Art for Awareness: Haitian Arts Relief Project Makes Difference with Exhibit

Two women wade at the base of a waterfall – their orange and red clothing reflecting onto the silver water in Desulme’s “Washing Place.” At the top of the waterfall stands a cluster of people, waiting for their turn to slide down the fall. Lush trees and fields of flowers surround the body of water. “Washing Place” currently hangs alongside 15 other paintings as part of the Sixth Haitian Art Relief Project (HARP) Exhibition in Steinbach Lobby of George Washington Hall.

The Exhibition is organized by Won Woo Kim ’15, President and Founder of HARP. The organization exhibits and sells the artwork of Haitian artists to people in the United States and South Korea and donates the proceeds to an orphanage and the HARP Art School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. HARP originated after Kim visited Port-au-Prince, Haiti and met Desulme, an artist who was selling his paintings on the street. Impressed by Desulme’s artwork and saddened by his poor living conditions, Kim returned to his home of Seoul, South Korea and sold and publicized Desulme’s work.

“The art represents empowerment. We’re trying to help empower Haitian amateur artists, who don’t have the proper audience and who don’t have a stable market in Haiti, to have the opportunity to exhibit their artwork outside the region,” said Kim.

One of Desulme’s other works, “Mother,” is also displayed in the current exhibit. The painting depicts a woman sitting on a stone step, her right hand supporting her head while her left hand rests on her lap. Her bright green shirt and vivid orange skirt mimic the green and orange fruits in a basket by the side of her sandalled feet.

“[‘Mother’] shows a woman in Haiti who doesn’t have a job, who doesn’t have a future for herself or her family…This woman represents one of [Haiti’s citizens] just waiting for time to pass… I think Desulme is trying to tell people outside the country about the reality that pervades the nation right now,” said Kim.

Also in the exhibit is “Market 3” by an unnamed artist. The canvas shows Haitian women clothed in long, loose robes buying and selling luminous green and orange fruits in woven baskets. The painting depicts numerous rows of goods and shoppers, including a woman holding a rainbow-hued parasol.

These bright colors are prevalent in Haitian artwork, Kim said.

“I think the most important characteristic [of Haitian art] is the vivid colors. I think the main difference between Haitian art and other art we see in France, or here in America, is you can notice… the lines and the use of colors are sort of eccentric, which is very original and a good aspect of [Haitian art],” said Kim.

The HARP Exhibition will close on February 14, 2015.