhilarating, multifarious sacred art, which takes a visually explosive form in assemblage-style altars.
.
These are dedicated to specific voodoo deities, often embodied in a printed picture or statuette of a Christian saint, around which is distributed a purposefully crowded array of devotional objects and substances including dolls, Buddhas, Roman Catholic holy cards, playing cards, political portraits, satin-swathed bottles, perfume atomisers, rosaries, carved phalluses, Masonic diagrams, candles, kerchiefs, money, mirrors, fruit, rum, flowers and human and animal skulls. The largest altars are often in voodoo temples, which can be rooms in homes or shedlike congregational spaces that are decorated with wall paintings and sequined ritual flags called drapo.
.
Wherever it is, the altar is a total, balanced work of religious art, a model of good ritual housekeeping. By some estimates, Haiti has tens of thousands of voodoo temples, the bulk concentrated in cities, and most all but invisible. Tucked away in alleys and basements, or behind garage doors, they rarely announce themselves.
.
This makes any attempt to survey them and the art they hold difficult under any circumstances, but particularly now, when the very topography of cities such as Port-au-Prince and Jacmel to the south, renowned for its production of Carnival masks, has been altered. At least one of the Port-au-Prince temples replicated in Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou is known to have been destroyed in the quake.
.
But word has come that a celebrated maker of sequined flags, Myrlande Constant, after camping with her family in a tent city in Port-au-Prince for more than a month, is back at work in a borrowed studio. The mask-maker and painter Civil Didier, left homeless in Jacmel, is in New York, as part of a new, possibly temporary diaspora of Haitian artists that the quake has created. Meanwhile, long before January, the Fowler had already begun work on a sequel to its 1995 Vodou show, organised, as the first one was, by Donald J. Cosentino, a professor of African and diaspora literature and folklore at UCLA, partnering with the art historian and anthropologist Marilyn Houlberg of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
.
Circumstances in Haiti have greatly changed in the two decades since the earlier exhibition was conceived. In 1991, when research was beginning, Jean-Bertram Aristide was president; the country was giddy with hope for the future. The hope couldn’t last. Aristide was forced into exile, returned and left again, under a cloud. The country has since endured extreme levels of poverty and violence.
.
The tropical Elysium of older Haitian art has never looked more out of place. This is the reality that Cosentino has set out to address in the new exhibition, initially titled Haiti in Extremis.
.
And voodoo gives him apt images to work with.. The Atis Rezistans collective was on the preliminary list of artists to be in the new show, which is scheduled to debut in 2012, as were contemporary painters and sculptors such as Edouard Duval-Carrié, Frantz Zephirin and Didier, all of whom gave their voodoo sources a deeply fatalistic spin. Then came the earthquake. And Cosentino had to rethink the show.
.
He expanded its title: Haiti in Extremis: After the Apocalypse. News came from Port-au-Prince that a particularly vibrant Gede temple overseen by voodoo priest Akiki Baka, called Emperor Sonson, and situated near the Grand Rue, at the very epicentre of the quake, had survived unscathed. An altar from the temple would be in the new show. So would art being created in direct response to the disaster. In other words, this would be a project whose shape and contents are, like life in Haiti, in the making and unpredictable. And it’s still two years away, which could be, depending on how the Gedes play their hand, never or forever.

MediaGlobal
By Allyn Gaestel
.
Haiti has long housed a vibrant art scene, recognized internationally for its painting, music and writing. But, like the other facets of society, the arts suffered immensely in the 12 January earthquake.
.
The Centre d’Art, and Musée d’Art Nader, two of Haiti’s largest exhibition spaces were badly damaged, and many art pieces were lost or destroyed. The Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral contained murals by renowned 20th century Haitian artists, all of which crumbled. The losses have placed a heavy toll on the economic, social and cultural well being of the country.
.
Haitian writers have also struggled to cope with the trauma of the earthquake and transmit their experiences. Dominique Batraville is an award winning poet, novelist and playwright. He nearly died in the earthquake, escaping only by running out from beneath a tumbling balcony. He told MediaGlobal that it wasn’t until he left Haiti to visit New York this month as a guest of the City University of New York Graduate Center that he was able to process and write about his experience.
.
Yet despite the trauma, Haitian artists play an important role in the national healing. Street art has popped up in Port-au-Prince in the absence of exhibition spaces. Musicians have produced songs to lift Haitian spirits for the struggle to rebuild.
.
Batraville, while deeply troubled by Haiti’s current state, remains optimistic that reconstruction will occur and that artists will play a role. “The country will not stay as it is. It will rebuild. And artists will contribute to this, either by creating or by participating in conferences and reflecting on the reconstruction.”
.
Haiti is mourning the loss of the tangible manifestations of past artists. But as Haiti rebuilds, artists will continue to contribute to the creativity and vibrancy of its society.

By KATE TAYLOR
.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Susan Blakney, a paintings conservator from New York, scrambled up a mound of rubble left by the collapse of the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral here, searching for small shards of the cathedral’s murals.
.
The cathedral is a cherished part of this country’s cultural heritage and most of its murals were destroyed in the earthquake that struck here in January. Two from the north transept, though, one depicting the Last Supper and the other the baptism of Christ, remain largely intact.
.
“It looks like there are some chunks underneath here,” Ms. Blakney, 62, yelled to colleagues working with her last Thursday in an effort to save thousands of works of art damaged in the quake. The rescue is being organized by the Smithsonian Institution, which is to open a center here in June where American conservators will work side-by-side with Haitian staff members to repair torn paintings, shattered sculptures and other works pulled from the rubble of museums and churches.
.
Haitian artists and cultural professionals have been conducting informal salvage operations for the past four months. But the Americans are bringing conservation expertise — there are few if any professionally trained art conservators in Haiti — and special equipment, much of it paid for by private money. The initiative, in its swiftness, its close collaboration with a foreign government and its combination of private and government financing, represents a new model of American cultural diplomacy, one that organizers believe stands in stark contrast to the apathy Americans were accused of exhibiting during the looting of Iraqi artistic treasures in 2003.
.
“Mistakes have been made in the past, in times of great tragedy or upheaval, by not protecting and prioritizing a country’s cultural heritage,” said Rachel Goslins, the executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which has been involved in finding money for the project. “I think this is a huge opportunity for us to say, ‘We get it.’ ”
.
The initial financing is coming from three federal agencies and the Broadway League, the trade group for theater owners and producers. Smithsonian officials say the project will cost $2 million to $3 million over the next year and a half, after which the center is expected to be turned over to the Haitian government.
.
Ms. Blakney traveled here last week with two other conservators, a museum curator, and a group of engineers and planning experts from the Smithsonian. The conservators’ task was to assess precisely what kinds of damage the art had sustained, not just from the earthquake but from subsequent exposure to rain and sun and from improper storage both before and after the quake. Based on that information, they will decide what specialized equipment that they, or whoever the Smithsonian ends up sending to work at the center, will need.
.
Restoring the most compromised art will not be a job for beginners. If the Episcopal Church decides to save the surviving murals from Holy Trinity, which were painted in the early 1950s by some of Haiti’s most famous artists, they will probably need to be removed from the damaged building — a feat of engineering as much as conservation that would involve gluing a piece of fabric to the face of each mural and attaching the mural to a secondary support structure of plywood or steel before chiseling it away from the wall.
.
In her search through the rubble, Ms. Blakney found some small pieces of painted concrete that have now been brought to the Smithsonian for an analysis that will help to determine the right adhesive to use. The American conservators will spend part of their time training Haitians in conservation, in preparation for turning the laboratory over to them.
.
The rescue operation came together largely because of the efforts of Corine Wegener, a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and a retired Army major who served in Iraq shortly after the looting of the Iraqi National Museum, and Richard Kurin, the under secretary for history, art and culture at the Smithsonian Institution. Three weeks after the earthquake, Ms. Wegener convened a meeting of art professionals and State Department officials in Washington about how to provide cultural assistance, and invited Mr. Kurin, who already had ties to Haiti from organizing programs on Haitian art and culture for the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival in 2004.
.
Ms. Wegener, who also made the trip last week, said she had been horrified by what had happened at the Iraqi National Museum, where she worked as a liaison between staff members and American officials during her deployment. “It was so disturbing for me as a museum professional to see the staff so completely in shock,” she said. “How would I feel if I came to work one day and found 15,000 objects had been looted?” She was determined not to see history repeat itself in Haiti, she said, and believed that the sooner conservators arrived on the ground, the more artworks could be saved.
.
Mr. Kurin conveyed the need for help to Ms. Goslins of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, a group that includes the heads of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as well-connected art patrons like the Broadway producer Margo Lion. The three agencies ended up committing $30,000 each, while the Broadway League, of which Ms. Lion is a member, contributed $276,000.
.
As for the rest of the money that’s needed, Ms. Goslins expressed confidence that it would materialize once the center was operating. “We’ve been having conversations with both the federal and the private sector about further support,” Ms. Goslins said, “and I’m optimistic that once we get through the initial urgent phase of getting this up and running, we’ll be able to see the project through.”
.
The conservators and Ms. Wegener spent four days here, visiting museums, churches and libraries, accompanied by Olsen Jean Julien, a former minister of culture and communication, who is acting as an intermediary between the Smithsonian and the Haitian government. They visited the ruins of the Musée d’Art Nader, a private museum that before the earthquake housed 12,000 paintings and sculptures by 20th-century Haitian masters like Hector Hyppolite and Préfète Duffaut, thousands of which were either destroyed or badly damaged when the museum collapsed. They also saw what was left of the Centre d’Art, a workshop where many of those artists trained in the 1940s and 1950s, which also collapsed. In the weeks after the earthquake, volunteers pulled thousands of paintings from the wreckage, which were stashed inside two storage containers parked in the sun in front of the ruined building.
.
Some of the Haitian officials and cultural professionals with whom the group met were hearing about the conservation center for the first time, and responded with relief and many questions, like when it would be open and how much money was being set aside. The American aid is “fundamental for us,” said Patrick Vilaire, a sculptor, who took the lead in saving the collections of several damaged libraries after the earthquake.
.
A few, however, expressed frustration that aid had not come sooner and a worry that foreign experts were better at conducting visits and assessments than providing real, practical help. At a meeting with Daniel Elie, the head of the government agency in charge of preserving Haiti’s national heritage, the discussion in front of the plywood shack from which he and his staff have operated since January turned momentarily tense when his colleague and translator, Monique Rocourt, said she was fed up with hosting visiting advisers who came and did nothing.
.
“If I bring another team of experts to Jacmel,” she said, referring to a city in southern Haiti that was seriously damaged in the quake, “we will look in front of the population like we’re just bringing foreigners to look at disasters. It’s cynical, but that’s what people will think.”
.
Ms. Wegener is sensitive to such concerns, she said on another occasion. She noted that this was her third trip to Haiti since the earthquake. “We’re showing a constant presence,” she said, “and now we’re bringing people who are specialists.”
.
At the same time, Ms. Wegener and her colleagues appeared anxious not to seem like cultural imperialists, frequently repeating that they wanted to know first what the Haitians wanted to do.
.
Occasionally, their efforts clearly seemed like overkill to some of the people they encountered. When Ms. Wegener suggested to two members of a foundation that supports voodoo art that they write a proposal outlining what the Americans could do to help, one of the two practically rolled her eyes.
.
“Everyone is coming here and asking us for a proposal,” the woman, Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, said. “You write us a proposal.” Ms. Wegener, anxious to explain, said that they did not want to create the impression “that we’re telling you what you want.”
.
“Don’t worry about that,” Ms. Beauvoir-Dominique’s husband, Didier Dominique, interrupted, adding with a smile, “We know what we want.”

5/12/2010
USA Today
.
For days, Hugues Larose lay quietly in his bunk aboard the Navy hospital ship Comfort, asking little of his doctors and nurses, a peaceful soul aboard a vessel echoing with the cries of shattered, tormented people. Larose was one of the first patients brought aboard the Comfort when it reached Port-au-Prince eight days after the Jan. 12 earthquake. After a few days on board, he asked for a pencil and paper "to give birth to my thoughts." Using the aluminum clipboard hanging beside his bed, he began to sketch a woman crushed by a telephone pole, a survivor sitting dazed in the street, limbs jutting from pancaked buildings, frantic people pouring into the streets, and ships, including the Comfort, anchored offshore.
.
"My fingers are influenced by the earthquake, all collapsed houses and dead," Larose says. "Survivors look so different." In an instant, the simple black-and-white sketch carried the Comfort's doctors and nurses ashore to witness the immediate aftermath of letremblement de terre— "the trembling of the earth" — that in a few minutes flattened Haiti's densely populated capital, killing 250,000 people and injuring more. It allowed them to experience the tragedy, not through a camera lens, but through the eyes of a survivor who happened to be an artist.
.
"We had no idea that he was an artist of that caliber. Nor did we have any idea of the visions in his head," says Lt. Sam Harris, one of his nurses.
.
Larose's visions, and those of other artists caught up in the quake, represent the first tremor of a cultural aftershock that will influence Haitian art for generations, says Duke University professor Laurent Dubois. In Haiti, a country with so many illiterate people, visual art is an urgent and potent form of communication, Dubois says, layered with symbols of slavery, the fight for independence, poverty, the entwined spiritual traditions of Haitian voodoo and Catholicism — and now the earthquake.
.
Artists will inevitably play a critical role in rebuilding Haiti after the earthquake, too, he says. "Artists remind people they have common connections and roots. They remind people that Haiti's still there, even though its buildings are gone."
.
When the earthquake struck, Larose was working on a canvas. "I was ending a painting in the yard of my house, sheltered from a wall, when suddenly I heard a heavy noise and everything was shaking," he says. "I knew it was an earthquake. I was going to move when the wall collapsed ... my leg was broken and so was my clavicle. I saw my little son Steven and Jefferson (a cousin "I consider as my son") under cinder bricks. I saw a white cloud."
.
Fortunately, Larose says, his wife, Foufoune, their son Stanley and Jefferson's mother, Junia, were wedged in a doorway and were uninjured. Jefferson and Steven suffered head injuries; both survived and are back in school. A friend suggested Larose try to make his way to the Comfort. "Since my childhood, I wanted to get in a helicopter, but not in that way. Not as a patient," he says.
.
Time passed slowly as he waited in Ward 3 Forward for surgery on his broken right leg. Dozens of patients with catastrophic injuries went first. He didn't complain, Harris says. "I did not say a word," Larose says. "I concentrated on myself." After Larose revealed himself as an artist, a special relationship blossomed between Larose and members of the Comfort's crew, according to interviews with doctors and nurses and Larose himself, who is reunited with his family and was able to answer questions for this story via e-mail.
.
Doctors and nurses accustomed to tragedy began visiting Larose, to talk to him and to watch him work, says Lt. Cmdr. Mark Lynch. "People sought him out and wanted to be near him," he says. "At some point, we had to begin turning away visitors. That's how much he affected people." Even Capt. James Ware, the hospital's commanding officer, moved by the sketches, went to see him. He likens the pictures to those drawn by children who survived the Hiroshima bomb. "I knew immediately they would speak of the Haiti tragedy to Haitian children for generations to come."
.
Larose left the Comfort 17 days after he arrived. His right leg has healed. His collarbone is another story, the fracture still visible under his skin. He's struggling to eke out a living by painting, propping his easel near the family's cramped quarters in a battered van parked in the district of Carrefour.
.
His work draws praise from experts in Haitian art. Bill Bollendorf, owner of Galerie Macondo in Pittsburgh, says Larose's paintings are "original and emotional, and his technique is very good." For Lynch, Larose's drawings remain a vivid link to Haiti's earthquake and his experience of caring for survivors. "He's one of the folks from the Comfort who stay on my mind," he says. "I open up his drawings frequently. For some reason, it gives me comfort to look at them. It lets me know he's OK."

