From the People to the People



A Tribeca art auction aims to save an elementary school in Haiti

In the weeks following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, which shook Haiti into horrific suffering on January 12, the world was filled with images of death, destruction and the human hunger for survival. Today, nine months after the earthquake, there are prodigious unmet needs, of which food, water, and tents — yes, still tents — are just some of the most basic, and critical.

Fifteen hundred miles away, Tribeca residents Jacqueline and Jean Paul Fils-Aime have mourned the loss of loved ones, and are now mobilizing support for Jacqueline’s sister’s school, located in a neighborhood near Port-au-Prince that was devastated by the earthquake.

The Fils-Aime are being assisted in this effort by a group of local residents – Terry Celestin, Michel Cohen, Kathleen Kucka, Jacalyn Lee, Maggie Morris, Liz Schnee, Dennis Spates, John Sutter, and Jeannie Weissglass. They are holding an art auction at the Downtown Community Center on October 20 from 6 to 9 pm. All proceeds will go for direct support of the Children’s Harvest School of Haiti.

Since 1998, when it was founded by the retired Haitian-American couple, Carroll and Jean-Claude Hector, this charity elementary school has grown to serve 250 impoverished children between the age of 5 and 14, as well as their extended families. Besides providing a comprehensive education in French and Creole to children, who would otherwise be forced to remain illiterate, the Children’s Harvest School also offers their students one hot meal a day, which for most signifies the only meal they can count on.

Located in the Delmas 19 community of Port-au-Prince, the school suffered significant structural damage, but remains functional. However, some students, teachers and their families were killed, and most are still homeless. To provide water and food for students, as well as school supplies, clothing (in particular shoes), and candles (as there is no electricity) remain a daily struggle. Nevertheless, in order to aid the community and provide the children with a destination and sense of future, the new school year commenced this October.

In Tribeca, on October 20 from 6 – 9 PM, a silent auction of artworks by prominent and lesser-known contemporary and Haitian artists will attempt to collect significant funds for the school.

Details and a sneak preview of artworks can be found on the specifically designed website: www.childrensharvestschool.org.

While works will be up for purchase that night, the entrance fee of $20 for the viewing reception will enable each visitor to contribute even on a small scale as well. All monies collected during this night will exclusively benefit the school, the children and their families.

Says Jacqueline Fils-Aime, sister of Carroll Hector: “In Haiti people share what they have. There is a strong sense of community. People dance together, sing together – despite all the hardships they are facing. It keeps them together and gives them strength. We see this auction and the venue as a message from the people to the people.”

“Many of us, who have lived in downtown New York for years, remember the days following September 11,” adds Tribeca-based artist Jeannie Weissglass. “The tragedy initiated a true sense of community where people would assist each other and share information. It seems appropriate to see this auction take place here in downtown New York.”

The October art auction will also bring some attention to another loss that was caused by the earthquake, the loss of art in Haiti. “Museums and galleries have been destroyed and with it, a lot of Haitian art and artifacts,” reflects Fils-Aime. Hence, this auction will consciously include works by Haitian artists, members of the first generation, but also contemporaries, of whom some are living here and some are still based in Haiti. These works will be shown alongside those by contemporary western artists, many of them based in New York. Participants include Paul Pagk, Thomas Kovachevich, Kathleen Kucka, Jennifer Cecere, Jeannie Weissglass, Gian-Berto Vanni, Leonardo Drew, and others.

“Art has always been a big unifier, a bridge between ideas, cultures, stories and even histories. We are thrilled to be able to host the event in the Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center,” explains Kathleen Kucka, a downtown artist and one of the organizers.

In the context of this auction, artworks from different places, created by people coming from different backgrounds, begin to relate to each other and are enlisted in the same quest: to raise money for the future of Haiti, which will be carried by the children of Haiti.