Thursday, June 24, 2010

Haiti Rising

Once the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon hit the front page, the plight of the people of Haiti, living in the aftermath of the devastating January 12 earthquake, faded from my mind. But last week I had an experience that got me thinking about Haiti once more.

I attended the opening reception of Haiti Rising, a fundraiser at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music to benefit ongoing Haiti earthquake relief efforts. This extraordinary exhibition of painting and sculptures by Haitian artists has put Haiti back on my front burner. These 50 works of art, by some 30 artists, have been carefully selected from the extensive Stanley Popiel and Ingrid Feddersen collection of Haitian art at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU). Some are realistic, some abstract, some whimsical — my particular favorite is a steamroller fashioned from a Bayer cockroach poison tin. (Above: Haiti Rising, 1986. Joseph Marcellus, oil on canvas.)

In the words of exhibition curator Elizabeth H. Peterson, “This selection of work in this exhibition differs widely in style from primitive to abstract expressionist to the surreal, and in subject matter including the juxtaposition of Voodoo and Christianity, village or city life, poverty and wealth, or peace or destruction. Haiti Rising reflects the vibrancy of Haiti’s history, the depth of Haiti’s need particularly now as the nation rebuilds, and the wealth of its people in spirit to rise and emerge stronger.”

The reception coincided with the International Festival of Arts and Ideas and drew a good crowd to eat some Island food and to hear Haitian music played by Robert Lamothe, Yale ’77, trained in architecture and a professor at Norwalk Community College, who was born in Haiti and maintains strong ties to his country. Jordan Lorrius, a native of Haiti and a student at ECSU, also performed his soul-stirring song Haiti Kanpe (Haiti stand), composed in reaction to hearing the news of the Haitian disaster while he was in Serbia, far from his home.

Just yesterday, a college classmate who lives and teaches in Nicaragua reminded the ’75 listserv of the tropical storm season which has already begun, earlier than usual, in the Caribbean. Haiti has been hit hard with rain from the first of the storms, and a second one is on the way.

The people of Haiti truly are in dire straits. The groups for whom the contributions are being accepted at the exhibition and through the OMSC site will put the funds to good use, teaching Haitians to do the work of rebuilding the country now that the initial disaster response phase has ended.

I urge all of you who live in the area to make the short journey from the central campus, just past the Yale Farm, to 409 Prospect Street to see the art with your own eyes. Even without the live music, it will be a moving experience. A walk to the ISM is good exercise on a nice day; there is also free parking for those who need to drive.

Those of you who live too far away can see some of the art at the ISM site which has a link to the OSMC, and at the Akus Gallery at ECSU site which includes an image of the steamroller.

Haiti Rising is presented by Eastern Connecticut State University, the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC), and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, with support from the Yale Divinity School. It will be on display weekdays from 9-4 through September 17.

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