5/17/2010
Art Knowledge News
By Wendell MacGivens
.
WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian is leading a team of cultural organizations to help the Haitian government assess, recover and restore Haiti’s cultural materials damaged by the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. A building in Port-au-Prince that once housed the United Nations Development Programme will be leased by the Smithsonian. The 7,500-square-foot, three-story building will serve as a temporary conservation site where objects retrieved from the rubble can be assessed, conserved and stored. It will also be the training center for Haitians who will be taking over this conservation effort in the future.
.
Haiti’s Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Haitian President’s Commission for Reconstruction will lead the effort for Haiti. The “Smithsonian Institution–Haiti Cultural Recovery Project” is conducted in partnership with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities with assistance from several other federal agencies—National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is also supported by contributions from The Broadway League, the international trade association for Broadway and the Broadway community.
.
The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the protection of cultural property affected by conflict or natural disasters, is involved in the project as is the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Local Haitian cultural organizations and a number of international organizations will also be involved in the effort.
.
The rainy season in Haiti has already begun, and the hurricane season is on its way. Much of Haiti’s endangered cultural heritage is in destroyed buildings and is at risk of permanent destruction.
.
“The highest priority of the Haitian government and the international humanitarian communities has rightly been to save lives and provide food, water, medical care and shelter,” said Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian. “However, Haiti’s rich culture, which goes back five centuries, is also in danger and we have the expertise to help preserve that heritage.”
.
The long-term goal, according to Kurin, is to “rescue, recover and help restore Haitian art work, artifacts and archives damaged by the earthquake.” Last week, six engineers from the Smithsonian and a conservator from the Smithsonian American Art Museum spent four days in Port-au-Prince checking the leased building that will be used for conservation in the coming months. Conservators from the American Institute for Conservation and the president of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield joined them.
.
The artifacts recovered and eventually conserved may include building features such as stained glass and historic murals as well as paper documents, photographs, artifacts and some of the 9,000 paintings from the Nader Museum, now in ruins from the quake. “With this unprecedented inter-agency effort involving the major federal cultural institutions and the private sector, we express our collective belief that in times of great tragedy it is essential to help a country preserve and protect its cultural legacy for future generations,” said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
.
In 2004, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, under the direction of Kurin, highlighted the country in the program Haiti: Freedom and Creativity from the Mountains to the Sea, which featured more than 100 traditional Haitian artists and crafts people, performers, cooks, writers, researchers and cultural experts in performances, demonstrations, workshops and concerts. That collaboration with Haitian cultural leaders resulted in an ongoing relationship with the Smithsonian.

Montgomery news
By Julie Owsik Ackerman
.
Frantz Zephirin, one of Haiti’s leading contemporary painters, escaped death in the January earthquake by an unlikely action — leaving a pub early. That afternoon, Zephirin sat in one of his haunts, having a few drinks with a friend when a group of men came in, loudly discussing politics. “I say, ‘I’m not going to stay and listen,’” he recalled, “I just came to drink my beer.” So he asked for the check, told his usual waitress that no, he wouldn’t be staying for dinner that night, and left with his friend.
.
Fifteen seconds later, the ground began to shake violently.“I thought it was a bomb,” he said. “I saw the street open, then close.” Black sand filled the air, making it impossible to see. He fought his way to a lamppost and clung to it until the shaking stopped. “I heard the cry of the people dying but you don’t see nothing, only dark sand. I walked back to the bar. I say, ‘Where is the bar?’ But only the sign remained. Every building was like a sandwich. The bar where I was, all the people died inside. Every day I pass to look at the place where I was supposed to die.”
.
What can anyone do after witnessing such horror? Zephirin said, “The only thing I could imagine was to paint.” And so he did. “Frantz Zephirin, Art and Resilience,” his first U.S. exhibit since the earthquake, is currently running at Indigo Arts Gallery in Philadelphia, through June 19. The show includes 30 paintings, most of which he completed after the earthquake.
.
This exhibit comes to Philadelphia through an unlikely friendship that developed between the exuberant Haitian painter and reserved art dealer and Merion resident Frank Giannetta, who traveled to Haiti in 1989 after his art gallery burned down. On that trip Giannetta met Zephirin at a gallery in Port-au-Prince and purchased eight or nine of his paintings.
.
Giannetta said, “I didn’t speak Creole, he didn’t speak English, but between three different languages, somehow we communicated.” Zephirin contacted Giannetta the next year about having an art show in the U.S., and the two have been friends ever since. Zephirin began painting when he was 5 years old and had his first taste of success at the age of 8 when he gave two paintings to a tour guide who sold them for $40. From that day, he was hooked, using school time to think of ideas and sketch, and weekends to sit at the elbow of his uncle, Philome Obin, considered by many to be one of the greatest Haitian artists of all time. When I asked if his uncle taught him or looked at his work, Zephirin laughed.
.
“I was a child. He did not think to look at my work.” But young Frantz studied which brushes his uncle used, how he applied paint to canvases, and took leftover materials to use for his own paintings.
.
When he moved to Port-au-Prince at 15, Zephirin took two paintings around to the galleries there, but no one was interested in buying them. They said his work looked too much like the Cap Haitien style of his uncle, known for realistic depictions of everyday life. Frustrated after a long day of many rejections, Zephirin met a tour guide who offered him $20 for the two paintings. In anger, the artist threw his work into the ocean. “I say, ‘You are a dog, a pig, a monkey,’” he recalled, “and in my mind, the animals come. I think, now I go to paint you like an animal, like you are.”
.
This was a turning point for Zephirin, who, inspired by his vision of people as animals, began to create works that depicted fantastical human/animal creatures, spirits, gods and goddesses. Giannetta said, “Rather than painting what he saw around him, he began to paint the mystical creatures coming out of his own mind.”
.
After a year of working with this style, and some success in selling his work, Zephirin ventured off to the Galerie Monnin, in spite of naysayers who told him that Monnin only sold the best Haitian art. He carefully prepared a painting and brought it to Roger Monnin, the owner, who said to his son, “Michel, this guy bring something new; we need to keep this guy.” Customers snapped up paintings as quickly as Zephirin could make them, even though he worked night and day.
.
Since then, Zephirin’s work has been shown in many cities of the United States and Europe. One of his paintings appeared on the cover of The New Yorker on Jan. 25, 2010, the week after the earthquake. In the current exhibit at Indigo Arts Gallery, one of the most haunting paintings is rather simple, at least for a Zephirin piece. On a tan background, swirling around a small depiction of a graveyard at the center, single eyes peer out at the viewer. Looking at the painting, Zephirin said, “It’s the eye that’s here,” pointing to the middle of his forehead. He added, “On the day of the earthquake, the people were so confused. One moment they’re here, the next moment they’re not. They were swept up,” he said, making a sound and motion of water quickly going down a drain. “The other eye is looking, saying ‘What happened?’”
.
Tony Fisher, director of the Indigo Arts Gallery, observed that many of the paintings in this exhibit “show an opening from one world into another, but the dominant one is what we would call ‘the spirit world.’” An example of this is “Rara ti boujwa,” a 48 x 48 inch canvas, covered by three large rainbow-colored spirits. At the center is a small circle depicting a street party with white bourgeois people, because, according to Zephirin, “Before, the carnival was for the blacks, the poor. Now we’re all the same.”
.
Sitting in a café in Wynnewood, Zephirin’s gratitude for his life was palpable. He radiated the kind of joy one finds in spite of darkness, in spite of living through the goudou goudou, the phrase Haitians use to refer to the January earthquake.
.
“We are supposed to live every moment and enjoy the moment,” he said, “because you don’t know. You can lose everything in a second — your business, your house, your children — everything.” He dreams now of starting a foundation to help rebuild his country, address deforestation and assist street children.
.
When asked why art matters, in the face of such tragedy and suffering, Zephirin said, “The artist is the witness of everything that’s happened. Cameras can’t give you what you have inside. They see what you have outside, but you need the vision of the artist to paint what’s inside.” The night of the earthquake, with great difficulty, without any standing landmarks, through the chaos and devastation, Zephirin found his way home. Blessed to have his life, and even a house still standing, he lit a candle, and did the only thing he could — he painted.
.
Julie Owsik Ackerman writes essays on creativity, travel, surfing and other topics at AnythingforMaterial.blogspot.com.

6/11/2010
.
www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2int_new=38046<http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=38046>
.
WASHINGTON, DC. - The Smithsonian is leading a team of cultural organizations to help the Haitian government assess, recover and restore Haiti's cultural materials damaged by the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. A building in Port-au-Prince that once housed the United Nations Development Programme will be leased by the Smithsonian. The 7,500-square-foot, three-story building will serve as a temporary conservation site where objects retrieved from the rubble can be assessed, conserved and stored. It will also be the training center for Haitians who will be taking over this conservation effort in the future.
.
Haiti's Ministry of Culture and Communication and the Haitian President's Commission for Reconstruction will lead the effort for Haiti. The "Smithsonian Institution-Haiti Cultural Recovery Project" is conducted in partnership with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities with assistance from several other federal agencies-National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is also supported by contributions from The Broadway League, the international trade association for Broadway and the Broadway community.
.
The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the protection of cultural property affected by conflict or natural disasters, is involved in the project as is the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Local Haitian cultural organizations and a number of international organizations will also be involved in the effort.
.
The rainy season in Haiti has already begun, and the hurricane season is on its way. Much of Haiti's endangered cultural heritage is in destroyed buildings and is at risk of permanent destruction.
.
"The highest priority of the Haitian government and the international humanitarian communities has rightly been to save lives and provide food, water, medical care and shelter," said Richard Kurin, Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian. "However, Haiti's rich culture, which goes back five centuries, is also in danger and we have the expertise to help preserve that heritage."
.
The long-term goal, according to Kurin, is to "rescue, recover and help restore Haitian art work, artifacts and archives damaged by the earthquake." Last week, six engineers from the Smithsonian and a conservator from the Smithsonian American Art Museum spent four days in Port-au-Prince checking the leased building that will be used for conservation in the coming months. Conservators from the American Institute for Conservation and the president of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield joined them.
.
The artifacts recovered and eventually conserved may include building features such as stained glass and historic murals as well as paper documents, photographs, artifacts and some of the 9,000 paintings from the Nader Museum, now in ruins from the quake. "With this unprecedented inter-agency effort involving the major federal cultural institutions and the private sector, we express our collective belief that in times of great tragedy it is essential to help a country preserve and protect its cultural legacy for future generations," said Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
.
In 2004, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, under the direction of Kurin, highlighted the country in the program Haiti: Freedom and Creativity from the Mountains to the Sea, which featured more than 100 traditional Haitian artists and crafts people, performers, cooks, writers, researchers and cultural experts in performances, demonstrations, workshops and concerts. That collaboration with Haitian cultural leaders resulted in an ongoing relationship with the Smithsonian.

Associated Press
By BRETT ZONGKER

.
Haiti's recovery from the devastating earthquake in January requires more than rebuilding structures, but also repairing tattered paintings and cultural objects still buried in the rubble, the island nation's first lady Elisabeth Preval said Thursday.
.
She visited the Smithsonian Institution to open an exhibit of children's artwork created after the earthquake, calling it a reminder that Haiti still needs help. The paintings and drawings will be on view through the summer. She also discussed the importance of an effort by the U.S. museum complex to lead a cultural recovery effort in Port-au-Prince, where there are few, if any, professionally trained art conservators.
.
"This is fundamental for our nation," Preval told The Associated Press during her Washington visit. "This is our cultural heritage. This is us." The Smithsonian leased a building in Haiti's capital that once housed the United Nations Development Programme to create a conservation center where experts from U.S. museums can repair artworks and train Haitians to perform the intricate restoration work.
.
The first paintings were taken to the center last week. Experts carefully began vacuuming destructive dust from the paintings, repairing tears and "inpainting" damaged areas so it appears nothing happened, Smithsonian conservator Hugh Shockey wrote on his blog. As many as 10,000 paintings and sculptures by Haitian masters were buried when the Musee d'Art Nader collapsed in the earthquake, said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian's undersecretary for history, art and culture. Thousands of other objects are buried elsewhere, tracing Haiti's struggle for independence, its abolition of slavery and other cultural milestones.
.
"Imagine in the United States ... if every Smithsonian museum collapsed, the Nat Archives, the Library of Congress, the White House, the U.S. Congress all collapsed," Kurin said. "At some point we'd probably say it's worth pulling out the Star-Spangled Banner, the Declaration of Independence." The oldest objects to be recovered date back to Haiti's indigenous people from before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
.
Some artifacts have been recovered by hand. Others will require sophisticated engineering and heavy equipment. Murals painted on the walls of the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral that depict scenes from the Bible have been a central focus. They date to prominent artists from the 1950s and are cherished as part of Haiti's cultural heritage. Some crumbled with the church but at least four remain mostly intact and can be saved, Kurin said. Experts are still trying to determine how.
.
The effort has been primarily funded with private dollars. The Broadway League trade association made the largest gift of $276,000, while the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences contributed $30,000 each. Smithsonian officials are working to raise more money to sustain the effort, Kurin said.
.
The involvement of U.S. cultural agencies also is a response to the looting of Iraqi treasures in 2003. Broadway producer Margo Lion, who co-chairs the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, said cultural recovery is a priority after Americans were accused of neglecting cultural preservation during the invasion of Iraq. Conservators plan to turn over most of the work to Haitian professionals by November 2011. During her visit to Washington, Preval helped open an exhibit of 100 paintings and drawings by Haitian children after the earthquake with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art. They will be on view through October.
.
Art has provided healing for children as a way for them to express their emotions, Preval said. "My dream and my hope is to make sure the world does not forget Haiti," Preval said of the exhibit. She hopes it can help draw more support to overhaul Haiti's schools, beginning with early childhood education, she said. The display includes paintings by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, from their April visit to Port-au-Prince. At the direction of a 5-year-old boy, Obama painted a colorful fish and Biden painted a house.
.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival beginning June 24 on the National Mall also will feature artists from Haiti. Some of their work will be sold to benefit Haiti's cultural revival.

