Reporting from: Port au Prince and Jacmel, Haiti
Local Contact: Sharon Virtue
“Travels, and the things I see while traveling, are my greatest inspiration, and it can be a life changing education, if you have a flexible and open mind.”
What kind of work did you do in Haiti?
Thanks to Gloria Simoneaux I worked for Save the Children on an art therapy project in Haiti, called HEART, healing and education through art.
I worked on developing a program specifically for the Haitian artists who were invited to participate in the project. I conducted 6 weeks of training sessions with them, to teach them methods of art therapy, which they could then pass on/teach to other teachers and community workers further afield. As part of our training, we went to a town in the mountains, outside of Jacmel called Lavoute. Here, we worked with over 120 children sharing what we had learned with them in the training sessions. That was amazing—seeing the way the children responded to these new ways of working with the arts, they loved it and wanted to know, “When are you coming back?”
What did you see there that inspired you artistically, creatively or otherwise?
Tap taps—the local form of transportation. Voudoun ceremony, Drapo—the sequin flags that represent the symbols of the Voudoun deities, the Caribbean ocean, the whole town of Jacmel, which has a strong history of Carnival and artists. The local music, speaking French and Creole, the determined spirit of the people who, after such devastation are still smiling, dancing and generously welcoming.
What can our readers do to support the work you are doing and/or other needs in Haiti?
Support for me is easy: Come to my studio or buy a piece of my art from my Etsy store. Proceeds from sales of my work fund my art and social development projects.
Here are some great small organizations working in Haiti, that could really use your help, either volunteering, participation or donations:
- Haiti Communitere (formerly, GrassRoots United)
- Ghetto Biennale (foundry Haiti fund) Leah Gordon is a photographer from UK working with sculptors in La Grande Rue in Port au Prince.
- Zanmi Lakay Jen and Guy Panteleon run a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for current and former street children in Haiti by providing educational and economic opportunities and resources to help these children while they are on the streets and to help build a life for them off the streets.
- My good friend Laurel True is also working on a mosaic project called Mosaics for Mirebalais Hospital.
Sharon Virtue is currently living as an artist in San Francisco, working in various mediums, and managing to pay her rent, eat, teach and travel around the world, making and sharing art.
Christine Mason Miller is a writer and mixed-media artist who loves to travel, wander and explore, whether on her own or vicariously through others. Her latest book – Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World – is now available. Visit her at www.christinemasonmiller.com.
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