Pratt hosts Alex Louis to our campus in Brooklyn

Great news, Alex Louis has received his visa! Huge thanks to the Pratt people who were determined to make this happen – Donna Moran, Jane Bush, Mike Farnham, Chuck Munster, Judy Aaron and Peter Barna.  Special thanks to Carine Jocelyn from the Diaspora Community Services,  Art in Motion leader Monica Watkins who will be giving him a home and Pratt Architecture Alum Herve Sabin who will be connecting him to some Haitian friends at his Brooklyn creperie, Mago. We are delighted to be offering this ambitious and determined young artist 6 -8 weeks to study and exhibit art in NYC.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Will Alex get his visa?

We are anxiously awaiting the results of Alex Louis’s meeting with the American Embassy in Port au Prince.  I just found out today that Alex couldn’t afford his school tuition this month. Eighty percent of schools are private – and while 50% of his tuition is paid for by the school the rest is up to him.

We’ve been working on getting Alex up to Pratt Institute for the summer – to take classes in sculpture, drawing and painting and to give him access to the art world.  One of the compelling things he said to me when we first met was, “My art has been all over the world and I have never left Port au Prince.” So we’re hoping to change that. Pratt is generously offering classes, materials and a studio – friends will be giving him a place to stay and he will have an exhibit during the summer to sell work and make some money to take home to pay tuition so he can finish school at the Centre for Modern Technology in Haiti.

Anyhow, cross your fingers and we’ll know more by tomorrow…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is knowing what’s going on a human right?

I just saw an add on the subway – “Local News, it’s what CONNECTS us.”  We  are uneasy when we don’t know what’s going on – whether it’s as simple as the weather or as complex as a pedophile moving into the neighborhood. We want to KNOW. In the heavily damaged, Nazon area there didn’t seem to be a centralized place to find out information about what was going on, especially when it came to the clean up efforts.  The area must be last on the list – because one and a half years later it felt as if the earthquake had happened a month ago. Carine told us that they were still finding bodies in the rubble. It turns out the this area is in what the UN called “red” zone*.
Anyhow, it strikes me that in an already uneasy situation- a consistent, reliable system of publishing community information might offer some relief and begin to build an engaged and informed community.

*UN security forces MINUSTAH map provided to NGOs just after the earthquake. Red zones meant UN staff were advised not to go there under any circumstances. Yellow zones meant they should be cautious, “because they used to be filled with red spots,” but there are no formal restrictions, beyond a general curfew from 10pm-6am. Green (covering Petionville only which is the cities wealthy and hopping district) indicated residential areas with no history of insecurity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

connect – people – to information

One of the things we’ve known from the start is that there is a lack of information in the local neighborhoods. This is one of the challenges we’ve been thinking about since before we got on the plane. In putting together a presentation for Fahrenheit 212 on thursday and preparing for a design jam at Smart Design later this month I used Kevin Starr’s model for deciding what to fund –  seen at Poptech! 2010 (Kevin is the director of the Mulago Foundation).

Here’s are his keys to deciding what’s worth funding.

Verb + who + noun

What change are you creating?

Is it needed?

Does it work?

Will they use it right?

What change are you creating?

Build a localized hub for the community to communicate about day to day activities in the neighborhood.


  • Cell phones everywhere
  • Community Healthcare Workers get phone numbers when handing out condoms
  • Centre Medico Social (CMS)is already a neighborhood hub
  • CMS is next to local school
  • Transportation slow, difficult and very expensive
  • Lots of street activity
  • People hang out indoors (it’s hot!!!) no shaded public areas
  • Kids hang out at clinic after school
  • School has 3 shifts and is not used on weekends
  •  No one seems to know what’s going on around vacant properties and cleanup activities
  • Only 600 people actually living in UN sponsored tent cities but small clusters of tents villages are everywhere

Is it needed?

There isn’t an infrastructure that lets people know what’s going on – leads to confusion, a lack of respect and culture of suspicion and cynicism .

Does it work?

Don’t know yet – what can we design that will test the theory? This will be the topic of the design jam at SMART.

Will they use it right?


Dentist at Centre Medico on Friday Text 5433

Trucks will be parked in front of school starting monday

Water truck on corner of Avenue Poupelard and Alexis

Meeting a church to discuss community center

Road crews on Grand Street

Saturday art program at school at 10am

We need help doing carpentry in the tent village on Dessalines Blvd.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From the perspective of creative arts therapy

Jean Davis made the following observations with comments from Deb:

Meeting with health care workers in clinic (Tuesday)

Jean: It’s a challenge for the health care workers when going to the tent cities and people say they just need food (not condoms).

Deb: There was a woman who came up to us rubbing her stomach – who got annoyed with us because we didn’t bring any food with us – and that we came in and offered nothing.

Jean: Some laughing and snickering occurred in response to questions about how the community responds to mental illness.  Not much in the way of service for those with mental illness (somehow the group seemed to separate out those who were mentally ill from those who had been traumatized).  Mental illness is seen as the devil at work and people are often alienated from the group when struggling with mental illness.  Children struggling with these issues are taken out of school and put to work.

Meeting with children #1 (Wednesday)

Directive:  “The large mural paper is the water.  Please draw a shape in the water.  This will be your island.  Your island is for you to create anything or anyone you want.  It is only for you to create within – no one is allowed to draw in your space.  However, the water (outside of your space) is community space and anyone can create anything in any way in this space.”