6/23/2010
Washington Post
By Jacqueline Trescott
.
When Richard Kurin heard about the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti last January, he was heartbroken. As point man for decades for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, he knew the Smithsonian had to do something. In 2004 about 100 Haitian artists came to the Mall as an official centerpiece of the festival, marking Haiti's 200 years of independence from the French. So, Kurin said, "we knew the cultural workers." His immediate concern for the safety of individual artists morphed into worries about the condition of the nation's paintings, musical instruments and art galleries.
.
Once he started hearing from artists who had survived and he saw televised images of injured people pulling art from the rubble, Kurin developed a plan to get the Smithsonian involved in the recovery. "Culture is important as a basic part of people's survival. The Smithsonian had the context there and we had the tools," he said. When the Folklife Festival opens Thursday, the Smithsonian will showcase one aspect of its Haiti initiative. It has expanded the core programs by inviting Boukman Eksperyans, a Grammy-nominated group, to perform its Haitian-Caribbean fusion sound Saturday.
.
Two Haitian visual artists, Mireille Delisme and Levoy Exil, will also participate in the festival. Delisme will show how she incorporates voodoo designs into sequined flags. Exil will discuss how the Saint Soleil school of painting emerged from a mountain community. In the tented festival marketplace, paintings, metalwork, baskets and statues representing the crafts of 77 Haitian artists will be sold, with all proceeds helping the island's artists and art cooperatives.
.
This year, at the 10-day, 44th annual Folklife Festival on the Mall, the focus will be on the cultures of Mexico and Asian Pacific Americans and on Smithsonian workers, such as the keepers of the fossils. The outdoor festival runs Thursday through Monday and then resumes July 1-5. Though most activities end at 5:30, the Smithsonian and the National Park Service sponsor evening concerts and dance parties.
.
The festival's programs are selected by curators doing research on a topic or country, or on a particular anniversary. This allows the coordinators to dig deep into cultures and present a diversity of languages, music, food, dance and crafts. This year, in the tented areas, the small businesses of Mexico, celebrating the nation's 200th year of independence, will be represented by a candymaker from Xochimilco, instrument makers from Nayarit and Veracruz, and beekeepers from Campeche. The Asian Pacific Americans section, representing the roughly 30 Asian American and 24 Pacific Island American groups, will emphasize traditional dances and songs, including fusion styles. A local women's performance group, the Veiyasana Dance Troupe, will feature Fijian and Indian dances and island songs.
.
In a second push to help Haiti, the Smithsonian is leading an international effort to preserve thousands of artworks that were rescued from collapsed structures. The Smithsonian has secured a 7,500-square-foot, three-story building, which formerly belonged to the U.N. Development Program, and is equipping it with generators, imported from Canada, and the supplies needed to repair broken frames, tears in canvases and water damage. Machines will also be used to rid the artworks of dust.
.
"The conservators went down with three suitcases of supplies. These are art and cultural humanitarians. They are caring, living under harsh conditions," Kurin said during an interview in his office in the Smithsonian Castle. "We are essentially setting up a base, like we do in Antarctica." A folklorist and author, Kurin has been an official at the Smithsonian for 25 years and oversees the complex's art museums, among other divisions. Officially, he's the Smithsonian undersecretary for history, art and culture. Unofficially, he's a champion for world cultures. A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair, a mustache and beard, Kurin is a rapid, robust talker.
.
He said he was shocked when he got to Haiti in early March. "It was almost overwhelming. I went to the Catholic cathedral, which had these beautiful stained-glass windows, and I'm Jewish, and I just had to cry. The earthquake has taken the guts out of people," Kurin, 59, said. The Musée d'Art Nader in Port-au-Prince, which had 9,000 to 10,000 paintings, was flattened. Kurin knew that Haiti's organizational resources were few, and that the infrastructure had collapsed, but he also understood that the local art community would tackle, and even survive, the most horrific hurdle. "The Haitian people have this resilience. It is not easy, but people have a lot of pride, and they have always had to look inward to get strength," Kurin said. "From the earliest time, [their] art expressed many feelings. It was a way of decoding nationhood and freedom."
.
Liberation from the French in 18o4 and scenes of everyday life have been themes of a bold, colorful and intricate art style that stretches back five centuries. Since the earthquake, artists have created works out of twisted metal. In addition to Haiti's presence on the Mall, nearly 100 works of art created by the children of Haiti after the quake are on display at the S. Dillon Ripley Center until Oct. 17, under the sponsorship of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.
.
Collaborating with the Smithsonian in the Haiti recovery project are the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Broadway League, UNESCO and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a non-governmental organization. The Broadway League has donated $276,000 for rent and other costs. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services have each donated $30,000. The project is being coordinated with Haiti's Ministry of Culture and Communication and the country's reconstruction commission. That partnership is key, Kurin said, because the longer goals of the recovery program include training Haitians in conservation methods and museum skills. The outreach, Kurin said, will show that Haiti has not been defeated, and "this is a lively, ongoing, living tradition."

6/23/2010
Washington Post
By Jacqueline Trescott
.
When Richard Kurin heard about the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti last January, he was heartbroken. As point man for decades for the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, he knew the Smithsonian had to do something. In 2004 about 100 Haitian artists came to the Mall as an official centerpiece of the festival, marking Haiti's 200 years of independence from the French. So, Kurin said, "we knew the cultural workers." His immediate concern for the safety of individual artists morphed into worries about the condition of the nation's paintings, musical instruments and art galleries.
.
Once he started hearing from artists who had survived and he saw televised images of injured people pulling art from the rubble, Kurin developed a plan to get the Smithsonian involved in the recovery. "Culture is important as a basic part of people's survival. The Smithsonian had the context there and we had the tools," he said. When the Folklife Festival opens Thursday, the Smithsonian will showcase one aspect of its Haiti initiative. It has expanded the core programs by inviting Boukman Eksperyans, a Grammy-nominated group, to perform its Haitian-Caribbean fusion sound Saturday.
.
Two Haitian visual artists, Mireille Delisme and Levoy Exil, will also participate in the festival. Delisme will show how she incorporates voodoo designs into sequined flags. Exil will discuss how the Saint Soleil school of painting emerged from a mountain community. In the tented festival marketplace, paintings, metalwork, baskets and statues representing the crafts of 77 Haitian artists will be sold, with all proceeds helping the island's artists and art cooperatives. This year, at the 10-day, 44th annual Folklife Festival on the Mall, the focus will be on the cultures of Mexico and Asian Pacific Americans and on Smithsonian workers, such as the keepers of the fossils. The outdoor festival runs Thursday through Monday and then resumes July 1-5. Though most activities end at 5:30, the Smithsonian and the National Park Service sponsor evening concerts and dance parties.
.
The festival's programs are selected by curators doing research on a topic or country, or on a particular anniversary. This allows the coordinators to dig deep into cultures and present a diversity of languages, music, food, dance and crafts. This year, in the tented areas, the small businesses of Mexico, celebrating the nation's 200th year of independence, will be represented by a candymaker from Xochimilco, instrument makers from Nayarit and Veracruz, and beekeepers from Campeche. The Asian Pacific Americans section, representing the roughly 30 Asian American and 24 Pacific Island American groups, will emphasize traditional dances and songs, including fusion styles. A local women's performance group, the Veiyasana Dance Troupe, will feature Fijian and Indian dances and island songs.
.
In a second push to help Haiti, the Smithsonian is leading an international effort to preserve thousands of artworks that were rescued from collapsed structures. The Smithsonian has secured a 7,500-square-foot, three-story building, which formerly belonged to the U.N. Development Program, and is equipping it with generators, imported from Canada, and the supplies needed to repair broken frames, tears in canvases and water damage. Machines will also be used to rid the artworks of dust.
.
"The conservators went down with three suitcases of supplies. These are art and cultural humanitarians. They are caring, living under harsh conditions," Kurin said during an interview in his office in the Smithsonian Castle. "We are essentially setting up a base, like we do in Antarctica." A folklorist and author, Kurin has been an official at the Smithsonian for 25 years and oversees the complex's art museums, among other divisions. Officially, he's the Smithsonian undersecretary for history, art and culture. Unofficially, he's a champion for world cultures. A tall man with salt-and-pepper hair, a mustache and beard, Kurin is a rapid, robust talker.
.
He said he was shocked when he got to Haiti in early March. "It was almost overwhelming. I went to the Catholic cathedral, which had these beautiful stained-glass windows, and I'm Jewish, and I just had to cry. The earthquake has taken the guts out of people," Kurin, 59, said. The Musée d'Art Nader in Port-au-Prince, which had 9,000 to 10,000 paintings, was flattened. Kurin knew that Haiti's organizational resources were few, and that the infrastructure had collapsed, but he also understood that the local art community would tackle, and even survive, the most horrific hurdle. "The Haitian people have this resilience. It is not easy, but people have a lot of pride, and they have always had to look inward to get strength," Kurin said. "From the earliest time, [their] art expressed many feelings. It was a way of decoding nationhood and freedom."
.
Liberation from the French in 18o4 and scenes of everyday life have been themes of a bold, colorful and intricate art style that stretches back five centuries. Since the earthquake, artists have created works out of twisted metal. In addition to Haiti's presence on the Mall, nearly 100 works of art created by the children of Haiti after the quake are on display at the S. Dillon Ripley Center until Oct. 17, under the sponsorship of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.
.
Collaborating with the Smithsonian in the Haiti recovery project are the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, the Broadway League, UNESCO and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a non-governmental organization. The Broadway League has donated $276,000 for rent and other costs. The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services have each donated $30,000. The project is being coordinated with Haiti's Ministry of Culture and Communication and the country's reconstruction commission. That partnership is key, Kurin said, because the longer goals of the recovery program include training Haitians in conservation methods and museum skills. The outreach, Kurin said, will show that Haiti has not been defeated, and "this is a lively, ongoing, living tradition."

According to Bill Bollendorf, the 2010 Haitian Art Society Conference will be in Pittsburgh October 14-16. More information available at the link below.
.
http://www.artshaitian.com/Pages/haitianarthasmeeting2010.html

8/10
Globe and Mail
By Jessica Leeder
.
After more than six months of working to produce their trademark art in ruined backyard workshops, the struggling papier mâché artists of Jacmel have finally won a boon: a $50,000 (U.S.) infusion from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Although not a massive sum, the grant will fund the rebuilding of 10 ateliers destroyed in January’s earthquake and literally put new roofs over the heads of a team of artists. The artists need work space now more than ever they have been working frantically to fill a massive order for a major U.S. retailer with plans to launch a Haitian-made home decor line. (The retailer refuses to be named until the official product launch in September.) If the products are well received, the artisans have a shot at a long-term relationship with the store, which could revitalize their entire community.
.
Until now, the artists, whose work has made Jacmel one of Haiti’s most renowned art destinations, have been working in unsheltered spaces amid the ruins, where they are exposed to the rains that soak Jacmel every day. “They’re making this product in horrible conditions,” said Cameron Brohman, a development expert and co-founder of the Brandaid Project, a non-governmental marketing and development organization that aims to revive Haiti’s arts and crafts industry and connect it with North American retail distributors.
.
It is through the work of Mr. Brohman and the Brandaid Project that the Jacmel artisans were able to secure both the retail connection, cemented earlier this summer, and the Clinton Bush grant, which Mr. Brohman says will raise help legitimize his organization’s work in Jacmel, perhaps helping to attract new donors. “Big names get big notice,” he said. “It’s a serious vetting process we have to go through to get that money and to get their trust. It validates what we’re doing.” Brandaid’s goal, even before the earthquake, was to help raise the profile of Haitian and other foreign artists in the world marketplace. Since January, their focus has sharpened into a mission to get artists back into their workshops and help them create a lasting economy. Brandaid representatives have been doggedly pursuing connections with high-profile retailers interested in long-term relationships with the Haitian crafts sector.
.
“What we want out of this is to be able to create in Jacmel a world brand from this papier mâché product, something that becomes famous around the world, like Wedgwood China,” Mr. Brohman said. In pursuing that goal, Brandaid is slowly reorienting Jacmel’s arts sector, which relied too heavily on a dwindling flow of tourists even before the earthquake. While some artists exported occasional orders for knick-knacks to foreign countries – hotels in the Dominican Republic, Italy and France, for example – connections to major North American retailers were elusive. Then the earthquake wreaked havoc on an already fragile community – nearly 50 ramshackle workshops near the Jacmel’s heritage district were destroyed.
.
“We’ve lost just about all our clients,” said Herbie Marshall, a don of papier mâché sculptors who specializes in roosters and parrots. “I’m not living off art right now. I’m not organized for production. The clients are gone. Life is a mess,” he said in a recent interview. As Brandaid’s investment in Jacmel begins to pay off, the outlook for Mr. Marshall and his colleagues is brightening. Soon the artists will have access to a warehouse Brandaid rented with donated funds to store their finished products, protecting them from the weather. The organization also has plans to build two covered work pavilions at the site, which will provide work space for up to 80 artists. There will also be an on-site system to treat water, which Brandaid intends for the artists to sell for additional revenue. “These donations are rebuilding artisan infrastructure so artisans can fill orders and rebuild their lives and businesses,” Mr. Brohman said, adding: “We’re planning for success.”

