HCX Community Postings
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Ti Atis te fè gwo bagay (Little Artists did big things)
by Kassandra Khalil
During this spring’s 2-pronged session of Ti Atis Afterschool Workshops at P.S.189, The Bilingual Center, Haiti Cultural Exchange and a team of eager (and patient) volunteers gave their time and energy to the completion of the Ti Atis Room Renovation in February and the Ti Atis Collaborative Mural Project in June.
To say the Ti Atis Collaborative Mural Project was a team effort is a massive understatement. The session of afterschool art classes began with a group of students dedicated to learning together and supporting each other creatively. Through a series of exercises, the students learned not only to appreciate the individual merit of their own works but of their fellow students’ work as well.
(click photos to enlarge)
Meanwhile, in the school yard a team of volunteers and artist Jean Patrick Icart-Pierre began formatting the mural. Our first Saturday workday was priming day. We transformed a rather garish dusty brown wall into a lovely peach canvas. The second step was building a massive grid on the 40′ by 14′ wall. No easy task for a small team with a bit of chalk line and no basketball players. Nonetheless, we managed.
The plan for the mural integrated elements of Haitian culture as well as the theme of the mural that the students created. This theme, ”Love is not just a word but a way of life” was the students’ way of expressing their feelings of love and respect for their fellow students, community members, and heritage. With this in mind, a plan was drawn that would incorporate both the students’ motto theme and their artwork as well as themes of Haitian art.
Our second workday overlapped with P.S.189′s School Fair Day. Under a sweltering sun, a team of approximately 25 volunteers traced, brushed and sponged out the major content for the mural. Broken up into cathedral-style windows, the mural allowed for us to incorporate more of the students creative elements and what visual symbols they associated with the theme of the mural.
The mural incorporated the silhouette of the students holding hands, hearts, a palm tree, drawings from the students’ work and the P.S.189 sun insignia. The students felt all of these elements were important ways to visually represent their community and school. We began filling in these essential elements on the third Saturday workday. Students filled the background of their silhouettes with hand and heart cut outs while adult volunteers painted in the large birds and figures in the middle of the mural. There was also some light touching up to do that our muralist Patrick just wouldn’t let go!
By the end of the third workday, we were all feeling pretty good about ourselves. The kids were distracting themselves from the finer details by escaping to the nearby jungle gym before taking off for the day. When the adult volunteers finally finished, signed and stood back from the mural,a long series of satisfied sighing and chest bumping directed towards the wall kept us hanging around the school yard until custodial staff shooed us out the gate.
The mural unveiling took place on Friday, June 22nd, 2012. Smack in the middle of an intense heat wave that had been rolling through the North East, it might not have been the hottest day I have ever encountered in New York, but it was safe to say it was pretty close. As about 10 classroom’s worth of P.S.189 students filed out of the school into the yard, I found myself praising their patience and support of their fellow students under such steamy conditions. Students who participated in the session of Ti Atis Afterschool Workshops were invited to come forward and talk about what they learned while working on the mural. Many of the children were really proud of how they were able to work together and that their ideas were used in the mural. Following the students’ impressions, Principal Berthe Faustin celebrated the work of the kids and thanked the volunteers for brightening up the schoolyard at P.S.189. The P.S.189 Haitian Dance Troupe then gave a short but powerful performance for the audience. After a rousing applause from the children, the classes broke for the ice cream social and volunteers said their final good byes to a group of kids that had touched us not only with their creative spirits but with the openness, kindness, and community that makes the students of P.S.189 so special.
Ti Atis e anpil travay (Little Artists and a lot of work)
By Kassandra Khalil
The Ti Atis Arts Room Renovation was an interesting lesson in planning and group work. On two consecutive Saturdays in February at the dewy morning call time of 9am, a team of eager volunteers trickled in to P.S.189, The Bilingual Center in East New York, Brooklyn. Their first task: carrying construction and renovation supplies to the arts room on the 4thfloor. To most people, giving up their Saturday morning for semi-hard labor is sort of a no go. Not for the HCX volunteer. The eagerness and positive congenial mood of our team of volunteers got the HCX staff’s energy going more than the coffee did!
The renovation started with the cathartic gutting of a closet and speed sorting seemingly endless boxes of arts supplies that had been donated by members of the HCX community and Materials for the Arts. The “handy-er” volunteers took on the task of constructing the shelving for the closet as the rest of us began painting and beautifying the classroom. The creative students of P.S.189 took to making really psychedelic star decorations for the banner board while others gave the room a thorough scrub down.
By the end of the first week, we all thought that the next Saturday would be more of a light-weight finishing touches sort of deal. We were definitely wrong. After painting the closet, we moved on to the construction of the sliding door panels. Overcoming the hurdles of size, shape and the lack of clear instruction manuals, we got the doors to slide. While the rest of the team worked on filling the closet with the sorted bins of supplies, P.S.189 student volunteers began mounting their stars around the room. By the time both teams turned around, we were startled by the change we had made on the room. It looked great! The myriad of melon shades on the closets against the calming purple of the banner board pooled well with the finishing touch of a brand new blue and yellow floor rug.
