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October 24, 2011

An inspiring exhibition for your neighborhood

"The Healing Power of Art" while on view at the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center in 2010.

Thirty-five seconds. That’s all it took to forever change the world for millions of Haitians on January 12, 2010. Now imagine those 35 seconds from a child’s point of view.  

Soon after the devastating earthquake, first lady of Haiti Elisabeth D. Préval called on Haitian artist Philippe Dodard and his fellow artists, as well as psychologists, educators and politicians, to create a safe place for children to express their feelings through art. Operating from converted buses at two sites in Port-au-Prince, Plas Timoun (The Children’s Place) uses the power of the visual and performing arts to bring healing to children, ages 6-10. 

Exhibition works of art in the concourse of the S. Dillon Ripley Center.

The simple works on paper created immediately following the earthquake were dark in color and imagery. Soon after, drawings began to reveal glimmers of hope and healing. The children of Plas Timoun were using brighter colors and depicting the innocence of childhood and their vision for a brighter future, attesting to the resilience of a nation and the power of art. With the help of Plas Timoun, these children will move more confidently toward their future and the lasting reconstruction of Haiti. “This exhibition gives the children of Haiti a chance to present to the world their vision of themselves and of the reconstruction of their country,” said Préval. “Their voices, so well expressed by colors and emotions, reflect our imaginary and social reality as vectors encouraging viewers to think with us of solutions to the problems facing contemporary Haiti.” 

Simple works on paper in "The Healing Power of Art" reveal glimmers of hope and healing.

Nearly 100 paintings and drawings created by Haiti’s young people at Plas Timoun are featured in the exhibition The Healing Power of Art: Works of Art by Haitian Children after the Earthquake, organized by the National Museum of African Art. Now, Smithsonian Affiliates can be the first to host this inspiring exhibition in their own community.  

While several of the artworks depict images relating to death and destruction, they also include illustrations of houses – both standing and damaged – with local architectural features, planes and helicopters reflecting rescue and recovery efforts, as well as colorful Haitian flags, nature scenes, abstract designs and children at play. Drawings by former First Lady Elisabeth Préval, First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and Second Lady of the United States, Jill Biden who participated in a painting session at Plas Timoun, are included. 

"The Healing Power of Art" at the S. Dillon Ripley Center in 2010.

In addition, the exhibition includes three videos: Thirty Five Long Seconds: Haiti’s Deadly Earthquake, an 18-minute film chronicling the earthquake and its aftermath written and narrated by Mario L. Delatour, and two short video segments, one in which Dodard discusses the concept behind Plas Timoun and the other on a visit to Haiti by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden. An outstanding beaded Haitian flag, map of Haiti and didactic panels complement the exhibition. 

For more information on booking this exhibition, click here to download the exhibition prospectus.

August 27, 2010

Smithsonian Affiliate staff member helps in Haiti recovery project

Special thanks to Beverly N. Perkins, conservator at Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, for this guest post. 

AIC-CERT members, Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough and Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, Richard Kurin, the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and CRCH members meeting to discuss recovery projects. Photo by Beverly Perkins.

Three American Institute for Conservation-Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) members were asked to join the Smithsonian Haiti Cultural Recovery Project on July 4th, 2010.  Beverly Perkins, Karen Pavelka, and David Goist spent some time with the staff of the Centre de Sauvetage de Biens Culturels(CRCH) helping to set up the CRCH labs so that they can be used for conservation treatments and to train Haitians in the recovery of cultural collections.  Under the supervision of Project Manager, Stephanie Hornbeck, the visiting conservators also carried out conservation projects and helped to guide tours of the labs.  

Conservation projects at work in the lab. Photo by Beverly Perkins.

A project I worked on involved conserving ceramics and building elements as they began to come in to the lab from various sites in Haiti.  Some of the ceramics had been clumsily reassembled at some point in their past, prior to being brought to the conservation center.  One group ceramics from a nativity scene were considered to be more decorative than historical, and so the losses were filled and shaped to replicate the pieces that had been lost.  These new elements were then toned with paints to make the ceramic appear to be whole again.  All of the treatments are documented with written notes and photographs so that in the future our work may be easily distinguished from the original ceramic.

Richard Kurin and guests at a reception at the President and Mrs. Preval's home. Photo by Beverly Perkins.

Also during our stay, the United States President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities visited Haiti, along with dignitaries from the Smithsonian and The Broadway League. The meetings held with Haitian cultural leaders helped to strengthen the determination to salvage cultural collections and train Haitians in that salvage effort.  The visiting dignitaries, AIC-CERT volunteers, and the staff of the CRCH were treated to an evening of Haitian song and dance at President and Mrs. Preval’s lovely home. 

The ten days I spent away from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, were donated in the spirit of good will from the Museum’s board and staff and the people of Cody, Wyoming to the people of Haiti.  Upon my return from Haiti, the Museum’s director, Bruce Eldredge asked how we could further be of assistance to the people of Haiti.  He developed a plan to offer training for one or two Haitians in the conservation laboratory of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. He further offered to provide support following those months of training.

This project is in the process of being formed, and so the story continues…

Devastation to a cathedral in Haiti. Photo by Beverly Perkins.

 

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