Children participants mimicked leader’s images that were used as an example (i.e. boats).  This limited the ability to fully assess some of the images created.

The actual content of artwork created seemed developmentally appropriate, but the line quality and figural representations seemed a bit delayed.  Self representation as seen in objects created seemed undersized and encapsulated.

Deb: This group was from the school and the group was all girl who were from the neighborhood. I was struck by the caring of the younger girls by the older girls.

Jean: Contact occurred in facial relationships and verbalizations amongst participants and was represented in brining friends to their islands, but minimal contact was made in physical art-making together  in the community space.  This may have been, in part, due to the language barrier and how the directive was communicated.  However, in dialoguing with Carine, she felt this was primarily a cultural response and that importance is placed on school and work while free play and recreation is less important.  Overall, lack of contact in the community space seemed indicative of minimal exposure to relating in this way.

Deb: I think we were a mystery to them and that we’d need more time to develop relationships to get valuable information. While they seemed engaged – they were doing what they were asked to do.

Meeting with community members (Friday)

Jean: Churches are places where community happens (150 every weekend), but not much in the way of public, recreational space – particularly for children.

They clearly communicated their frustration about the lack of collaboration that occurred between outside groups and those associations within Haiti that already exist – which contributes to the lack of sustained help that is being received.

Deb: This seems to be a key problem – there seems to be no effort to communicate what is going to happen locally.  Three huge dump trucks were sitting in the road between the school and the clinic the entire week. No one knows who owns what or what the status of property is and there a many people who have overstayed their welcome in temporary tent clusters. Absolutely no place to play, no place to gather, everything is tents and rubble.

Meeting with children #2 (Saturday)

Jean: Overall, interaction/contact occurred at the verbal level and in some of the repetitious imagery in the artwork, but, again, not in the physical art-making itself.

Deb: In fact the littlest kids covered their work so no one could see what they were doing. The oldest seemed quite proud of their drawings and happy to show them off.

Timeline (created by group leaders in response to questions about the day in the life of the children): Mornings included prayer.  Otherwise, daytime schedule was quite normal.  Majority placed themselves in the early to mid-day spaces (play, meals, homework).

Deb: Again we had no time to develop trust – it would be good to find a way for them to draw the activities – or perhaps given more time photograph there day (this was the original plan).

Jean: Mandala:  Children seemed very engaged in art-making.

Deb: This was a great exercise – the kids were engaged and went into a lot of detail. See blogpost :J’aimerai avoir une clarinet…” It’d be fabulous to have the circle be 15 feet in diameter, so they could create a paths etc.  Again, more time – next trip:-)

Vast majority of imagery was houses – many of which were stereotypical in execution.  This may have been indicative of a number of things including typical age appropriate imagery, the cultural message about how things should look and, probably most importantly, the importance of a stable home.

Children’s artwork seemed quite encapsulated (clung to the edges of the mandala) and restricted.  The center of the mandala was empty for quite awhile as children created around the edges.  Finally, when artwork was made in the middle, the image of a home was created.

This may be indicative of the need for stability and discomfort in wide open spaces.  Also, this may be a sign of the way community currently occurs – in close clusters and in less central ways.

One participant who came late made artwork outside of the circle – which may, perhaps, point to feeling like an outsider.

Of note:  Leader participation in art-making, although perhaps helpful in joining participants, made final mandala assessment somewhat difficult to assess because some imagery was not created or instigated by the participants themselves.

Deb: I agree, the kids seemed very happy to follow instructions – however they were the most engaged in this project and had very clear ideas of what they wanted.

Jean:  A number of children drew and discussed their interest in music.  Also, internet cafes were discussed as a place where they would like to “hang out”.

Deb: Dance school, library, football fields, police cars, ambulances, swimming pools. Everyone wanted access to the internet…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“J’aimerai avoir un clarinet et une Barbie”

The last workshop we did was with a group of 10 kids, ranging from 7 to 14 years old. We spent a few minutes charting a day in their lives which was pretty straightforward. Wake up, brush my teeth, eat breakfast – play outside, go to school, hang out, go to sleep. Then they each drew a self portrait and we asked them to put themselves into their favorite part of the day – “Breakfast!” “Playing!!” “Combing my hair.” and “School!” we’re the general favorites.

(Go to end of post to see each of the kids with  their self-portraits.)

The group then gathered around a large piece of paper with a big circle. We ask them to draw what they’d want if they could have anything in their neighborhood.  The idea was that the circle represented a community center. They dove right in – it was wonderful.

We then asked them to present their work and explain to the group what it was they thought would be good to have in the neighborhood. The range was from swimming pool to a dance school, a football stadium to an ambulance, flowers and a place to play. One girl was very clear – no drawing just wrote out a seven word statement and sat down. (“J’aimerai avoir un clarinet et une Barbie”)

Here are pictures of the kids with their self portrait drawings.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tet Kale!

Tèt kale – bald head, smooth head (it means your head has no hair whatsoever, totally hairless) 
These are campaign kites for sale by a a local street vendor.

Michel Martelly is known for outrageous performances that included mooning audiences, cursing rivals, even wearing diapers and dresses. The 50-year-old performer is known by his fans as “Sweet Micky.” Michel Martelly was elected president of Haiti by a 2/3 vote by galvanizing the young voters who pushed him to the top spot. We saw a group of about 40 people of various ages in matching MARTELLY t-shirts, carrying shovels, bins and brooms doing clean up along the roadside. A good sign – speaking of which the political posters laminated every possible wall surface.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment