Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

Archive: SELEBRASYON! Haitian art at Affirmation Arts gallery from Caribbean Life by Tequila Minsky

10.16.10

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.

Posted in Archive, Arts, Classes, Crafts, Dance, Events, Exhibitions, Film, HCX Programs, Krik Krak, Literature, Music, Poetry, Public Forums, Visual Art, Weekend, Youth Programs | No Comments »

Archive: From Haiti To Brooklyn | Youth, Arts, Change

06.01.10

By Jeanne Heifetz

In May, 2010, we partnered with Brooklyn for Barack to offer arts workshops — many with a therapeutic component — to children who had arrived in the U.S. since the earthquake, as well as children already living here who had been affected by the catastrophe. The 40 arts workshops, held over four consecutive Saturdays, were designed to give the kids a way to express their feelings about the upheaval in their families and community, to provide cultural enrichment and connection to their Haitian heritage, as well as simply to offer them some much-needed fun.

The newly formed Hope and Healing Fund of the Brooklyn Community Foundation awarded HCX a grant to help cover the basic costs of the program. We also received many wonderful individual donations of  art supplies and snacks. The office of the Deputy Mayor for Education connected us with K-189, the Bilingual School, which agreed to host the workshops and whose staff were warm and welcoming partners throughout the month. Forty percent of K-189’s student body is Haitian or Haitian-American. The school had also taken in 30 children directly from Haiti after the earthquake, and their counselors helped make sure those children would attend the workshops.

Volunteers came from all over NYC and as far away as New Jersey and Massachusetts to lead workshops. Teachers, writers, musicians, dancers, visual artists, art therapists, drama and movement therapists — everyone wanted to help. Students from several NYC high schools came to lend a hand. The members of BelTiFi, a Haitian-American young women’s organization, provided invaluable Kreyol support for the non-Haitian workshop leaders.

The workshops served children from 3 to 14. The youngest children and their parents all went to Krik-Krak, which combined storytelling, music, and art. Older children who had experienced trauma went to workshops like Mandalas, to help them relax and focus; and Safety Box, in which they created a physical representation of the people and things they had lost or wanted to protect. Several parents who had been in Haiti during the earthquake also participated in these therapeutic activities.

Not surprisingly, house and home were a recurring theme in many workshops. In one workshop, the kids created their own superheroes and heroines, including one who had the power to rebuild destroyed houses. In another workshop, kids envisioned homes for the new Haiti and then built architectural models. In another, the kids made their own dolls — and homes for the dolls.

Many of the workshops were about instilling cultural pride. Kids made Haitian kites,  and painted images of Haiti on silk for a wall hanging. They made marionettes based on the characters from a Haitian folktale. In the drumming workshop, kids learned about the drums of the different regions of Haiti, how they’re made and how they’re played.

Over the course of the four weeks, the kids worked on two murals. The first was done with markers and watercolors on sheets of oaktag, a series of giant “Get Well” cards for Haiti. For the painted mural, the students traced one another’s outlines on canvas under the guidance of HCX board member Vladimir Cybil Charlier; each child was depicted holding a tool like a hammer or a saw to help rebuild Haiti. The completed mural will travel to Haiti with volunteers from the International Children’s Art Foundation  as part of their Hope and Healing project (their project director, art therapist Chantal Antoine, volunteered all four weekends, working with the kids who had experienced the earthquake directly).

On the final day, we held a celebration of Flag Day that included a flag-making workshop, singing of the Haitian national anthem and a reading of poetry written by the students. Members of K-189’s Haitian dance troupe performed. As the principal said at our closing ceremony, these kids are hungry for art, and the month of workshops represents the beginning of what we hope will be a long-lasting partnership between HCX and K-189.

Posted in Archive, Arts, Classes, Crafts, Events, HCX Programs, Music, Visual Art, Weekend, Youth Programs | No Comments »

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