Closing reception for "When Our Brushes Shook” exhibit on May 17

As time passes and some wounds heal, Haitian artists have begun to express more hope and optimism in their works of art, according to Charlot Lucien, founder and co-director of the Haitian Artists Assembly of Mass. (HAAM) and one of the founders of the Jacmel Art Revitalization Project. The emotional shift Lucien refers to can be seen in an exhibit extended until May 18th at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood.

A closing reception will be held at the school from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 17. The school is located at 221 Rivermoor Street in West Roxbury.

“The art reflects how the country and the people have picked themselves up to start moving forward,” says Lucien, who adds that being able to continue the work they love has also likely influenced the subject matter and feeling of the new works. The beauty of nature, the rebuilding of homes and just daily life seem to be more common themes in the recent paintings. Earlier paintings focused on death and the upheaval and anguish wrought by the earthquake.

The MSPP exhibit now includes 41 paintings with " a mix of earlier and later works,” says Lucien.

Since this project started more than 150 paintings have been completed and exhibited by the artists supported by the project, meaning many more are being created. Massachusetts, which has the third largest Haitian population in the US (75,000) is considered an ideal home for the project and the artwork, according to Lucien.

Haitian artist Renold Laurent, now the Haitian-based coordinator for “When Our Brushes Shook,” in a phone interview from Jacmel explained that after the earthquake much of his world had changed. He, like other artists, had lost the motivation to do art. “We had other priorities and we no longer had art supplies.” For a while, he gave up his own art and spent time teaching younger artists. “By teaching other artists I was inspired to start doing my own work again,” he said through a translator.

The “When Our Brushes Shook” project has also helped keep his work going and has opened up communication with other artists in the US and especially in Massachusetts. “It has given us the funds we need for supplies, but also the opportunity for many of us to show our work in the United States,” he adds.

Jacmel has long been one of the major cultural and artistic centers of Haiti and has relied on tourism for support. Haitian art has a diversity of style, ranging from more primitive to abstract, and a very characteristic Haitian vibrancy and color.

“When Our Brushes Shook” started by Lucien and others involved in recovery efforts following the earthquake. He had met some of the artists in 2003 when searching with Anne Anninger, a former art curator at Harvard University, for art for a Cambridge exhibit. Returning in the wake of disaster, Lucien and colleagues found the city and its artists isolated, with no art supplies and their work destroyed. Back in Boston, Lucien, working with his colleagues of Assembly, raised funds and received some donations from Artist and Craftman Supply in Cambridge and various other groups.

“When Our Brushes Shook” is now a collaboration between HAAM, the Greater Brockton Society for Poetry and the Arts (GBSPA) and the newly founded Jacmel Artists Network and has been shown at Boston City Hall, Lesley University, Brockton City Hall, Cambridge City Hall, Cambridge Health Alliance and Massasoit Community College. MSPP’s is the seventh major exhibit since the project started.

MSPP’s exhibit will include Jacmel artists Renold Laurent, Didier Civil, Vady Confident, Macène Laurent, Veneret Patrick, Norestant Lamour, Wilbert Laurent, Lionel Jean, Michel Lamour, and Pierre Paul Ancion. New England artists include Fritz Ducheine, Isaac Pierre, Andrelite Fleurimond, Charlot Lucien, Valentin Iviquel, Joseph Chéry, and Nixon Léger (Rhode Island).

Four of the local artists will be available for an informal talk with the audience.

All the pieces will be on sale. Artists will receive 75 percent of the proceeds, and 25 percent will go into the “When Our Brushes Shook,” fund, providing the artists of Jacmel with greatly needed supplies and support to continue creating.