Art News
By Stevenson Swanson
.
This summer, amid the rubble still left from the January earthquake that devastated Haiti, a new conservation center opened in Port-au-Prince where American specialists have started the laborious task of repairing thousands of artworks damaged in the disaster. The effort, led by the Smithsonian Institution and funded by a mix of public and private money, is believed to be the most ambitious attempt by the American cultural community to respond to an international disaster.
.
"The highest priority of the Haitian government and the international humanitarian communities has rightly been to save lives and provide food, water, medical care, and shelter," said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for history, art, and culture, when the Haitian Cultural Recovery Project was announced in May. "However, Haiti's rich culture, which goes back five centuries, is also in danger, and we have the expertise to help preserve that heritage." Although Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, it has one of the Caribbean's richest artistic traditions, in part an outgrowth of the country's voodoo culture. The earthquake exacted a heavy toll on Haiti's art, ripping holes and gashes in paintings, reducing sculptures to fragments, and exposing fragile artworks to rain and sun.
.
Among the hardest-hit cultural institutions was the Musée d'Art Nader, a private museum owned by longtime Haitian-art dealer Georges Nader. Many of the museum's 12,000 artworks were destroyed or damaged when the 35-room mansion that houses the collection collapsed. At the Centre d'Art, a workshop and cultural hub founded in the '40s by California artist DeWitt Peters, employees sifted through debris to pull artworks from the building's ruins. Now some 2,000 paintings from the center are being stored in shipping containers, which become overheated under the Caribbean sun. The earthquake also leveled parts of the city's Episcopal cathedral. What remains of a highly regarded series of murals painted by a number of Haitian artists was left open to the elements.
.
News of the disaster moved Corine Wegener, associate curator of architecture, design, decorative arts, craft, and sculpture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, to take action. Wegener, a retired army major, had witnessed firsthand the effects of a disaster—albeit a man-made one—on a country's cultural heritage when she served as a liaison between the U.S. military and Iraqi officials at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad following the museum's looting in 2003. She was frustrated by the international cultural community's lack of response to the crisis.
.
"You have to help the people first," says Wegener, who founded and now heads the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, a nonprofit formed in 2006 with the goal of protecting cultural artifacts affected by armed conflict. "But often culture doesn't come second, third, or fourth. It doesn't come at all."
.
In February, Wegener met with other art professionals in Washington, D.C., including the Smithsonian's Kurin, who had contacts in the Haitian government and arts community. With the approval of the Haitian government, plans for setting up a conservation center were soon under way. Initial funding came from three federal agencies—the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—contributing $30,000 each. But the largest amount by far was given by one seemingly unlikely private source: the Broadway League, which represents Broadway theaters and producers.
.
The league donated $276,000 in funds it had raised from its members in the weeks following the earthquake. At first it planned to give the money to a humanitarian relief organization, but the league learned of the conservation effort through Margo Lion, a producer whose credits include the musical Hairspray. Lion serves on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which has become a clearinghouse to raise funds for the project. Although the conservation effort is not directly related to the theater world, "it's art and culture, and that's part of our world," says the league's executive director, Charlotte St. Martin. "At the end of the day, art is art, so we thought it would be great to help Haiti preserve something that is so critical to its culture."
.
The league's donation is being used to rent a former United Nations building to serve as the headquarters of the conservation project. The 7,500-square-foot structure is large enough to provide lab space for painting, object, and paper conservators as well as climate-controlled storage areas for artwork. Stephanie Hornbeck, a Miami conservator who speaks French, is overseeing operations at the conservation center for the Smithsonian, and volunteer conservators are being recruited by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. The goal is to have at least two conservators at the center at all times, according to institute executive director Eryl Wentworth, who notes that, although the organization has an emergency team to respond to domestic disasters, this is the first time it has taken part in an international operation.
.
Finding local sources for some of the synthetic materials and specialized solvents that conservators use has been a challenge. On one early trip to Haiti, a team of museum officials and conservators loaded up their suitcases with art supplies. Among the items in their luggage were several vacuums with variable suction, used to gently clean delicate surfaces. "Everything—everything—is just covered with concrete dust," says Hugh Shockey, objects conservator at the Smithsonian, who made several trips to Haiti to help set up the center.
.
Among the first objects to be repaired after the conservation office opened in June were a colorful painting by Celestin Faustin, two small sculptures by the indigenous Taino people, and a 19th-century military document that once belonged to Alexandre Pétion, a leader of the revolution that resulted in the country's independence from France in 1804. The recovery project is expected to cost at least $3 million and last until the end of 2011. But it has been designed to leave a more enduring legacy, too. As part of the project's mission, American conservators will be training Haitians to take over when they leave. "Eventually, everyone will have to come home," Shockey says. "But we hope to leave an enhanced ability for Haitians to care for their heritage going forward."
.
Stevenson Swanson is a New York–based writer who covers culture and the arts.

Article by Sarah Kiran Mitchell
Photography by Keely Kernan
.
http://www.skewedmagazine.com/2010/09/feature-anderson-ambroise/
.
An artist from Jacmel, Haiti, Anderson Ambroise shares with us how he spends his time teaching and empowering his people through art after the January 2010 earthquake. His reflections embody a progressive nature. Like many others from Haiti, Ambroise knows that some of the most valuable changes need to be made now. Ambroise was working as an artist long before the earthquake. Thinking about how to show the world what he could do, he came to the conclusion that he could help by finding a way to teach people close to him, especially the children living in the nearby tent camp. For Ambroise and other Haitians, art is easily accessible. It is a big part of Haitian culture and a respected livelihood. A cultural form of expression, like anywhere else in the world, art has helped Haiti through its ups and downs.
.
After the earthquake Ambroise confided in art as a means to relieving stress. The following is his answer when asked, why art is important to him: “Art is good for the world, you can build a world with art, and art is everything. You know, you can teach people easily, like the kids. You can teach more in art, art is really good for change. It is so important for Haiti now, it’s not a business, but you can make a business with that so it is the last business. Haiti can make a change with the world now because we don’t make cigars or coffee anymore, so now we need to find a way to keep Haitian art alive.”
.
When the earthquake happened Ambroise was at home. As he stepped outside he saw people with blood on their bodies, immediately realizing the degree of devastation. For weeks he slept outside. “I was suffering with my friends,” he explained, “it was really an experience, we just slept on a piece of sheet.” After the earthquake Ambroise knew life had to change, and by working together, his people could make that happen. The earthquake affected everyone, it was a shared experience and, in his mind, a good experience, because the Haitian people were given an opportunity to act as one.
.
French colonial influences are depicted in the architecture in the city of Jacmel. Before the earthquake, large houses with balconies and artisan shops lined the streets, today it is mostly rubble. Still, Jacmel is known as Haiti’s cultural center. There are more artists in Jacmel than in any other city in Haiti. “For a long time Jacmel has used art for everything,” says Ambroise “dancers, musicians, painters… we have to keep the subject like that because art is the identity for Jacmel, it is my identity.”
.
Although Ambroise did not lose any family, he tells us, “I am an artist and I lost my architecture… if I get a son, my son is supposed to see the old architecture in my country, but Haiti lost many things.” The only art center in Jacmel was also destroyed and, sadly, its art director lost his life. For Ambroise and many other artists here, this center was a space where they could develop their work. When he found out it was destroyed he felt like he had lost something, but at the same time he felt empowered, “when you lose something, you can get more… we can have a new idea to build an art center in Jacmel.” Ambroise is now part of the newly formed Kolectif Atis Jacmel (KOLAJ), an artist-led movement focused on developing sustainable artistic livelihoods and enriching the Haitian community through creativity and art. KOLAJ’s goal over the next few months is finding funding to construct a new center using sustainable building materials, where artists like Ambroise can have this positive and creative space exist as a constant in their lives.
.
With this space Ambroise wants to not only reach other artists in Jacmel, but artists all over the world. It’s a house for artists, a space for exhibition, a space to run workshops and to work on the Internet. He spoke about the importance of forming an art collective in Jacmel as being an opportunity for people to work together in art, sharing experience, mindset, and a dream, “it’s important for artists to have a space to work in, because we can make an exchange”. When asked what KOLAJ is, Ambroise explained it like we know it. “I can build things with paper, and that can be one piece of art and I call it a collage”. For him, however, the imagery of this description stretches beyond the simple processes of cut and paste. It represents all the artists from different nations working together to make one goal possible. “Different vibrations can be one vibration, and that is KOLAJ for me”.
.
In Ambroise’s opinion, KOLAJ will help Jacmel’s artists by giving them the opportunity to help themselves through art. Building a center for art allows artists access to resources and materials to make exhibitions, set up websites and gain support through other artists and the local and global community. At KOLAJ the artists draw, paint, and make sculptures out of the materials that are available to them. Inevitably, rubble and natural objects are used in their art, reflecting the context behind what they create. The artists at KOLAJ also run workshops for children where they make paintings out of rubble. “Art is important for children because it is education… you are supposed to [teach] your kids art… its important because kids have a flying mind… their minds are fresh and they can find many better things in art” says Ambroise. These workshops are valuable to the people of Haiti, because they provide an environment where the youth are given confidence and initiatives to build on.
.
So much of today’s media reflects badly on the Haitian situation, with obvious reason, as there is still much work to be done. However, it is encouraging to know that organizations such as KOLAJ exist because they give children, aspiring artists and the people of Haiti a space to express themselves artistically and to learn skills to take them forward in their lives. They also provide a bridge between Haiti and the rest of the world, a bridge created on a common idea that art can be used to make a difference.
.
You can find more information about Anderson Ambroise and the art community in Jacmel by visiting KOLAJ’s website: www.atisjakmel.org. This article could not have been possible without the help of Keely Kernan, an American artist working directly with KOLAJ to make its goal of creating a new center possible. She helped organize and translate the interview. www.keelykernan.com

By Carine Fabius
.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carine-fabius/art-thats-as-hot-as-haiti_b_...
.
It's hard to find joy in Haiti today. I'm just back from a three-week trip to my native land and words will never convey the range of emotions encountered in the core of my being and among those who live the day-to-day grind that is Haiti today. People are stressed, traumatized and depressed. In a place where some 250,000 people perished, it seems everyone knows at least five people who died. The force of Mother Earth has left many in a state of shock unnoticeable at the surface level. But dig just a little and a familiar faraway look and haze steals over the face of anyone recounting what many refer to as bagay la, "the thing" in Haitian Kreyol (bagay rhymes with sky).
.
For a couple of days I stayed at a tiny house just outside of Jacmel (a coastal city in the south which was reportedly destroyed by 70%, although that figure is slightly exaggerated) where the caretaker recounted what residents there saw just after the exact hour and minute forever emblazoned in his mind: 4:52 PM. He said that after the shaking stopped, they watched the ocean recede 200 feet with a terrible force, as if fueled by an enraged and giant jackhammer. Flapping fish, stunned lobsters an other sea life remained stranded on what looked like a post-apocalypse beachscape. Fears of a tsunami-force return prompted them to head for the hills, but for naught in the end; because, as he relayed in a hushed, still-bewildered tone, the ocean returned at a chilling pace--creeping back in at a strangely measured tempo over the next day and a half.
.
My short visit to Jacmel was planned pre-departure from Los Angeles, because I had fixed on finding some bright spot to counter the misery and despair--because Haiti is always more than that. And it worked. Leaving Port-au-Prince is always a good idea no matter when you visit the island. (Imagine going to Thailand and only seeing Bangkok; your impression would be forever skewed.) Seeking out the ocean and bathing in those warm Caribbean waters is always balm for my soul; eating grilled fish and downing a cold beer at a modest beachfront restaurant with rickety wooden tables and chairs; hanging out with friends, old and new, telling corny jokes. Got to find joy wherever you can, and the beach is a good place to start. Next stop is the art.
.
I've been tapped by a New York-based non-profit called the Haitian Cultural Foundation to curate a major traveling exhibition of Haitian art set to launch in 2012. The exhibition will travel to major cities in the United States and Europe, and feature a comprehensive look at traditional and contemporary work by Haitian artists and artists of Haitian descent living in Haiti and throughout the world. After some preliminary research on the ground, I am proud and excited to report that in highlighting the dynamic and hard-hitting work being produced by these insightful artists, the exhibition will surely play a big part in helping to fuel Haiti's second renaissance.
.
Back in the forties, the groundbreaking work being done by untrained Haitian artists made headlines, and a stampede of luminaries from around the world, along with hordes of good old tourists followed. I wanna get me some of that!
.
Look below for a preview of the work I encountered in Haiti. The gallerists I talked to reported brisk sales. Why wait for 2012? Got a little wealth to spread? You don't need much. It's tough in Haiti right now, but there's excellent art at fair prices to be found. There's also fantastic grilled fish, and tropical juices and ice creams to delight in, not to forget our world-renowned Rhum Barbancourt. And then there's always the beach.

