Curating for a Cause: Haitian Arts Relief Project Looks to Make a Difference With New Exhibition

In 2010, on the streets of Haiti, Andover alumnus Hyun Woo Kim ’13 met a native Haitian artist named Desulme struggling to afford art supplies after the 2010 earthquake and forced to make his paintbrushes out of twigs. Kim was touched by the plight of Haitian visual artists who, like Desulme, have found it difficult to afford the resources they need to express themselves.

Hyun Woo Kim created the Haitian Arts Relief Project (HARP) to raise money for Desulme and other Haitian artists and to strive to preserve an important aspect of Haitian culture. Since its creation in 2010, Kim’s younger brother Won Woo Kim ’15, together with Austin Robichaud ’15 and Kent McLaughlin ’15, have taken control of the program, continuing to empower Haitian artists by showcasing and selling their art across the world.

All of the proceeds gained from selling the artwork are returned to Haitian artists and other Haitian charities, such as the House of Love and the Haiti Sarang Church.

“My brother and I were amazed by the bright artistic culture of Haiti, which was the only source of light and appreciation at the time [of the earthquake],” said Won Woo Kim. “We established HARP to bring that artistic richness back to life and to spread the Haitian culture around the world.”

Every summer since 2010, the members of HARP have traveled to Haiti and purchased local artwork to bring back to the United States and South Korea for exhibition.

“Traveling to Haiti over the summer with the rest of the HARP team was a really incredible way to see the effects that only a few students can have,” said Robichaud. “It was a great experience to see our small organization bringing so much change to a struggling community.”

This year’s current collection, Andover’s fifth Haitian Arts Exhibition, has been displayed in Steinbach Lobby in George Washington Hall since February 9 and will stay until the end of winter term. 23 Haitian oil and acrylic paintings, including three recent paintings by Desulme, are showcased and are available for purchase.

“I hope we not only sell our beautiful artworks to the Andover community, but also fulfill our mission to spread awareness of Haiti’s under-appreciated artistic culture on campus,” said Won Woo Kim. “We want to give students and faculty the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of impoverished Haitian artists and children by purchasing artwork.”

From abstract landscapes to wildlife to colorful portraits, the eye-catching collection reveals the valuable skill and talent of Haitian artists.

“The exhibit this year is brighter, bigger and better than ever,” said Robichaud. “We’re really excited about it, and it is definitely worth a visit for every Andover student.”

The pieces are painted in a traditional colorful Haitian style, all portraying different aspects of Haitian life. One painting depicts a Haitian community, while another shows a traditional market, and a third painting is of a harbor on the island. Desulme’s three paintings vividly portray scenes of Haitian life with the underlying message of the struggle Haitians have faced since the disaster.

Another painting, entitled “Reconstruction,” shows the process of rebuilding the infrastructure on the island since the earthquake.

“My favorite painting in the collection is ‘Reconstruction,’” said Robichaud. “It shows the strength of the Haitian people, and the steps they are taking every day to improve their lives.”

National pride, family relationships and daily Haitian activities are also highlighted by the exhibition. A defining piece of the exhibition is a painting entitled “Horse,” which depicts a Haitian mother and daughter traveling together by horse.

Another painting, “Wash Place,” portrays Haitian women doing their laundry at a lake, and a painting entitled “Farm” shows Haitian= farmers cultivating crops. The simple scenes of Haitian life shown in the exhibition all tell stories of loss, struggle and strength.

“The exhibit adds beautiful art to G.W., and, more importantly, it shows an introspective view on the culture of a country known for its turmoil. The pieces show how talented artists in third-world countries are, which is something that is important for everyone to see,” said Alessa Cross ’16.