Artists gather to paint mural, honor Haiti year after earthq

Freud, Hockney, Hirst and so on

Artists gather to paint mural, honor Haiti year after earthq

Postby rekha2010 » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:59 am

The walls of Little Haiti speak. They mourn the souls lost in last year's earthquake. They celebrate the cultural resilience and spirit of a wounded homeland.

A mural has emerged on the outside of an otherwise nondescript building at Northeast Second Avenue and 79th Street, its images juxtaposing the first anniversary of Haiti's devastating earthquake with the island nation's vibrant history.

Pedestrians stare. Drivers brake. And artist Serge Toussaint, standing atop a 25-foot ladder, paints tears.

``We needed a way to express all the hurt and loss that the earthquake brought so that anyone who ever passes here never, ever forgets,'' says Toussaint, who was born in Carrefour, Haiti and has lived in Miami since 1994. ``I painted tears on the faces of Haiti's three biggest freedom fighters who gave their lives for our country. The tears show they are not happy with the troubles the country has had and with all of the lives lost in the earthquake.''

For the last week, Toussaint, other artists and some students have labored over the mural, in shifts up to 14 hours a day, painting an elaborate, vivid narrative about the promise and despair of Haiti. In one scene, a woman celebrates Carnival. In another, Haitian students attend Sunday school. Haitian leaders Henri Christophe, Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines are depicted with tears streaming down their faces.

That tragic afternoon last Jan. 12 is marked by images of cracks in the earth, God's hand reaching down, a group of survivors pleading for help and a little boy in an arm sling -- inspired by a real-life photograph. The images are bound by waves, painted in the red and blue hues of the Haitian flag.

To commemorate the first anniversary, the mural will be unveiled and a candlelight ceremony Wednesday in a lot behind the building at 7925 NE Second Ave. The Haiti Earthquake Remembrance program begins at 5:30 p.m.

The 5,000-square-foot mural, wrapping around a corner between a food market and a shoe-repair shop, is a project of the Little Haiti Optimist Club and the MLK Community Mural Project, a national collaboration of artists and students which has produced more than 100 murals across the country. The organization has also created a mural at a hospital in Haiti.

The Optimist Club, a nonprofit founded last April by a group of civic, community and business leaders, works with Little Haiti youth through education, cultural and sports programs.

"We were looking for a way to make a difference and we decided the best way was to help the children and families,'' said Marie Louissaint, the group's president. "For the anniversary, we wanted to remember all the victims and survivors of the earthquake. A statue would have been too expensive so we went with a mural that would capture Haiti's past, present and future.''

The artists painted their first strokes of color on Jan. 3, slowed last week only by time, creativity and a winter rain shower. They will paint by spotlight until the earliest hours of Tuesday to finish. Nearly 50 gallons of primer and paint, as well as other supplies, were donated by the Miami Dolphins. The owner of the building, Ron Volk, donated the space for the mural.

Many of Little Haiti's walls and storefronts serve as the canvas of expressive street art, but this mural is different, its reach wider, its mission broader.
The artists see the mural as an enduring gift to the community.

"What was most important was to make sure we captured the spirit of the people,'' artist Kevin Morris said. "We wanted to make sure there were also happy cultural scenes, historical figures -- and lots of color to make it pop.''
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