9/11/2010
Huffington Post
By Jim Luce
.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-luce/franketienne-haitis-first_b_71316...
.
As a cultural area studies graduate, seldom do I feel over my head culturally. Standing in the home of possibly the next Nobel Prize recipient for Literature in Port-au-Prince recently, I found myself way out of my league. One ambassador had cautioned me to "have an intellectual translate" for me. Luckily, when I met the legendary Franketienne, he spoke to me in English. Several weeks later I caught up with him again at the Brooklyn Public Library for an outstanding performance and continued to learn more about this great mind.
.
Franketienne was born Franck Etienne in 1936. He is an author, poet, playwright, musician, and painter. Although he speaks English, he has written exclusively in both French and Creole. As a painter, he is known for his colorful abstract works, often emphasizing the colors blue and red, as I saw first-hand in his home. As Emmanuel Duogene told me, "he's a magician - he works miracles!" Haunting imagery, surrounded often in red and blue, adorns the walls of his home. As I delved into his world, I found terrain that was at once foreign and strangely familiar. For example, Franketienne's fascination with the tragic clown. According to one scholar, the author's use of this figure creates for the reader a hybrid creature that combines the semi-tragic circus figure of Giulietta Masina's waif in La Strada, and the "lewd Voodoo (vodou) spirit, the Guede, obsessed with sex and death. In the words of another, "This larger-than-life actor refuses to be silenced." Having several friends in Haiti who are vodou priests, I have some concept of what this means.
.
Franketienne himself is a larger-than-life protagonist who never stepped down from the national stage in fear of the dictator of the decade. The author likens the artist in a dictatorship to a sado-masochistic relationship in which the slave serves the master. Without the slave, the other cannot play master. A master must have a slave to exist. It is this knowledge that strengthened his resolve through the dark days of Papa and Baby Doc. He specifically did not compare the relationship to Haiti's historic slavery, however even there, masters needed slaves - but slaves were expendable due to their numbers. The author has painted or otherwise decorated every remaining surface in his home.
.
Franketienne believes, as did Jacques-Stephen Alexis, that creative works should represent the daily reality of the people. One of my favorite authors in Indonesia, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, had this same thought. As one expert has said, as the Franketienne reality is closely linked to Vodou rituals and close relations with the gods of the Vodou pantheon, they must by definition be associated with the artistic process.
.
As Alvina Ruprecht of Carlton University states: Transplanting into theatrical language the phantasmatic world of the artist living under the Duvalier regime, the poet/actor has produced an apocalyptic scenario where deformed creatures and power-hungry voices taunt the playwright and drive him mad, evoking an encounter with Death - the Baron Samedi, a spirit of the Vodou pantheon. Like the gangs of "good for nothings who roam the streets of Port-au-Prince." Evil spirits - the "Gran makout" - take control of the torturer, the sadistic and uncultured, and sexually-ravenous brute who wants to silence the artist.
.
Franketienne visited Japan as a guest of Marcel Duret, the then Haitian Ambassador to Japan, where he witnessed Kabuki. The author seems to have absorbed Japanese theater into his later works. My father was a translator of the scatological writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine, so I am unfazed by some of Franketienne's writings: "With much spitting and swearing, the actor playing the sex-crazed tyrant spreads his legs, not only to show the power in his muscular appendages, but also to show that he has enormous and powerful "balls" (grennplen), and as he spews out long lists of expressions indicating male genitals, he simultaneously swells out his chest, swivels his hips and moves forward making rhythmic motions imitating sexual thrusting (kouutfoul) as he taunts the artist who is the "un-masculine" figure with the squashed balls, he who is effeminate and fragile and overpowered by other men."
.
An introduction to Franketienne, I feel, may lead to a lifetime odyssey to understand. Franketienne's Brooklyn performance was unlike any I have ever experienced. Singing with a soulful voice, alternating with dramatic narrative interspersed with humorous asides - all in French and Creole - the artist mesmerized the predominantly Haitian-American audience. I met Thomas Spear, professor of French at CUNY Graduate Center, at the event. Thomas, I discovered, was a younger colleague of my father's whose seminal French-language website, Ile en ile, features authors of French-speaking islands, and has chronicled Franketienne for years. Thomas told me:
.
Not long after meeting you at the Brooklyn Public Library, before Franketienne's recent performance of Melovivi, I discovered you were the "connecting goodness" man. I was delighted to learn that you are the son of Stanford Luce, whom I had met through our mutual research on the work of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, another writer of explosive and highly inventive language; Franketienne is one of the few, in French language today who gives such life to the language, with energetic explosions of assonant, colorful neologisms.
.
Thomas told me of listening to septuagenarian Marie Coron reciting with enthusiasm texts of Franketienne she's learned by heart. Living in Lyons, France, it's fun to see how Franketienne can connect to others. She, as I, comes from a completely different universe than the writer - yet we are mesmerized. With her declining eyesight, Marie chooses her texts for their value as diction exercises as well as for their performance value. This CUNY professor also told me about New York-based artist Beatrice Coron, her daughter, appreciates both the visual and textual creativity of Franketienne who, like she, makes much use of wordplay. Beatrice said, when first seeing Galaxie Chaos-Babel, "thank God I'm not Franketienne" (!). Beatrice's flower books include Fleurs d'insomnie, with petals containing verses of Franketienne.
.
Emmelie Prophete, whose Le reste du temps will be published by Memoire d'encrier this month, says in French, "Each of Franketienne's words builds a world of which every Haitian dreams." I also met at the event Alessandra Benedicty, another professor of City College of New York. She told me after his performance: "Once I had decided to work on Franketienne for my thesis, what initially interested me in his work was his use of Vodou as an aesthetic system. What I mean by that is that at least my first association with Vodou was as a religion. In academic disciplines, Vodou is often studied in the fields of anthropology or religious studies. As someone who loves literature, my interest in Vodou grew out of Franketienne's treatment of it as an aesthetic."
.
Right now, I am working with the conferences that Andre Breton gave when he spent time in Haiti in 1945-1946. Breton sees affinities between Vodou and Surrealism--and where Franketienne puts an accent on the aesthetics of Vodou, Breton talks about the "secular ideals" of "rapprochement" between peoples; he sees Vodou and Surrealism as forms that give way to "liberty and affirmation of dignity." It's been over sixty years since Breton's visit to Haiti--and Surrealism is no longer the "movement" that it had been in the earlier part of the century, yet that said, in reading Breton's conferences immediately after seeing Franketienne read and perform in New York, I was reminded of Franketienne's own words: his emphasis on the role of the youth and the importance of aligning the material reality of modern society with a respect and awareness of the human condition.
.
One of the lines that I've heard Franketienne repeat over and over, and we even heard a version of it today, is "S'il arrive que tu tombes relève-toi vite, il faut savoir tomber pour apprendre à se relever. Et même s'il advient que tombes souvent, evertue-toi à chevaucher ta chute" -- "If it happens that you fall, get back up quickly, you must know how to fall in order to stand back up. And even if you fall often, try your best to sidestep your own fall." In the 2005 version of Fleurs d'insomnie--Flowers of Insomnia, Franketienne writes: "Nous escaladons d'audace les risques majeurs, les perils secrets soutenus par les piliers du silence" -- "We scale with audacity, the major risks, the secret perils sustained by pillars of silence [...]."
.
It is Franketienne's audacity in his writing - his charming ability to calmly bring his interlocutor into his initially terrifying world, it is an audacity to imbue the material, whether it be his poetry, his painting or his theatre, with a sense of the urgency of humanity - which makes him such an incredible writer and persona. Dr. Rachel Douglas of the French Section, School of Cultures, Languages & Area Studies, University of Liverpool told me shortly thereafter: Melovivi or The Trap is a play which was written almost two months before the earthquake struck Haiti. It's an almost spookily premonitory play, and it ties in with what has always been a crucial strand of Franketienne's writing: his focus on natural disaster in Haiti. Environmental disaster has been a constant theme of his work which highlights the ever-worsening environmental situation.
.
In this play, as in all of Franketienne's work, the landscape/the environment are represented as a dystopian, desecrated, and nightmarish apocalypse. Natural forces, such as hurricanes, landslides, and floods are always depicted as ferociously attacking the Haitian people, as wreaking destruction on Haiti. This widespread degradation is made particularly prominent in this play by the plethora of strings of words which all mean the same thing. Cumulatively, this pleonasm builds up an impression of complete and utter destruction, for example, different words for 'rubbish' are accumulated. Everything is described here as being awash with mud, filth, and excrement, and so repetition of similar words make the piles of rubbish grow even higher.
.
There are no specific references in this play to a particular natural disaster -- it could refer to any of them. It's also appropriate that the speakers remain anonymous (designated only here as "Speaker A" and "Speaker B") because they represent the nameless and faceless who die every year when Haiti is hit harder than other Caribbean islands by natural disasters. I was enormously appreciative of Thomas, Alessandra and Rachel as I had missed much of what Franketienne had said in French and Creole. I will continue to write about Franketienne, and his best-known works in The Stewardship Report (JLSR). I will explore the genre he has perfected known as Chaos Theory. I will also ask Franketienne specialists such as Mary Cobb Wittrock of the University of Maryland, Seanna Sumalee Oakley of the University of Nebraska, and Kaiama L. Glover of Columbia University to share their thoughts on his works.
.
I have been remiss not to mention that Franketienne's home is amazing. Three stories tall, the earthquake of January 12, 2010 knocked down most of his walls. With a child-like joie de vivre, Franketienne redecorated his home by painting all the remaining supports. He believes the home is much improved without all the walls. I must concur it was striking. Franketienne is one of Haiti's best known intellectuals and artists. He is continuously at the vanguard of artistic thought throughout the Caribbean. He is a creative and political thought leader as well as a global citizen. On The Luce Index™ he ranks 97 out of 100, along with Anwar Sadat, Ban Ki-Moon, Elie Wiesel, and Wynton Marsalis. I encourage the Nobel Prize Committee to bestow upon this great Haitian the first Nobel Prize awarded to any Haitian.

9/9/2010
Media Global
By Leslie Pitterson
.
Though their walls did not crumble on 12 January, the Men Nou Gallery in Jacmel is filled with concrete slabs and other reminders of the earthquake that shook Haiti to its core. Layering rich pigments and vibrant colors on to the remnants from the quake, the gallery’s artists have turned debris into art. Men Nou is the birthplace of “rubble art,” pieces that use rubble as their canvas. In an interview with MediaGlobal, Ira Lowenthal, co-proprietor of Men Nou explained that ‘rubble art’ was born in the aftermath of the quake when the gallery’s designer, Ruth Goldman could not find art supplies for the young artists who had taken shelter there.
.
“After the quake, many of the local artists found themselves homeless, for the most part; unable to find canvases or paints and absolutely desperate to express themselves in the wake of this disaster,” Lowenthal stated. “We had nothing on hand that could help them, we thought, but upon reflection had an eureka moment.” Grabbing a dozen Sharpie pens, Goldman encouraged the young men to draw on the pieces of rubble strewn throughout Jacmel’s streets. And though rubble art began out of necessity, it has been embraced by Haiti’s artists as a form of expression.
.
In the months since the quake, artists at the Men Nou gallery have used pieces of the homes and buildings the earthquake destroyed to piece their own back together. Selling their works to the visitors and the aid workers on the island, the gallery has provided an informal therapy and tangible income. UNESCO estimates that before the quake, Haitian artists brought in over $20 million in revenue to the country. Elke Selter, UNESCO’s Program Specialists for Haiti, said the revitalization of the artisans in Haiti is an essential piece of the country’s recovery.
.
“There are many different ways to deal with the disaster,” Selter told MediaGlobal. “The use of rubble for canvas is an interesting way to acknowledge the events of last January and to reflect on them.” The gallery itself has been revived through the Clinton-Bush Initiatives’ renewed support for the United States Agency for International Development’s Aid To Artisans program. The program funded many of the gallery’s operations until US congressional budget cuts suspended funding in 2006. Now, as ‘rubble art’ flourishes, Men Nou is hoping that the partnership will help revive the arts in Haiti.
.
“The (post-earthquake) pieces are obviously very special, not only artistically, but also historically,” noted Lowenthal. “That said, the vast majority of those who work with and through us are simply anxious to get back to normal levels of production and sales – in essence, to get on with their lives.” While the gallery has sold many of the pieces, Lowenthal says there are some Men Nou does not plan to part with. For example, a piece recently created by artist Vady Confident. “Ayiti Kraze (Haiti Shattered)” which echoes Edvard Munch’s famed masterpiece “The Scream” on a jagged piece of slab. It is the piece that Lowenthal calls “the most affecting piece of art” to come out of the quake thus far. “The piece is magnificent, obviously,” said Lowenthal. “It is actually textured with dust from the rubble; it captures both the terror and the pathos of that catastrophic 35 seconds when life in Haiti changed forever.”
.
The piece is one of many harrowing images on display in the gallery. Though the scenes of havoc tell the story of the quake’s destruction, Lowenthal believes the works say more about Haitian culture. “Haitian culture is nothing if not voracious, in terms of new ideas.” The work from the Men Nou Gallery serves as a testimony to the resilience of culture in the face of devastation and pain. As Haiti seeks to rebuild its future, rubble art is a hopeful reminder that beauty can come from heaps of loss and scattered piles of despair.
.
MediaGlobal is an independent international media organization, based in the United Nations, creating awareness in the global media on social justice and development issues in the world’s least developed countries. For more information, please contact us at: United Nations Secretariat, Room L-221 K, Dag Hammarskjold Library, New York, NY 10017. Telephone: 609.529.6129. Email: media@mediaglobal.org. Website: www.mediaglobal.org

