June 12, 2010

Post-Disaster Recovery through Art

When people ask me about Haïti, I often respond that the Caribbean country possesses a great uniqueness in its history (gained independence as a free slave nation in 1804), language (Creole) and culture (art, religion, fashion, etc.). While I can never claim to be an art critic, I certainly have an appreciation for the different art genres that make each country unique and the art I have seen during my visits to Haïti are some of the most unique pieces I have encountered during my travels around the world. (Photo: Maggie Steber for The New York Times)

Ms. Kate Taylor wrote an article for The New York Times about restoring murals in the Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral, which is located in Haïti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. “Haitian artists and cultural professionals have been conducting informal salvage operations for the past four months,” explains Ms. Taylor. “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.”

Conservators “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.”

A recent news-magazine program, “UN 21st Century,” also highlighted the earthquake’s impact on Haïtian artists. Not only did thousands of dollars worth of art get destroyed in the January earthquake, but the ability to export the art to global markets has greatly diminished. You can watch the episode in its entirety below:

However, all is not lost and there is an opportunity for you to help Haïtians by purchasing their unique artwork. My friend, Alyssa Johnson, wrote an entry on this blog about the uniqueness of Haïtian art and how artists are able to sell their work and generate income. Alyssa is owner of Splash of the Caribbean, a Seattle-based Caribbean art import company that purchases art directly from artists located in Haïti and throughout the Caribbean. (Photo: Alyssa Johnson)

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