The term “Art” can be a very broad term open to interpretation. The picture that may first come to mind would be paintings or sculptures cordoned off by glass and velvet ropes, viewable only to a select few that have paid for the opportunity to view them. Upon looking on them, it’s easy to imagine the backstory of their creation: spacious studios with every shade of paint possible, yards of canvas and hundreds of tools to paint, carve and sculpt to completion. Owners, both private and museums, fortunate to own these pieces recognize that the total worth of a work of art includes not only its aesthetic value but also the cost of materials and the hours or work spent on creating it.
The creative process of making visual art is often its most significant benefit especially for the artists themselves. Visual art is a means of expression that can leave a lasting impact, because it is not fleeting like a song but can be looked upon over and over, with each pair of eyes bringing their own perspective to the piece in addition to recognizing the artist’s intent. Visual arts can enable those who normally would not have an outlet of expression to have one. Art therapy has become an established form of treatment helping people with conditions ranging from autism to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The visual arts also provide a unique opportunity for many people to share their stories from places that are often overlooked or forgotten. One organization in particular, Project HOPE Art recognizes the empowering quality of art and its creation. Based out of Los Angeles, this charity recognizes the need for children to find a creative outlet to share their experiences. They focus on populations that have limited access to the arts, such as long-term patients in pediatric hospitals, orphanage residents and students at schools with little or no art education in their curriculum.
In the days following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, many relief organizations worldwide arrived on the already impoverished nation to help with medical relief, food supply and assistance in building and cleaning up debris. In such situations, in addition to the basic survival assistance that is needed, those affected also need help recovering and getting back to normal routines of learning and living. For the past three years, Project HOPE Art has recognized that need and has provided educational assistance via art projects with their Visiting Artists program. By using art as a platform for instruction, they are also able to provide help with other essential skills like fine motor skills, literacy, and knowledge about science and nutrition.
With a literacy rate that is nearly half that of the United States and lower than even most other Caribbean nations, Haiti suffers from not only the disadvantage of recovering from the still present effects of the natural disaster, but also the inability to gain the knowledge to establish a stronger nation. In April 2012, Project HOPE Art established an art literacy program in a school and orphanage in Port-au-Prince, providing basic literacy instruction using the children’s literature classics Where the Wild Things Are and The Giving Tree. By introducing these simple narratives to the students, they were able to create illustrative posters sharing their own stories, in their native language, French.
Another project that incorporates art education with other subjects is the Project HOPE Art’s bean workshop. Started in 2011, this interactive project involves learning about cultivation of beans as a means of supplying both necessary nutrition and income. Through this program, students learn that the bean is vitally important to the Haitian people as an economic source of nutrition in a land where livestock is scarce and an acre of plants can feed many more. In addition to the hands on experience of planting and maintaining the bean sprouts, the students also illustrate the progress of the plant’s growth by drawings.
Beginning learners also participate in a project called “I Draw U Draw.” This is where an instructor works individually with a student, modeling the drawing of simple subjects such as an animal, tree or car and then the student performs the task as well drawing their own depiction in addition to labeling the picture in English French and Kreyol, the informal language of Haiti. These pictures will then be included in a future book.
Much work has been accomplished in the short time of Project HOPE Art’s existence, but much more can and should be done. There are many ways that you can help. If you would like to help financially, you can donate at Fractured Atlas, the groups donation website, or purchase a mural poster from the main website. If you have the time available you can apply to be a visiting artist yourself, bringing your talents to those who would definitely appreciate it.