HARP Raises Awareness for Haiti Through Exhibition

Amateur Haitian artists’ vivid paintings depicting rustic scenes of Haitian culture, life and scenery comprised the collection of the Haiti Arts Relief Project’s (HARP) 2nd Haitian Arts Exhibition, bringing a new and unique style of art to Andover. Founded by Hyun Woo Kim ’13, HARP is a social enterprise that aims to raise awareness and money for Haitians artists’ relief efforts following last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti by exhibiting and auctioning the artworks of underprivileged Haitian artists. Currently, there are 24 pieces of art on display in the Steinbach Lobby of George Washington Hall. Kim purchased the pieces last summer on the streets of Haiti. The paintings will be sold through a silent auction, hosted by the Non Sibi Society, from November 29 to December 2. A portion of the funds raised by HARP is given back to the artists in Haiti to purchase art supplies, while the remainder of the funds are used towards building schools, bathrooms and other facilities in Haiti. According to Kim, the profits raised from November’s auction will be used to fund a microcredit business in Haiti. Kim said, “My family and I found that the Haitian art was beautiful, and it had a lot of touches that represented Haiti’s future and hope, so we brought the paintings from amateur artists in Haiti and exhibited them in Korea.” “Compared to other modern artwork, which is really abstract and kind of hard to understand in someway, Haitian art is direct and very colorful,” continued Kim. Vibrant colors and animated scenes characterized the majority of the paintings in the exhibition. In a trio of paintings depicting Haitian market scenes, sharp black silhouettes of Haitian individuals are framed by a variety of intense colorful clothes and items. Rose Wang ’13 said, “The colors are really bright and intense, [they are] realistic in a way. But it’s not like [the artist] is intentionally exaggerating [the scene]…it’s comfortable.” The clean-cut lines and colors of the painting create a feeling of energy and liveliness, exemplifying the passion of Haitian artists in a society that is still rebuilding after an earthquake devastated the country in January 2010. Other paintings take a more impressionistic style, with short shaded brushstrokes combined with slightly muted yet rich colors. One artist portrayed Haitians washing clothes in a river, giving viewers a glimpse of traditional Haitian culture. Painted in a similar style, another artist illustrated two sailboats in rich hues of green and red. The soft reflection of the boats, combined with the drifting boats in the background, create an air of serenity that puts viewers at ease. Mary-Jane Lewis, Administrative Assistant in the Office of Multicultural Development (CAMD), said, “[I like] the color, the light, like light pastels. To me it’s rustic and it’s art in simplicity.” While most of the pieces are anonymous because emphasis is not placed on artist identity in Haiti’s local street art, the exhibition does feature a series of paintings by the Haitian artist Desulme. Desulme is a teacher at the HARP Art School in Haiti, an establishment founded by Kim through HARP that aims to support Haitian youth in their artistic endeavors. Desulme’s work generally features the verdant landscapes of Haitian rural life, painted in rich primary colors with rough brush strokes. Distinctive aspects of his work include bold red and blue houses with metallic-like roofs, and an abstract and pastel-blue textured sky. In contrast to the realistic depictions of Haiti, other paintings seem to focus on folklore by more abstract means. A painting titled “Prayer” shows African animals amongst unnaturally colored and inorganically shaped plants, creating a mythical scene that seems to tell a Haitian children’s story. A few paintings in the exhibition also feature many monochromatic color schemes. In a multitude of shades of lush greens, the painting “African Woman” depicts the head of an African woman with three faces. The pale-yellow greens and the more olive shades of green contrast sharply, further highlighting the many faces and views of Haiti. Another painting features delicately painted green bulbs in many hues against a sandy yellow background, with smooth shading that makes the organic plant-like shapes pop out of the canvas. Wang said, “I can see [Haiti’s] hope and desire physically for their fruits, [and] what they are growing in the land and also their hope. [The painting] is a really intense color too, in contrast with the background. Probably what they have now is sand, and this is what they are yearning for and want to get.” In “Returning Home,” four slim figures precariously balance baskets on their heads, dressed in soft primary hues as they walk to an unknown destination. The washed-out pale background invokes a sense of placidity that complements the title, expressing the progression of Haitians in returning to their normal lives. Lewis said, “I think the exhibit is exquisite, it’s nice to see that [Haitian art] is being acknowledged as art. It has its own style, and I tend to like that Caribbean look, and that we’re paying attention to minority artists.” The art on display at HARP’s Haitian Arts Exhibition exposes viewers to a style of art that authentically illustrates the culture, passion and talents of local artists and raises awareness for Haiti. Kim said, “Right now, Haiti is in a big chaos, and the country still hasn’t recovered fully. The country is still in political, social and economic disaster.” “Haitian art is a lot different from other art, and people [at Andover] have not really [been exposed] to Haitian art, so I want to promote and raise the awareness of the beauty of Haitian art,” Kim added. In addition to promoting Haitian art, Kim and Non-Sibi Society will be holding two auctions following Thanksgiving break for Andover faculty members and students as well as the larger Andover community. According to Kim, the starting prices of the pieces will vary from around $80 to $100. “A lot of parents and faculty members asked if they could buy the artworks and were very interested in the paintings,” said Kim. The exhibition will be on display for the remainder of this term, and auctions will be held during the week of November 29, initially on campus and later at the Andover town’s Memorial Hall Library.