The ribbon cutting ceremony for the room took place the following Friday morning. Students of P.S.189 thanked volunteers in the three teaching languages of th school: English, Kreyòl, and Spanish. Engy Lamour, one of the volunteers for the room renovation was actually an old student of P.S.189! He explained to the students the importance of the arts and the opportunity that going to a school like P.S.189 afforded him later in life. Afterwards, the students and Principal Berthe Faustin invited us for refreshments. The coffee, orange juice, and milk boxes tasted like nostalgia and a refreshing job well done.
Over the course of 2 weekends, our team of HCX volunteers succeeded in revitalizing an ironically drab arts room and made it into a positive and engaging arts space for the children of P.S.189. Thanks again for all you do! We can’t wait for the continuation of this project, the Ti Atis Collaborative Mural that begins in April! Click here for more information about HCX | Ti Atis Collaborative Mural Project.
A special thank you to Jeanne Heifetz and Brooklyn for Barack volunteers, without whom this project would have never been possible.
Haiti Cultural Exchange first started working with P.S. 189 in May 2010 when we partnered with Brooklyn for Barack to provide FREE youth arts workshops for kids ages 3-18, each Saturday. We served over 350 children, with 40 workshops ranging from the performing to visual to musical arts, including arts therapy workshops for the 30 children P.S. 189 accepted after the January 2010 earthquake. Haiti Cultural Exchange has extended their stay with P.S 189, by providing transportation to our October 16th SELEBRASYON all-day festival in Chelsea, so the children and their families could experience the Haitian art exhibit and participate in craftmaking. We are also currently working at the school each Friday, providing after school arts workshops for grades 2-5.
We need your help to bring art supplies to this school to continue the artistic experience for these kids! They have shown some serious talent, and if you can donate even one set of pencils, they will use them!
P.S. 189 is a unique school, with serving primarily ESL and Bilingual Creole-English or Spanish-English speaking children. 40% of the school’s population is Haitian! “These kids are clearly hungry for art,” said Berthe Faustin, the school principal, at the end of our May Youth Arts Workshops. Let’s feed their hunger!
Help make this program possible by bringing your donation of art supplies and/or school supplies. Items do not have to be brand new, but they must be child safe.
Below are some suggestions from the faculty at P.S. 189, but any and all arts supply donations are welcome.
Thank you for your participation!
DATE / TIME: Saturday, December 18/ 9:00 am– 1:00 PM
LOCATION: K-189, The Bilingual School, 1100 East New York Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11212
Taken from Caribbean Life
by Tequila Minsky
In a sun-drenched art gallery overlooking railroad tracks on Manhattan’s very far west side, a celebration of Haitian art “Saving Grace” is exhibiting the work of 45 Haitian artists and reflects the history and diversity of Haitian art.
Two paintings damaged in the January earthquake and restored are on exhibit; some paintings have never been shown before and most are from the collection of the Nader family, in Haiti. The earthquake destroyed Musee d’Art Nader, Georges Nader’s museum of Haitian art with most of its thousands of paintings collected over decades. “Saving Grace” is Affirmation Arts gallery way of responding to the earthquake.
Curator Gerald Alexis continuously disabuses the public of the notion that Haitian art is primitive. “Haitian art did not evolve in isolation,” writes Alexis in the booklet that accompanies the show. Many painters were trained abroad and traveled. There were influences and exchanges between indigenous popular painters (“self-taught”) and those trained. Haitian culture’s deep core in music and storytelling– and myths and legends and vodou roots greatly impacts its visual arts’ expressions.
Alexis was on-hand on Oct. 16 when Haiti Cultural Exchange organized what best could be called a Haitian happening — a full afternoon of Haitian arts for children and adults in the three-floor gallery. On the ground floor, children painted amidst the masters’ works on display while other children were enthralled by long-told stories in a storytelling corner on the second floor. A printmaking workshop and Tiga’s Artistic Rotation for kids engaged others.
Meanwhile, a full schedule of performances captivated adults with many parents holding their children on their laps. KaNU Dance Theater’s portrayal in movement, slavery and the evolution to freedom, captivated the audience. Goussy Celestin danced to Markus Schwartz’s drumming. Schwartz later performed with the band Lakou Brooklyn.
Tiga Jean-Baptiste led off his segment with mastery of the didgeridoo followed by his talented drumming, playing with an amplified thumb piano, and singing. When children danced to his hypnotic rhythms, Tiga often encouraged and moved with them.
No one in the performance space gave up their seats and the crowd became more and more standing room to watch the dancing of Nadia Dieudonne & Feet of Rhythm. Buyu Ambroise & The Blues in Red Band featuring jazz singer Melanie Charles wrapped up the afternoon extravaganza of performances.
This event was unique in its appeal to adults and many parents with all ages of children who could and did feast on an afternoon of Haitian culture.
The Haiti Cultural Exchange was launched just a year ago. “There has been a lot of interest in Haitian culture, especially since the earthquake,” says Regine Roumain one of the founders of this organization.
The Haiti Cultural Exchange sponsors art workshops for children, writing workshops for youth and salons for adults. They’re called upon frequently for artist referrals. For more information on their work, visit http://haiticulturalx.org.
“Saving Grace” is on exhibit at Affirmation Arts gallery, 525 W 37th St. until Nov. 24. Hours: Tuesday – Friday-10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.