Smithsonian Magazine
By Bill Brubaker
Photographs by Alison Wright
.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/In-Haiti-the-Art-of-Resilian...
.
Six weeks had passed since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing 230,000 people and leaving more than 1.5 million others homeless. But the ground was still shaking in the nation’s rubble-strewn capital, Port-au-Prince, and 87-year-old Préfète Duffaut wasn’t taking any chances. One of the most prominent Haitian artists of the past 50 years was sleeping in a crude tent made of plastic sheeting and salvaged wood, fearful his earthquake-damaged house would collapse at any moment. “Did you feel the tremors last night?” Duffaut asked.
.
At the Gingerbread gallery in Pétionville, I was introduced to a 70-year-old sculptor who wore an expression of utter despondence. “I have no home. I have no income. And there are days when me and my family don’t eat,” Nacius Joseph told me. Looking for financial support, or at least a few words of encouragement, he was visiting the galleries that had bought and sold his work over the years.
.
Joseph told gallery owner Axelle Liautaud that his days as a woodcarver, creating figures such as La Sirene, the voodoo queen of the ocean, were over. “All my tools are broken,” he said. “I can’t work. All of my apprentices, the people who helped me, have left Port-au-Prince, gone to the provinces. I’m very discouraged. I have lost everything!” “But don’t you love what you’re doing?” Liautaud asked. Joseph nodded. “Then you have to find a way to do it. This is a situation where you have to have some drive because everyone has problems.” Joseph nodded again, but looked to be near tears.
.
Though the gallery owners were themselves hurting, many were handing out money and art supplies to keep the artists employed. At her gallery a few blocks away, Monnin told me that in the days following the quake she distributed $14,000 to more than 40 artists. “Right after the earthquake, they simply needed money to buy food,” she said. “You know, 90 percent of the artists I work with lost their homes.” Jean-Emmanuel “Mannu” El Saieh, whose late father, Issa, was one of the earliest promoters of Haitian art, was paying a young painter’s medical bills. “I just talked to him on the phone, and you don’t have to be a doctor to know he’s still suffering from shock,” El Saieh said at his gallery, just up a rutted road from the Oloffson hotel, which survived the quake.
.
Though most of the artists I encountered had become homeless, they did not consider themselves luckless. They were alive, after all, and aware that the tremblement de terre had killed many of their friends and colleagues, such as the octogenarian owners of the Rainbow Gallery, Carmel and Cavour Delatour; Raoul Mathieu, a painter; Destimare Pierre Marie Isnel (a.k.a. Louco), a sculptor who worked with discarded objects in the downtown Grand Rue slum; and Flores “Flo” McGarrell, an American artist and film director who in 2008 moved to Jacmel (a town with splendid French colonial architecture, some of which survived the quake) to head up a foundation that supported local artists.
.
The day I arrived in Port-au-Prince, I heard rumors of another possible casualty—Alix Roy, a reclusive, 79-year-old painter who had been missing since January 12. I knew Roy’s work well: he painted humorous scenes from Haitian life, often chubby kids dressed up as adults in elaborate costumes, some wearing oversize sunglasses, others balancing outrageously large fruits on their heads. Although he was a loner, Roy was an adventurous sort who had also lived in New York, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
.
Impossibly poor, surviving on less than $2 a day, most Haitians have made it their life’s work to climb over, under and around obstacles, be they killer hurricanes, food riots, endemic diseases, corrupt governments or the ghastly violence that appears whenever there is political upheaval. One victim of these all too frequent calamities has been Haitian culture: even before the earthquake, this French- and Creole-speaking Caribbean island nation of nearly ten million people did not have a publicly owned art museum or even a single movie theater.
.
Still, Haitian artists have proved astonishingly resilient, continuing to create, sell and survive through crisis after crisis. “The artists here have a different temperament,” Georges Nader Jr. told me in his fortress-like gallery in Pétionville, the once-affluent, hillside Port-au-Prince suburb. “When something bad happens, their imagination just seems to get better.” Nader’s family has been selling Haitian art since the 1960s. The notion of making a living by creating and selling art first came to Haiti in the 1940s, when an American watercolorist named DeWitt Peters moved to Port-au-Prince. Peters, a conscientious objector to the world war then underway, took a job teaching English and was struck by the raw artistic expression he found at every turn—even on the local buses known as tap-taps.
.
He founded Centre d’Art in 1944 to organize and promote untrained artists, and within a few years, word had gone out that something special was happening in Haiti. During a visit to the center in 1945, André Breton, the French writer, poet and a leader of the cultural movement known as Surrealism, swooned over the work of a self-described houngan (voodoo priest) and womanizer named Hector Hyppolite, who often painted with chicken feathers. Hyppolite’s creations, on subjects ranging from still lifes to voodoo spirits to scantily clad women (presumed to be his mistresses), sold for a few dollars each. But, Breton wrote, “all carried the stamp of total authenticity.” Hyppolite died of a heart attack in 1948, three years after joining Centre d’Art and one year after his work was displayed at a triumphant (for Haiti as well as for him) United Nations-sponsored exhibition in Paris.
.
In the years that followed, the Haitian art market relied largely on the tourists who ventured to this Maryland-size nation, 700 or so miles from Miami, to savor its heady mélange of naive art, Creole food, smooth dark rum, hypnotic (though, at times, staged) voodoo ceremonies, high-energy carnivals and riotously colored bougainvillea. (Is it any wonder Haitian artists never lacked for inspiration?) Though tourists largely shied away from Haiti in the 1960s, when self-declared president-for-life François “Papa Doc” Duvalier ruled through terror enforced by his personal army of Tonton Macoutes, they returned after his death in 1971, when his playboy son, Jean-Claude (known as “Baby Doc”), took charge.
.
I got my first glimpse of Haitian art when I interviewed Baby Doc in 1977. (His reign as president-for-life ended abruptly when he fled the country in 1986 for France, where he lives today at age 59 in Paris.) I was hooked the moment I bought my first painting, a $10 market scene done on a flour sack. And I was delighted that every painting, iron sculpture and sequined voodoo flag I carried home on subsequent trips gave me further insight into a culture that is a blend of West African, European, native Taíno and other homegrown influences.
.
Although some nicely done Haitian paintings could be bought for a few hundred dollars, the best works by early masters such as Hyppolite and Philomé Obin (a devout Protestant who painted scenes from Haitian history, the Bible and his family’s life) eventually commanded tens of thousands of dollars. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C. added Haitian primitives to their collections. And Haiti’s reputation as a tourist destination was reinforced by the eclectic parade of notables—from Barry Goldwater to Mick Jagger—who checked into the Hotel Oloffson, the creaky gingerbread retreat that is the model for the hotel in The Comedians, Graham Greene’s 1966 novel about Haiti.
.
Much of this exuberance faded in the early 1980s amid political strife and the dawn of the AIDS pandemic. U.S. officials classified Haitians as being among the four groups at highest risk for HIV infection. (The others were homosexuals, hemophiliacs and heroin addicts.) Some Haitian doctors called this designation unwarranted, even racist, but the perception stuck that a Haitian holiday was not worth the risk. Though tourism waned, the galleries that sponsored Haitian painters and sculptors targeted sales to overseas collectors and the increasing numbers of journalists, development workers, special envoys, physicians, U.N. peacekeepers and others who found themselves in the country.
.
“Haitians are not a brooding people,” said gallery owner Toni Monnin, a Texan who moved to Haiti in the boom-time ’70s and married a local art dealer. “Their attitude is: ‘Let’s get on with it! Tomorrow is another day.’” At the Gingerbread gallery in Pétionville, I was introduced to a 70-year-old sculptor who wore an expression of utter despondence. “I have no home. I have no income. And there are days when me and my family don’t eat,” Nacius Joseph told me. Looking for financial support, or at least a few words of encouragement, he was visiting the galleries that had bought and sold his work over the years.
.
Though the gallery owners were themselves hurting, many were handing out money and art supplies to keep the artists employed. At her gallery a few blocks away, Monnin told me that in the days following the quake she distributed $14,000 to more than 40 artists. “Right after the earthquake, they simply needed money to buy food,” she said. “You know, 90 percent of the artists I work with lost their homes.” Jean-Emmanuel “Mannu” El Saieh, whose late father, Issa, was one of the earliest promoters of Haitian art, was paying a young painter’s medical bills. “I just talked to him on the phone, and you don’t have to be a doctor to know he’s still suffering from shock,” El Saieh said at his gallery, just up a rutted road from the Oloffson hotel, which survived the quake.
.
Though most of the artists I encountered had become homeless, they did not consider themselves luckless. They were alive, after all, and aware that the tremblement de terre had killed many of their friends and colleagues, such as the octogenarian owners of the Rainbow Gallery, Carmel and Cavour Delatour; Raoul Mathieu, a painter; Destimare Pierre Marie Isnel (a.k.a. Louco), a sculptor who worked with discarded objects in the downtown Grand Rue slum; and Flores “Flo” McGarrell, an American artist and film director who in 2008 moved to Jacmel (a town with splendid French colonial architecture, some of which survived the quake) to head up a foundation that supported local artists.
.
The day I arrived in Port-au-Prince, I heard rumors of another possible casualty—Alix Roy, a reclusive, 79-year-old painter who had been missing since January 12. I knew Roy’s work well: he painted humorous scenes from Haitian life, often chubby kids dressed up as adults in elaborate costumes, some wearing oversize sunglasses, others balancing outrageously large fruits on their heads. Although he was a loner, Roy was an adventurous sort who had also lived in New York, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
.
A few nights later, Nader called my room at Le Plaza (one of the few hotels in the capital open for business) with some grim news. Not only had Roy died in the rubble of the gritty downtown hotel where he lived, his remains were still buried there, six weeks later. “I’m trying to find someone from the government to pick him up,” Nader said. “That’s the least the Haitian government can do for one of its best artists.” The next day, Nader introduced me to Roy’s sister, a retired kindergarten director in Pétionville. Marléne Roy Etienne, 76, told me her older brother had rented a room on the top floor of the hotel so he could look down on the street for inspiration.
.
“I went to look for him after the earthquake but couldn’t even find where the hotel had been because the entire street—Rue des Césars—was rubble,” she said. “So I stood in front of the rubble where I thought Alix might be and said a prayer.” Etienne’s eyes teared when Nader assured her he would continue pressing government officials to retrieve her brother’s remains. “This is hard,” she said, reaching for a handkerchief. “This is really hard.” Nader had been through some challenging times himself. Although he had not lost any family members, and his gallery in Pétionville was intact, the 32-room house where his parents lived, and where his father, Georges S. Nader, had built a gallery that contained perhaps the largest collection of Haitian art anywhere, had crumbled.
.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, the elder Nader was long considered one of Haiti’s best-known and most successful art dealers, having established relationships with hundreds of artists since he opened a gallery downtown in 1966. He moved into the mansion in the hillside Croix-Desprez neighborhood a few years later and, in addition to the gallery, built a museum that showcased many of Haiti’s finest artists, including Hyppolite, Obin, Rigaud Benoit and Castera Bazile. When he retired a few years ago, Nader turned over the gallery and museum to his son John. The elder Nader had been taking a nap with his wife when the quake struck at 4:53 p.m. “We were rescued within ten minutes because our bedroom did not collapse,” he told me. What Nader saw when he was led outside was horrifying. His collection had become a hideous pile of debris with thousands of paintings and sculptures buried under giant blocks of concrete.
.
“My life’s work is gone,” Nader, 78, told me by telephone from his second home in Miami, where he has been living since the quake. Nader said he never bought insurance for his collection, which the family estimated to be worth more than $20 million. With the rainy season approaching, Nader’s sons hired a dozen men to pick, shovel and jackhammer their way through the debris, looking for anything that could be salvaged. “We had 12,000 to 15,000 paintings here,” Georges Nader Jr. told me as we stomped through the sprawling heap, which reminded me of a bombed-out village from a World War II documentary. “We’ve recovered about 3,000 paintings and about 1,800 of those are damaged. Some other paintings were taken by looters in the first days after the earthquake.”
.
Back at his gallery in Pétionville, Nader showed me a Hyppolite still life he had recovered. I recognized it, having admired the painting in 2009 at a retrospective at the Organization of American States’ Art Museum of the Americas in Washington. But the 20- by 20-inch painting was now broken into eight pieces. “This will be restored by a professional,” Nader said. “We have begun restoring the most important paintings we have recovered.” I heard other echoes of cautious optimism as I visited cultural sites across Port-au-Prince. A subterranean, government-run historical museum that contained some important paintings and artifacts had survived. So did a private voodoo and Taíno museum in Mariani (near the quake’s epicenter) and an ethnographic collection in Pétionville. People associated with the destroyed Holy Trinity Cathedral and Centre d’Art, as well as the Episcopal Church’s structurally feeble Haitian Art Museum, assured me that these institutions will be rebuilt. But no one could say how or when.
.
The United Nations has announced that 59 countries and international organizations have pledged $9.9 billion as “the down payment Haiti needs for wholesale national renewal.” But there’s no word on how much of that money, if any, will ever reach the cultural sector. “We deeply believe that Haitians living abroad can help us with the funds,” said Henry Jolibois, an artist and architect who is a technical consultant to the Haitian prime minister’s office. “For the rest, we must convince other entities in the world to participate, such as the museums and private collectors who have huge Haitian naive painting collections.” At the Holy Trinity Cathedral 14 murals had long offered a distinctively Haitian take on biblical events. My favorite was the Marriage at Cana by Wilson Bigaud, a painter who excelled at glimpses into everyday Haitian life—cockfights, market vendors, baptismal parties, rara band parades. While some European artists portrayed the biblical event at which Christ turned water into wine as being rather formal, Bigaud’s Cana was a decidedly casual affair with a pig, rooster and two Haitian drummers looking on. (Bigaud died this past March 22 at age 79.)
.
“That Marriage at Cana mural was very controversial,” Haiti’s Episcopal bishop, Jean Zaché Duracin, told me in his Pétionville office. “In the ’40s and ’50s many Episcopalians left the church in Haiti and became Methodists because they didn’t want these murals at the cathedral. They said, ‘Why? Why is there a pig in the painting?’ They didn’t understand there was a part of Haitian culture in these murals.” Duracin told me it took him three days to gather the emotional strength to visit Holy Trinity. “This is a great loss, not only for the Episcopal church but for art worldwide,” he said. Visiting the site myself one morning, I saw two murals that were more or less intact—The Baptism of Our Lord by Castera Bazile and Philomé Obin’s Last Supper. (A third mural, Native Street Procession, by Duffaut, has survived, says former Smithsonian Institution conservator Stephanie Hornbeck, but others were destroyed.)
.
At the Haitian Art Museum, chunks of concrete had fallen on some of the 100 paintings on exhibit. I spotted one of Duffaut’s oldest, largest and finest imaginary village paintings propped against a wall. A huge piece was missing from the bottom. A museum employee told me the piece had not been found. As I left, I reminded myself that although thousands of paintings had been destroyed in Haiti, thousands of others survived, and many are outside the country in private collections and institutions, including the Waterloo Center for the Arts in Iowa and the Milwaukee Art Museum, which have important collections of Haitian art. I also took comfort from conversations I had had with artists like Duffaut, who were already looking beyond the next mountain.
.
No one displays Haiti’s artistic resolve more than Frantz Zéphirin, a gregarious 41-year-old painter, houngan and father of 12, whose imagination is as large as his girth. “I’m very lucky to be alive,” Zéphirin told me late one afternoon in the Monnin gallery, where he was putting the finishing touches on his tenth painting since the quake. “I was in a bar on the afternoon of the earthquake, having a beer. But I decided to leave the bar when people starting talking about politics. And I’m glad I left. The earthquake came just one minute later, and 40 people died inside that bar.”
.
Zéphirin said he walked several hours, at times climbing over corpses, to get to his house. “That’s where I learned that my stepmother and five of my cousins had died,” he said. But his pregnant girlfriend was alive; so were his children. “That night, I decided I had to paint,” Zéphirin said. “So I took my candle and went to my studio on the beach. I saw a lot of death on the way. I stayed up drinking beer and painting all night. I wanted to paint something for the next generation, so they can know just what I had seen.” Zéphirin led me to the room in the gallery where his earthquake paintings were hung. One shows a rally by several fully clothed skeletons carrying a placard written in English: “We need shelters, clothes, condoms and more. Please help.”
.
“I’ll do more paintings like these,” Zéphirin said. “Each day 20 ideas for paintings pass in my head, but I don’t have enough hands to make all of them.” (Smithsonian commissioned the artist to create the painting that appears on the cover of this magazine. It depicts the devastated island nation with grave markers, bags of aid money and birds of mythic dimensions delivering flowers and gifts, such as “justice” and “health.”) In March, Zéphirin accepted an invitation to show his work in Germany. And two months later, he would head to Philadelphia for a one-man show, titled “Art and Resilience,” at the Indigo Arts Gallery. A few miles up a mountain road from Pétionville, one of Haiti’s most celebrated contemporary artists, Philippe Dodard, was preparing to bring more than a dozen earthquake-inspired paintings to Arte Américas, an annual fair in Miami Beach. Dodard showed me a rather chilling black-and-white acrylic that was inspired by the memory of a friend who perished in an office building. “I’m calling this painting Trapped in the Dark,” he said.
.
I have no idea how Dodard, a debonair man from Haiti’s elite class whose paintings and sculptures confirm his passion for his country’s voodoo and Taíno cultures, had found time to paint. He told me he had lost several friends and family members in the quake, as well as the headquarters of the foundation he helped create in the mid-1990s to promote culture among Haitian youth. And he was busily involved in a project to convert a fleet of school buses—donated by the neighboring Dominican Republic—into mobile classrooms for displaced students.
.
Like Zéphirin, Dodard seemed determined to work through his grief with a paintbrush in hand. “How can I continue living after one of the biggest natural disasters in the history of the world? I can’t,” he wrote in the inscription that would appear next to his paintings at the Miami Beach show. “Instead I use art to express the deep change that I see around and inside me.” For the Haitian art community, more hopeful news was on the way. In May, the Smithsonian Institution launched an effort to help restore damaged Haitian treasures. Led by Richard Kurin, under secretary for history, art and culture, and working with private and other public organizations, the Institution established a “cultural recovery center” at the former headquarters of the U.N. Development Program near Port-au-Prince.
.
“It’s not every day at the Smithsonian that you actually get to help save a culture,” Kurin says. “And that’s what we’re doing in Haiti.” On June 12, after months of preparation, conservators slipped on their gloves in the Haitian capital and got to work. “Today was a very exciting day for...conservators, we got objects into the lab! Woo hoo!” the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Hugh Shockey enthused on the museum’s Facebook page. Kurin sounded equally pumped. “The first paintings we brought in were painted by Hector Hyppolite. So we were restoring those on Sunday,” he told me a week later. “Then on Monday our conservator from the American Art Museum was restoring Taíno, pre-Colombian artifacts. Then on Tuesday the paper conservator was dealing with documents dating from the era of the Haitian struggle for independence. And then the next day we were literally on the scaffolding at the Episcopal cathedral, figuring out how we’re going to preserve the three murals that survived.”
.
The task undertaken by the Smithsonian and a long list of partners and supporters that includes the Haitian Ministry of Culture and Communication, the International Blue Shield, the Port-au-Prince-based foundation FOKAL and the American Institute for Conservation seemed daunting; thousands of objects need restoration. Kurin said the coalition will train several dozen Haitian conservators to take over when the Smithsonian bows out in November 2011. “This will be a generation-long process in which Haitians do this themselves,” he said, adding that he hopes donations from the international community will keep the project alive.
.
Across the United States, institutions such as the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, galleries such as Indigo Arts in Philadelphia and Haitian-Americans such as Miami-based artist Edouard Duval Carrié were organizing sales and fund-raisers. And more Haitian artists were on the move—some to a three-month residency program sponsored by a gallery in Kingston, Jamaica, others to a biennial exhibition in Dakar, Senegal. Préfète Duffaut stayed in Haiti. But during an afternoon we spent together he seemed energized and, though Holy Trinity was mostly a pile of rubble, he was making plans for a new mural. “And my mural in the new cathedral will be better than the old ones,” he promised.
.
Meanwhile, Duffaut had just finished a painting of a star he saw while sitting outside his tent one night. “I’m calling this painting The Star of Haiti,” he said. “You see, I want all of my paintings to send a message.” The painting showed one of Duffaut’s imaginary villages inside a giant star that was hovering like a spaceship over the Haitian landscape. There were mountains in the painting. And people climbing. Before bidding the old master farewell, I asked him what message he wanted this painting to send. “My message is simple,” he said without a moment’s hesitation. “Haiti will be back.”
.
Bill Brubaker, formerly a Washington Post writer, has long followed Haitian art. In her photographs and books, Alison Wright focuses on cultures and humanitarian efforts.

