Art as Catalyst for Change in Haiti

Earthquake damage in Jacmel, Haiti, Jan 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter Prengaman)

When the devastating 2010 earthquake struck Jacmel, Haiti, Sue Frame was sitting in a restaurant with her best friend, Flo McGarrell. Flo was an incredible artist who had worked tirelessly in Jacmel for marginalized artists including women, the physically challenged as well as those who identify as gay or transgender.

As the earth began to shake beneath their feet, Flo and Sue made a run for the nearest exit, but tragically, only Sue was able to make it out alive before the restaurant collapsed. Sue vowed to continue Flo’s work in Jacmel through the creation of Jakmel Ekspresyon, a non-profit arts organization whose goal is to provide a place for artists to learn and express themselves in a non-discriminating environment. BWB has partnered with this one of a kind organization in Haiti to create a program that will train and create employment for these artists for years to come through the creation of a screen printing studio and business.

Jacmel is known as the arts capital of Haiti-famous for its vibrant arts culture. However, it is very difficult for artists to benefit financially from their work due to persistent political and economic challenges that have plagued the country for centuries. It can also be extremely difficult for these marginalized individuals to be accepted by the community and have the ability to make a living.

Jacmel Ekspresyon art classes

But, with the support from the Burning Man community, we can make a real and lasting difference in transforming this paradigm. This screen printing project will be the first of its kind in Haiti. BWB will send ten artists to Jacmel to teach skills in design, screen printing and professional development. There are currently no screen printing services available in Jacmel to create post-cards for the tourism industry or for the various international organizations who work there. This project is sure to be a success and we need your participation to make it happen.

If you would like to apply for the artist in residency program, you can read all about it here.

We are asking for your financial support in making this unique project happen. We have just launched an Indiegogo campaign that will fund the residency program and the construction of a screen printing studio.

This is an incredible opportunity to support the arts and a unique program that will make a significant impact in the lives of these artists and for the Jacmel community.

Thank you for your support.

About the author: Carmen Mauk

Carmen Mauk

Carmen Mauk is passionate about creating platforms that encourage radical community participation. She is the co-founder and former director of Burners Without Borders, a program of Burning Man Project that creates participatory models for international disaster relief and community initiatives. She is also the founder of Burning Man Information Radio, BRC's community radio station. Carmen holds a Masters degree in Transformative Leadership from the California Institute for Integral Studies where she became an enthusiastic student of the art of creating community collaborations that bring about positive change.

2 Comments on “Art as Catalyst for Change in Haiti

  • Judy Hoffman says:

    Hi and what a great idea. I knew Flo and some of the Fosaj artists work with our youth. We are Art Creation Foundation For Children, in Jacmel for 10 years. We are in process with a major website update but our original mission still holds … Art Creation Foundation For Children is a non-profit arts organization created for education and personal growth of children in need in Jacmel, Haiti. Children achieve self-sufficiency via the arts and education as well as internalize a sense of social responsibility, community and connectedness in partnership with ACFFC staff and supporters. Our youth are all children who started with ‘never attended school, nor have two parents, nor ate every day.’ Now, they are talented artists, and in fact are changing the face of Jacmel via our Mosaique Jacmel project … also painters … papier mache … painting on silk. We now have 100 youth in the program. We have tshirts printed in the US if we need much beyond very basic. Vistaprint, etc. If you set up a silk screen program, PLEASE work with and train some of our older youth – teens and young 20s … age range is young (6) to 21+ (because they had not started school at age 6 or 7) and because we are becoming bit by bit self sustaining, so art is providing work/jobs as well as a voice. Flo’s death upended Fosaj and sadly, it has never been the same. Burning Man people and Jacmel, perfect. Please know that while ACFFC was founded by a foreigner (me) and a Haitian in Jacmel (who has been in the US and is now moving back) … all funds raised go to Haiti or for the youth, their families, the organization and all paid staff is Haitian. Please learn about us. This will give you a much better sense of newest news, etc. I know Burning Man brings a huge number of people together, but do you know an artist called Robert Seven … he drives an ambulance. Anyway, please do this! And we can help you as best we can.

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  • Gerflash says:

    Wow! How is it that there’s just a few days from the new profile system plan announcement to the deadline for getting it all completed and in for my entire theme camp! You ask a lot! I’ve never seen such a short deadline like this from you guys and gals. What gives?

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