Friday, January 15, 2010

Amid The Immediate Tragedy, Haitian Art Exhibit Takes The Long View


The art exhibit Thursday at Archbishop Curley Notre Dame High School in Miami was planned months ago. It would showcase the artwork of female Haitian artists, who had painted scenes of the rural life they lead. A man from Port-au-Prince, who introduced the artists to the show's hosts at St. Thomas University, would be a distinguished guest.

Then came the earthquake that left Haiti's capital city with few communication links to the outside world. The honored guest, Farid Moise, was still missing. And so the staff at St. Thomas was forced to decide: In light of such tragedy, should the event even take place?

Yes, they concluded.

``There's a lot of focus on immediate relief right now,'' said Anthony Vinciguerra, coordinator of the school's Center for Justice and Peace. ``But what's more important is to ensure there is long-term development in Haiti when all the relief efforts go away.''

The center's art program is one such effort, Vinciguerra said, bringing money to a country that has little. Local women paint the scenes, and the staff at St. Thomas brings them to the United States. Master's students host exhibits in the hope of luring potential buyers.

All of the money raised goes to the artists.

The artists painted scenes of women selling mangoes in the marketplace, children playing in neighborhoods with dirt streets, sailboats moving away from the mountains.

The program was born of a relationship between the university and Haiti's rural northwest, a poor region of the country that, the St. Thomas staff says, doesn't often get much attention.

Those areas remain relatively unscathed by the quake, said Marcela Mayano, a St. Thomas communications professor. While that region's inhabitants felt tremors, there was no significant damage.

Before the exhibit's opening, about 50 people gathered for a Mass led by the Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary of Notre Dame D'Haiti Catholic Church. The artwork, he said, was a reminder of the creativity and resourcefulness of the Haitian people.

``If there is something that God has blessed the Haitian people with,'' Jean-Mary said, ``it is the gift of faith.''

At the end of the ceremony, the worshipers stood outside with schoolchildren and families. Outside an art gallery specializing in Haitian art, they held up to television cameras a different type of picture to address their short-term worry:

Photos of family members, last seen in Haiti, whom they cannot locate or talk to.

Source: MiamiHerald

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