EDUCATION & OUTREACH
Haiti Friends has a strong commitment to education and outreach. By engaging the public with art shows, lectures, and films the Friends is able to bring Haiti to people. Haiti is a country with a complex and rich history. A history founded in the first successful slave revolution, followed by decades of corruption and tyranny, marred by poverty, and yet gave birth of a successful democracy. An island nation that has been badgered by the major ecological disaster of deforestation, and riddled with natural disaster after natural disaster from hurricanes, torrential floods, and of course the horrifying 2010 earthquake that left more than 300,000 people dead in a matter of minutes. In spite of the turbulence, Haiti is a country defined by its resilient hard working people, who are always eager to learn, improve, and rebuild.
The history of Haiti is as rich as the culture is strong. So much of the country is illiterate; a staggering 60-70%, and much of its history is passed down orally as a result. Many of the great stories, legends, and myths are documented not in books but in paintings and songs. Since the early 80’s Haiti’s number one legal export has been its art. With many of the fascinating histories document in pictures the Friends has amassed a substantial collection that showcased the vibrant story of Haiti. Since 1985 the Friends has been using Haitian art as a point of entry into the hearts and minds of people around the globe.
Through both the Friends world-class permanent collection and its sellable collection of Haitian art the Friends is able to share the story of Haiti with the world. Haiti’s history is little known, but it has made a substantial impact on the world. In 1804 the Haitians led the revolution against their French captors wining their independence as the first independent black Republic in the Caribbean and Latin America. This revolution set the stage for the beginning of the end of slavery in the Americas.
In 1825 a treaty was signed with the French where France would recognize Haiti’s independence in exchange for 150 million gold francs. Many trees were felled to service this debt. Later concessions were given to other international companies (including American) to cut trees for lumber. Natural disasters and the country’s dependence on charcoal as fuel has further devastated the forests of Haiti leaving the country 98% deforested. Haiti suffers from one of the world’s largest ecological disasters of deforestation.
The Friends tells this story through talks, presentations, and art shows around the world. The goal is to raise awareness and build concern, and motivate action through charitable giving and volunteerism.
TALKS & PRESENTATIONS
The Friends prepares talks and presentations about Haiti, it’s ecology, history, politics, culture, and religion. The talks are presented with Powerpoint slideshows by its staff, board, and special guests. Most often these talks are paired with art exhibitions that feature imagery related to the topic of the talk. The presentations focus on the country’s revolution and Independence, ecologic disaster & the plan for action, the 2010 earthquake, Haitian art, and the myths, religion, and spirituality.
EDUCATIONAL & CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS
The Friends provides presentations and art exhibitions to educational and cultural institutions around the United States and internationally. Examples of such programs include the an art exhibitions and talks at the Andy Warhol museum, Chatham University, Pennsylvania State University, Alveno College in Milwaukee, Stanford University, Frick Art and Historical Center, August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Allegheny College, Sherwood Oaks, Unitarian Church in Pittsburgh, Ellis School and Touchstone Center for Crafts. At each institution the Friends not only presents art, but gives talks about Haitian art and culture to give context to the art and to open discussion about the developing world its challenges, opportunities, and prospective hope. The Friends’ education based mission, is fulfilled by these exhibits, by opening the awareness of Haiti. For so many Haiti is a place they have very little knowledge about unless they are from there or have visited, but it is a complex and interesting place with rich history and culture, and the Friends prides itself in opening the awareness of the country and uses art as the point of entry.
The Friends has themed shows that are available to be showcased in cultural institutions around the world. The themed shows are accompanied with talks and presentations, as well as literature about the art and about Haiti. The goal of having traveling exhibits is to increase awareness and improve awareness of Haiti’s history, culture, and to help raise support for its artisan community and the Friends ecological restoration project HTRIP.
The Friends has a gallery on Reynolds Street in Pittsburgh where it showcases Haitian art with openings every month. Here people are encouraged to come in and engage the Friends staff and learn about Haitian art, culture, and history. At this location the Friends rotates pieces from its permanent collection as a way if informing the public about Haiti. At the gallery, Haiti Friends holds monthly themed art exhibitions where art is also sold. Profits from art sales provide revenue and cover the cost of the gallery and office space. The Friends fulfills part of its mission by selling Haitian art in the United States as it both informs people about Haiti while also supporting an artisan economy in Haiti. As with all Haiti Friends projects the gallery helps build bridges to and interest to Haiti from abroad.