9/15/2010
The Naitonal
By James Reinl
.
Composed with the childlike simplicity that is typical of Hector Hyppolite, the celebrated Haitian artist, the painting Pot de Fleurs was presumed lost under a toppled gallery when an earthquake ripped apart the Caribbean nation. Now, thanks to a conservation project that is restoring thousands of paintings, sculptures and documents damaged in January’s magnitude 7 quake, it will join 50 pieces in New York next month as a celebration of Haitian art. Hyppolite’s Pot de Fleurs is a textbook example of Haitian art naïf, characterised by untrained artists producing simple, symbolic works, and a standout piece in a poverty-racked country’s cherished artistic tradition.
.
The artwork, painted by Hyppolite, a voodoo priest, directly on to cardboard in the 1940s, was buried and broken into six pieces when its home, a private gallery in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, came crashing down on January 12. The tattered oil painting was among the first beneficiaries of the recently opened Cultural Recovery Centre, where experts from the US-based Smithsonian Institution repair torn canvasses and touch up chipped paintwork.
.
Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s head of arts, said: "It was like a jigsaw puzzle. One of our conservators literally put it back together. When you see the full painting, it is hard to imagine that it was in pieces.” Restoration teams working in three laboratories on the outskirts of the city have the makings of a rare success story in a chaotic nation that has yet to begin resettling the 1.6 million Haitians left homeless eight months ago in earnest.
.
Hyppolite’s Pot de Fleurs/i> is among only a few dozen pieces to be repaired and retouched at the centre. Other items include Célestin Faustin’s Un Beau Rêve, figurines of the indigenous Taíno people and a document from the revolutionary leader General Alexandre Pétion. Olsen Jean Julien, a former Haitian culture minister who now runs the centre in Bourdon, says Haiti lost about 50,000 items, from paintings to pottery and manuscripts to mosaics, in less than one minute of destruction. Others say any estimate is “wild guesswork” because gallery owners rarely kept inventories of collections, meaning nobody knows exactly how much, or what, is trapped under the mountains of debris still piled up across Port-au-Prince.
.
“We have lost a lot, but we’re trying to save what we can,” said Mr Julien, who describes gallery owners digging through twisted steel and concrete with bare hands to rescue buried canvases, testament to the importance Haitians place on their art. In an impoverished land that has endured decades of brutal and incompetent leadership, Haitian art tells the story of a people who defeated their French colonial masters to become the world’s first black-led republic, in the early 19th century. “Haiti is characterised by liberty and creativity,” Mr Julien said. “We were liberated from slavery and celebrate our cultural diversity. That can explain our huge creativity. Creativity is a way of life here. It is just our identity.”
.
Within weeks of the levelling of much of the capital, artists began working again, narrating the tragedy in oil paints and showcasing their wares on street corners, hoping to sell pieces to the influx of foreign-aid workers. Disaster spawned a new Haitian genre, dubbed “rubble art”, in which concrete chunks and splintered carpentry from toppled homes became unlikely canvases, bearing harrowing images of an event that claimed the lives of 300,000. “Art has been a way to overcome the trauma left by the earthquake,” Mr Julien added.
.
Hyppolite’s pieces were pulled from the wrecked private gallery collection of Georges Nader Sr, a Haitian tycoon, where as many as 15,000 pieces worth about US$20 million (Dh73.4m) were buried in a shower of concrete boulders. Only about 3,000 items have been salvaged. The quake also levelled the Centre d’Art in central Port-au-Prince, which was founded by an American schoolteacher, DeWitt Peters, in the 1940s and became the creative hub for Hyppolite’s contemporaries and a breeding ground for generations of Haitian artists.
.
Two cargo containers filled with artworks pulled from the toppled gallery have yet to be unloaded into the recovery centre, although conservators are concerned that Caribbean humidity and mould have further damaged the quake-torn canvases. Few losses rival the importance Haitians afford the eight frescoes inside the capital’s Cathédrale Sainte Trinité, which Haiti’s best-known artists decorated with biblical murals of black characters to attract Caribbean congregations in the early 1950s.
.
Vibrant frescoes, including Philomé Obin’s crucifixion scene with a mulatto Jesus, and Christ’s ascension over a scene of football-playing villagers by Castera Bazile, were lost when the cathedral collapsed. Conservators are debating how to protect the three surviving works. Restoration workers are daunted by their task and predict that unearthing, repairing and safeguarding pieces will take years. They are already facing cash shortages, and few have begun raising money to rebuild collapsed galleries and showcase art once Haiti’s reconstruction begins in earnest. For the Smithsonian’s Mr Kurin, Haiti’s art scene is among the most lively and sophisticated in the Caribbean and could lure foreign visitors and make tourism an important revenue source, once roads, hotels and other infrastructure are built.
.
“Are we really going to build a car factory or a steel mill in Haiti? Artistic production could generate more money for Haiti than other industries,” he said. “Why not get people to experience Haitian culture, cuisine, art, crafts, music history and sights – employ Haitians and have people spend some money in Haiti? It could really drive the economy.” Government officials already plan to exploit Haiti’s only listing on the UN’s world heritage sites, a 19th-century citadel in the north of the country, and rebuild the historic district of the southern port town, Jacmel, which suffered extensive damage.
.
While such schemes are decades away, the first green shoots of Haiti’s cultural recovery will appear on October 1, when the exhibition Saving Grace: A Celebration of Haitian Art opens at the Affirmation Arts gallery in Manhattan. The gallery director, Marla Goldwasser, describing Pot de Fleurs by Hyppolite, who began his career painting with chicken feathers on cardboard canvases, sais: "“It warms your heart on so many levels." “Just aesthetically, it’s extraordinary. But when you think of its journey, how it was left for rubble and then, with such a tender hand, put back together.”

Globe and Mail
By Jessica Leeder
.
The mask is finally off – and making its way onto shelves. Macy’s, the largest department store chain in the United States, has unveiled itself as the commercial knight in shining armour responsible for giving more than 200 Haitian artisans their first full-time contracts since a historic earthquake rocked Haiti last January. In June, the retail giant quietly began investigating the purchase of a handmade line of home-decor products as a means of aiding Haitian communities affected by the quake, including the world famous metal artists of Croix-des-Bouquets and the papier-mâché masters of Jacmel.
.
Within weeks of seeing custom prototypes, Macy’s buyers had reopened their fall buying season to order 20,000 products in 40 categories – the maximum number the country’s still-struggling artisans could produce. Their custom Heart of Haiti line, featuring vases, quilts, ceramics, wood carvings, paintings and jewellery, is now set to roll out in 25 select U.S. stores in October and will then also be available for purchase online. One metal artist in Croix-des-Bouquets, Jacques Rony, called the chance to sell his work at Macy’s and work with U.S.-based product designers “a huge advantage.” He and his apprentices are looking forward to the stability the Macy's relationship will bring, as well as the opportunity to work with U.S. designers who have exposure to seasonal trends. That's hard information to come by from isolated Haiti.
.
Although in-store sales have yet to begin, the positive impact of the relationship with Macy’s has been increasingly evident across several artisan communities in Haiti, where 235 handicraft experts have been working for months on the product order – and getting paid. Now, the mere mention of the word “Macy’s” generates instant smiles in several artisan communities, including Jacmel, where the city’s papier-mâché artists now equate the name with the concept of sustained work. “Even in a short time, we’ve heard that parents who were incredibly stressed now have their children’s school fees. Now they can buy shoes. They have money in their pocket. Maybe they’re still living in a tent. But they know they can have some bit of security to craft a life. They know we’re not going away,” said Willa Shalit, the head of Fairwinds Trading, a New York-based company that specializes in connecting gifted artisans in “post-trauma” communities with American corporations to build sustainable economic relationships.
.
Fairwinds, in partnership with the Canadian non-profit Brandaid Project was the force responsible for expeditiously opening a channel between Macy’s and artisan communities across Haiti after connecting at a May meeting in New York during which the William J. Clinton Foundation urged American businesses to pitch in on the rebuilding of Haiti’s shattered economy. Ms. Shalit’s company has a history of dealing with Macy’s – Fairwinds brokered a contract with the company five years ago on behalf of Rwandan basket weavers, whose Path to Peace products have been sold in Macy’s stores ever since.
.
“The relationship with Macy’s has changed the face of rural Rwanda,” said Ms. Shalit, who recently returned from a visit there. “What you see in the rural villages is homes and communities where [people] have been making a living for five years now. It’s that steady income that makes a change,” she said. “Now they are known as the greatest weavers in the world. That’s what will happen here. They [Haitians] will be known as the greatest metal workers, the greatest papier-mâché artists in the world. They’ll be perceived as valued instead of useless and disrespected.” Already, signs are positive that the relationship will last. Designs for the spring 2011 lineup are already under way. And Macy’s has been impressed early on by the work ethic among their artists in Haiti – in spite of their austere working conditions, they were able to produce prototypes for the company in just three weeks. (The process can take up to one year.)
.
“As a company, Macy’s believes very strongly in supporting communities in need – and in developing programs where we can do something together with our customer that is powerful and rewarding for the greater global good,” Terry J. Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc., said in a statement. “An effort like this provides great satisfaction to Macy's customers and associates, who care deeply about giving back,” he said. In Haiti, artists are grateful that the company did more than simply pass through.
.
“I’ve seen a lot of people come through and do a lot of talking,” said Onel Bazelais, a master papier-mâché artisan who has been working at the craft for about 26 years. To supplement his income he maintains a small art shop in Jacmel’s historic district. Since the earthquake, his family has been living in a series of tents in a yard behind the shop, which doubles as a work space. “My government has no plan for us,” he said during a recent interview. “I want to put my kid through university – I have to do something for my kids.” Working on the Macy’s order has provided him and others much-needed stability. “In Haiti, a lot of people have heard of Macy’s. That makes them feel really proud,” Ms. Shalit said. “That sense of cultural pride, you can’t say enough about what that does for culture and community,” she said.

By Aimee Kligman
.
I reported earlier on a tripartite agreement which took place a couple of days ago as an aside to the UN General Assembly meeting between Secretary of State Clinton, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Kouchner and Haitian prime minister Jean Max Bellerive to rebuild a major hospital in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. The rebuilding and reconstitution of the island nation may take years. In the meantime, those that survived the calamitous January 2010 earthquake are eking out a living. Those that are engaged in national arts and crafts would normally need for tourists to begin arriving to Haiti once again; but the island is neither ready to welcome visitors, nor are visitors inclined to visit.
.
Macy's, the "world's largest department store" has found a solution to this conundrum. It is bringing those handicrafts to its stores in the United States which will give them, most likely, more exposure than if a boatload of tourists docked at Port-au-Prince. One on the most attractive art forms from Haiti, and something that I also own, is drum art. You will be probably be able to own your own if you visit the store, or shop online. In anticipation of the Macy's event, which is called “The Heart of Haiti” will bring 20,000 vases, quilts, ceramics, wood carvings, paintings, and jewelry made by 235 of Haiti's most accomplished artists. This is a wonderful way in which the private sector can do its part in helping Haiti recover.
.
A friend of mine who lives in Jacmel, considered the artistic center of Haiti, with this wife, has been living there for quite some time and has been employing native Haitian artists in turning out all sorts of beautiful arts and crafts. Moro Baruk, a quintessential designer of Jacmel, has been giving us a preview of some of the masks that his craftswomen have been turning out. There's no end to the creativity. Credit must go to the Canadian Canadian aid agency, Brandaid Foundation, which brought Macy's and the island artists together.
.
As for Moro Baruk, credit must go to him for having devised a design for Haiti's artists that could have worldwide appeal and be functional at the same time. It is the face mask, reinvented to not only be exotic but practical. The wearer can have fun and be protected from the equatorial sun, which can be brutal at times.
.
As reported in Home Accents Today: Haiti’s culture includes a vast diversity of traditional, handmade products such as hand-tooled serving trays and up-cycled oil drums from the blacksmith community in Croix des Bouquets, the work in papier maché from Carnival Jacmel artists, and a women’s quilting cooperative in Cité Soleil. A selection of these artworks will launch as the exclusive Macy’s “Heart of Haiti” collection, including quilts, metalwork, ceramics, wood-carvings, paintings and jewelry. The items will be available starting in October at 25 Macy's stores, but best of all, on line at macys.com!

AFP
By Juan Castro Olivera
.
MIAMI — Grim pictures of sad faces or houses that are no longer there: Haitian children orphaned by January's devastating quake have focused lenses and taken up paintbrushes to cope with their ordeal. Miami photographer Boris Vazquez is the brains behind the effort, handing art materials to the orphans during a June trip to Haiti to produce art works on display at North Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) through Sunday. The images and paintings put a human face to the suffering but also illustrate the energy and aspirations of the killer quake's most helpless survivors.
.
Vazquez provided portable cameras and boxes of donated art supplies to about 500 children. Just 37 of the best photographs and nearly 100 paintings were selected for the MOCA exhibition, with the artists ranging from six to 13 years old. "We asked them to paint the Haiti of their dreams," said Ines Lozano, who traveled to the devastated country with other volunteers from the Friends of the Orphans group to teach children in the capital Port-au-Prince the basics of photography and painting. The result is the exhibition "Through the Eyes of a Haitian Child", which reflects the emotions and hopes of those who lost everything, including their parents, in the earthquake that left about 250,000 people dead and over a million homeless.
.
"Despite their difficult situation, these are children who show great joy and creativity," said Lozano, who led the mission and is the principal of First Presbyterian International Christian School. "Many of the children were holding a camera for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it," said Vazquez, who taught basic photography. An estimated 300,000 Haitian children lost their parents in the earthquake and were sent to orphanages. Others were forced to live in precarious tent camps exposed to Haiti's tropical storms or to swap school books for pistols as they turned to slum gangs to survive. International groups are struggling to protect young, homeless Haitians, some of whom were illegally adopted, enslaved or captured by local crime gangs after the quake.

