Heart of Haiti

Here is an example of an article I wrote about the Denison Museum’s exhibits:

Denison Museum’s “Heart of Haiti” offers unique art

By Debbie Gillum
Arts & Life Editor

Both of the Denison Museum’s current exhibits, “The Heart of Haiti” and “Resistance and Resiliency,” allow students an opportunity to see art they would otherwise  not be exposed to. 

  “The Heart of Haiti” features 50 black and white portrait photographs taken by Andrea Baldeck. Baldeck enjoyed photography as a child but ultimately became a physician. She volunteered in Haiti in 1981 and returned in 1983 and 1985. Her time in Haiti made a big impression on her life so she returned to the country, but not as a doctor. 

    Despite her lack of formal training as an artist, Baldeck proves that you do not have to be an artist to make fine art.

   “Images often speak where words fall on deaf ears: camera in hand, I returned to Haiti in 1996 as a photographer,” said Baldeck in her Artist’s Statement. Her photographs on display show a sense of hope and community within Haiti. For example, they frequently depict the youth of Haiti  with their families wearing strong expressions. She chose to use black and white because she wanted the images to focus on the subject.

   The exhibit has been criticized by some because Baldeck chose to take photographs of a community she is not a member of and also because she herself is not a trained artist. 

     Anna Cannizzo, the curator of collections for the Denison Museum, said that she encourages people to criticize the exhibit. 

    “That’s the point of an exhibition. The controversy leads to analysis of the work and helps contribute to the academics of a college experience,” Cannizzo said. 

    The other exhibit, “Resistance and Resiliency” features ten pieces of artwork done by Haitian artists. It shows their culture as well as the country’s rough past. Chronic political upheaval and recent natural disasters have greatly affected the island. Cannizzo described the exhibit as “people creating art about their daily lives.” One of the most interesting pieces of the collection is a red and gold voodoo blanket. It’s bright red with complicated gold and silver designs.

    Dr. Sherry Harlacher, director of the museum, sought to find a compelling photography  exhibit that fit the campus theme. 

    “It was important to me that the Museum present a multi-faceted view of Haiti and its people, so the combination of the black-and-white portraits and the bright paintings invite viewers to compare and contrast the visual and intellectual content of both shows,” she said. 

    Denison students agree that this exhibit is a worthwhile addition to campus.

   Marisa Zemesarajas, a sophomore from Sheffield Lake Ohio, works at the museum. She is excited about this interesting exhibit. 

“We as a culture always look at Western art, especially in collegiate settings, so it is awesome to look at non-western art,” Zemesarajas said. 
   She admired how Haitians “have such a rich culture and a good sense of community.”  

   The “Heart of Haiti” rental fee for the Denison Museum cost was $4500, not including loan fees, set up costs or shipping. Cannizzo acknowledged that exhibits are very costly.

    “We try to bring in exhibitions that students couldn’t easily see otherwise,” she said. 

    Before they book an exhibit, she said that they ask themselves, “Would this be a valuable resource to students and faculty?” If students wanted to otherwise see Haitian artwork, they would have to travel to Iowa which is where the Figge Art Museum, home to much Haitian artwork, is located. 

    Many students are unaware of the Denison Museum. Cannizzo said that her goal is for “all students to come to the museum at least once during their four years.” 

        To raise awareness and money for Haiti, Whit’s Frozen Custard will be offering a new flavor called “Heavenly Haitian” for the week of Oct. 22. The flavor is banana custard with coconut and dark chocolate flakes. All proceeds from “Heavenly Haitian” will go toward the Healing Art Missions organization, a Granville-based non-profit charity that has been supporting the people of Haiti since 1999. 

    Both exhibits came to The Denison Museum by serendipity. The museum schedules exhibits two to three years ahead and the schedulers noticed a hole with no exhibitions lined up. They looked at traveling exhibitions around the country and noticed that the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology had a striking collection of photographs (Heart of Haiti) that was available to travel. Better yet, the images fit with the year’s Creativity and Courage theme. 

   “It was the right content for the right time,” said Cannizzo. 

   The “Resistance and Resiliency” exhibit came from the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. Cannizzo said that the “timing was right,” and that everything just “fell into place.” 

    Both exhibits are on display now until December 8.

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