Roughly an hour before the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January, Frantz Zephirin, one of the country’s best-known painters, was drinking beer at a bar in Port-au-Prince. After a discussion at a nearby table turned into a heated political debate, Zephirin paid his check and left with a friend. Moments later the earth shook. Walls crumbled. Houses collapsed. Sound reverberated around them. “I thought it was a bomb,” he says. After the great shaking had ceased, Zephirin looked and saw that the bar had turned to rubble. Stunned and saddened, he walked to the beach later that night and painted by candlelight. “I saw so many things I can’t explain to people, so much death and devastation,” he says. “I want to paint everything I saw.” Close to nine months after the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 in Haiti, the city of Port-au-Prince is still in ruins. Reconstruction has been slow, and more than a million people remain homeless. Yet the country’s artists—those on the island as well as their counterparts abroad—are using their limited resources to channel the nation’s suffering, hope, and anxiety into new paintings, crafts, and sculptures.
.
In the process, they have created a market for post-earthquake Haitian art, particularly in the United States. Recently, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., opened an exhibit of post-earthquake paintings and drawings by Haitian children. In September, Macy’s partnered with Haitian artists on a new line of home-décor handcrafts, Smithsonian magazine commissioned a painting by Zephirin for its cover last month, and the Miami International Airport opened an exhibit featuring works created by Haitian artists in the wake of the disaster. The 4,000-square-foot gallery features voodoo flags made with beads and sequins, intricate metal carvings made from flattened oil drums, and carnival masks made from papier-mâché. “This exhibition is a testament to their optimism,” said Yolanda Sanchez, the airport’s fine-arts director.
click here
.
That optimism—long a cornerstone of Haitian art—has helped the country survive its difficult history. More than 200 years ago, Haiti was created in the aftermath of a massive slave uprising against the French. Since then, the nation has suffered a host of indignities: invasion, isolation, and poor self-governance. Yet out of this misery has grown a rich artistic tradition that draws heavily on African, Taíno, voodoo, and Catholic influences. “Haiti doesn’t have car factories. It doesn’t have steel plants,” says Richard Kurin, the undersecretary for history, art, and culture at the Smithsonian. “Culture is one of the few resources Haitians have. Art has become a way for them to preserve their dignity.” Art has also provided a way for Haitians to reckon with tragedy. Since the quake, various relief groups and nongovernmental organizations have set up dozens of art-therapy camps for children and adults in Port-au-Prince and other nearby areas. “We use art as a meditation,” says Mazen Aboulhosn, a psychologist for the International Organization for Migration. “It’s easier to talk about difficulties through…art…than talking directly,” says Patricia Landinez, a psychologist for the United Nations Children’s Fund.
.
Those difficulties are evident in Zephirin’s work. In the piece commissioned by the Smithsonian entitled And Haiti Will Bloom Again, the artist paints the island as a dark mass filled with crosses. In the clouds, a watchful eye is crying. Yet there is also a sense of hope; in the center of the painting, large, colorful birds deliver flowers, money, and justice to the island in their beaks. A sense of hope also permeates Eight Days, a children’s book by the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat and illustrated by Alix Delinois. Danticat wrote the story to explain to her 5-year-old daughter what happened during the earthquake. Published in September, the book follows a young boy named Junior who spends more than a week beneath the rubble. To quell his fears, Junior imagines the good parts of life on the island: singing loudly in church, playing hide-and-seek with his friends, and catching mouthfuls of rain during a storm. Then, miraculously, he is rescued. Throughout the story, Delinois’s bright, colorful drawings mirror Danticat’s message of hope and resilience. “After a tragedy, we’re always trying to get a sense of who we are,” says Danticat. “Art is proof that we’re alive beyond breathing.” For André Eugène, an artist known for making macabre sculptures from wood, scrap metal, and skulls, the earthquake has given him new inspiration. “I find myself making sculptures of pregnant women,” he says. “I’ve started to create art about giving life.”
.
With Nausheen Husain and Tania Barnes in New York

By Greg Allen
.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130435784&ft=1&f=2&...
.
A new line of handcrafted products made by Haitian artists is the newest addition to the department store Macy's. As Haiti continues its struggle to rebuild from the earthquake, this new collection of home decor is part of an effort to help re-establish Haiti's once-thriving market in art and crafts. As part of Macy's rollout of the "Heart of Haiti" collection in Miami, a troupe of Haitian dancers swooped and twirled to music provided by singers and drums — not the usual sight in the housewares department.
.
The "Heart of Haiti" collection, as shown in a display at Macy's in Miami, includes colorful trays, vases and other housewares — all created by Haitian artisans. The Heart of Haiti collection is the result of a collaboration that, along with Macy's, involves groups that work with Haitian artists and the William J. Clinton Foundation. The products were designed, crafted and delivered over the course of just three months — lightning fast in the world of retailing. With the holidays approaching, timing is everything, says Melissa Goff, Macy's vice president of media relations in the Southeast region.
.
"Right now is the best time for a product to sell at retail," she says, "because we're going into a heavy gifting period. These are great gifts." Artist Pascale Faublas helped design and paint papier-mache trays, masks and other items in the collection. She also co-founded an association of artisans in Jacmel, a city on Haiti's southern coast that was hit hard by the earthquake. "We are working on rebuilding ourselves first. This action for example here today with Macy's is one step in that sense — to get the artisans back to work," Faublas says.
.
At the end of June, Macy's put in an order for 20,000 products. The company says it hopes to break even or make a small profit from selling the items on its website and at 25 stores across the country. Macy's did something else unusual in retailing: It paid cash upfront for the collection, which quickly put money into the hands of the artists. The retailer was helped by two nonprofit organizations, Fair Winds Trading and the BRANDAID Project, which has long worked with Haitian artists.
.
Papier-mache artist Pierre Satyr shows off his colorful tray. Before the earthquake hit Haiti, Satyr had his own workshop in the southern city of Jacmel, where he made masks and figures. Fair Winds Trading and Macy's already had success with another project. Over the past five years, with help from the nonprofit, Macy's has sold 85,000 baskets handmade by thousands of women in Rwanda. When the groups approached artists in Haiti, things quickly fell into place. "Haiti is such a deeply creative, wildly creative place," says Willa Shalit, founder and CEO of Fair Winds Trading. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund stepped in with a timely $50,000 grant that rebuilt one of the things artisans like Pierre Satyr badly needed — a place to work. Satyr is a papier-mache artist. Before the earthquake, he had his own workshop, making masks and figures based on Jacmel's Carnival tradition. With help from Fair Winds Trading's designers, he crafted bowls, trays and masks that would appeal to Macy's customers, using only, he says, "my imagination and my experience also and my savoir faire."
.
Among the other Haitian artists whose work is featured in the collection is Serge Jolimeau. A star among Haitian artists, Jolimeau is a master metalworker from Croix-des-Bouquets, a town with a metalworking tradition that goes back to the 1930s. Through an interpreter, he told an audience at Macy's in Miami that his process begins with recycled metal drums that are cleaned, flattened, cut and shaped. The results are filigreed bowls, picture frames and wall hangings that draw on nature and religion, including Voodoo. "Speaking of Voodoo," Jolimeau told the audience, "whether you like it or not, if you're Haitian, Voodoo is in your blood." The artists say that if American customers respond, they are hoping to get orders from other U.S. retailers. And they are already working on ideas for a Macy's collection in the spring.

By Keith Lane
.
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/1013/Art-lifts-hope-in-H...|+World%29
.
Nine months after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti’s capital, physical and emotional healing is still a long way off. Billions of dollars in promised aid have yet to arrive. But within the art community here, people are beginning to find unity and hope once again. Longstanding community art programs like Port-au-Prince’s Aprosifa (Association for the Promotion of Integral Family Health Care) provide places of respite and healing for youths and adults who use art as therapy. (The charity also provides care for families in need.) In nearby Jacmel, art students of all ages at the nonprofit Fanal Otantik Sant D’A Jakmel (FOSAJ) have joined to create individual and collaborative works in response to the quake. Students at the Ciné Institute, Jacmel’s tuition-free film school, attracted worldwide attention by covering the immediate aftereffects of the Jan. 12 earthquake. They recently relocated to a new campus, and are about to begin their fall semester. Internationally recognized artists of the Grand Rue neighborhood in central Port-au-Prince continue to open their studios and mentor local youths despite the vast devastation there. Students create art from the rubble both to make money and to try to turn tragedy into beauty.

Philippe Dodard couldn't pick up a paint brush in the month following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Many of his friends perished as a result of the disaster, and he found himself having no reaction when he would get calls about a new death."It’s only when I started painting, all of my emotions that were buried inside started coming out," he said. Dodard, a prominent, internationally recognized Haitian artist who works in Port-au-Prince, is participating in Haiti Art Expo 2010, an event taking place this weekend in Miami, Florida. The collection features works by Dodard and many other Haitian artists, as well as American artists. All of the proceeds from the sales of these works will go toward refugees and artists who have lost their homes because of the earthquake. Dodard sees art as a way of dealing with and healing from catastrophe. He helped create a program for thousands of children called Plas Timoun, meaning "place for the children," which allows kids to express themselves through artistic activities such as painting, music, and theater, in addition to sports and games. The classrooms are converted buses at two locations in Port-au-Prince and serve children ages 6 to 10. "I spend most of my time working with the children so that they recover from the disaster using art," he said. The young artists at Plas Timoun have some of their work displayed at the Smithsonian African Art Museum in Washington, running through January 16. It has been so successful that it will become a traveling exhibit, Dodard said.
.
Dodard completed the painting above, called "Inner Force," before the earthquake, but its message is highly relevant: finding one's "inner force" - the power or strength that we have inside - that helps us develop spiritually, emotionally and physically, he said. "After the earthquake, there was so much problems, so much to carry, and still keep on living and still keep on doing your work. And without that force, I don’t believe that I could do all that I’ve done this year," he said. The work blends spiritual references from Japanese, Haitian, and Indian cultures, and includes Dodard's interests in the traditions of samurai and yoga. The color red represents the spirit of fire, Dodard said, and the texture of the painting gives a "feeling of something vibrating," he said, "the silent vibration of the drum." He tried to capture something magical that goes beyond the shapes themselves, he said. "It’s a kind of communication between the form and my inner self," he said. Haiti Art Expo 2010 opens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Miami's Mosaic Building, and is hosted by Venus Williams (tennis superstar), Andrea Berto (Haitian-born World Welterweight championship boxer), Fabrice and Patrick Tardieu (of the clothing line Bogosse) and Jerry Powers (of PlumTV). It was produced and organized by Michael Capponi and Jeff Feldman, who have both been active in helping relief efforts in Haiti.

Associated Press
By JENNIFER KAY
.
A young boy reaching toward a glimmer of light took shape as Haitian graffiti artist Jerry Rosembert Moise sprayed paint on the wall of an impoverished neighborhood's youth center. It's the kind of clearly hopeful image Moise developed after a catastrophic earthquake leveled his hometown of Port-au-Prince in January. "I used to do caricatures, but now I try to be more realistic to get more attention for helping the country," Moise said during a break from his painting Thursday night. Moise, who gained international attention for his images after the earthquake, is among the artists taking advantage of the art fair crowds in Miami this week to highlight Haiti's ongoing struggles and raise funds for earthquake victims. Thousands of collectors are in Miami for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach international art fair, and for other contemporary art fairs and museum exhibits. Haitian artists and advocates hope they can gain influence and money for projects to improve the lives of more than 1.5 million people still homeless nearly a year after the earthquake, amid a cholera outbreak that has killed nearly 1,900 since October. The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami scheduled an exhibit of portraits of Miami's Haitian community by fashion photographer Bruce Weber specifically for the Art Basel crowds. Some of the images in "Bruce Weber: Haiti/Little Haiti" were shot in the same streets where Weber has photographed fashion magazine spreads.
.
The faces Weber has captured on film in Little Haiti since 2003 show the long-reaching effects of the earthquake and U.S. foreign policy. A young girl detained for six months by U.S. immigration authorities won't smile and fixes her eyes on the ground. A plumber with an intravenous tube running from his nose spreads his scarred hands on his hospital bed to show he can still work. Women cradling small children in their laps crowd shoulder to shoulder in church pews. A young couple in wheelchairs tentatively hold hands. The Haiti Art Expo is selling new paintings by contemporary artist Philippe Dodard, along with artwork by other Haitian artists, to benefit earthquake relief efforts. At its opening Thursday night, Haitian voodoo drumming rivaled a DJ's electronic beats in the next gallery. Meanwhile, outside a downtown hotel, a cluster of large, colorful tents isn't just for show. In the words of Antuan, the artist who organized the Base Paint Tents project with Fundacion Manos del Sur and the Step by Step Foundation, it is a "utilitarian art installation." The 10 heavy-duty tents will become classrooms for children living near the Port-au-Prince airport in a camp managed by Haitian soccer star Bobby Duval. While Haiti desperately needs new housing and schools, reconstruction efforts have stalled with just a trickle of pledged international aid delivered to the Caribbean country. These tents were chosen for their mobility and ability to withstand harsh conditions for years. "We see the reality of almost a year (since the quake) and the rubble is still there," Antuan said. "The tents are going to be there for a long time."
.
Duval's brother, Miami-based artist Edouard Duval Carrie, is among the 10 artists who painted the tents. Duval Carrie also organized a separate, two-part show at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, "The Global Caribbean II: Caribbean Trilogy." Along with works by Duval Carrie, Cuban artist Jose Bedia and Dominican artist Jose Garcia Cordero, it includes new textiles commissioned from three Haitian artists after the quake. Jean Joseph Jean-Baptiste stitched Voodoo-inspired fantasies into beaded and sequined flags, while deities emerge from layers of buttons and found objects sewn together by a pair who sign their work as Kongo Laroze. Duval Carrie said he commissioned textiles instead of paintings because textile artists will employ more earthquake survivors. "They're like ateliers. They have 15 families working for them," Duval Carrie said. None of the textile artists could secure a visa to travel to Miami for the exhibit's opening Friday. Ira Lowenthal of Men Nou Gallery, which represents Jean-Baptiste, blamed U.S. bureaucracy and said he planned to return to Port-au-Prince to argue on the artists' behalf. "The U.S. should be trying to promote what's positive in Haiti, what makes Haiti special and why we should be helping Haiti," Lowenthal said.
.
Base Paint Tents: http://www.basepaint.org/
Haiti Art Expo: http://tinyurl.com/25t572y

Pages

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.