By Venette L. Simon
Boston University News Service
Until the end of March, visitors at Scollay Square Gallery at Boston City Hall will have a chance to be immersed in the beauty of Haitian culture and people through bright, colorful portraits and vibrant, detailed landscapes.
The featured gallery, “Still Arts Rise II,” offers a showcase of the work of ten Haitian American women artists.
“It is history in the making that ten women Haitian artists are exhibiting for the first time at Boston City Hall with the very first female mayor of Boston,” said Charlot Lucien, the founder of the Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts, at the reception. Lucien worked in collaboration with John Crowley, the curator and exhibitions coordinator for City Hall.
Artists featured in the gallery exhibit include Mimi Désir, Youveline Joseph, Joane Buteau, Michele David, Florence Mardy, Myriam Pitt, Andrelite Fleurimond, Edna Chery, Sabrina Sainté, and Elliana Chery, who, at 9 years old, is the youngest member of the Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts.
“Started in 1995, the HAAM is a network of more than 60 artists in various fields — visual arts, poetry, storytelling and performing arts — with the main objectives of fostering creativity, learning, skill-building, and fellowship among its members, while promoting Haitian art and culture through various cultural events,” said Lucien in his art book, “Migrating Colors.”
“As long as you are a Haitian American and an artist, we support you,” said Brunir O. Shackleton, a member of the HAAM since its inception. “We support visual arts, cinema, piano, and other things, but visual arts are easier to showcase more often.”
According to Crowley, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture has annually sponsored a HAAM art gallery since January 2011 — the first anniversary of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti — but the gallery has not always been held at City Hall.
According to Lucien, during one of the first exhibitions, former Mayor Thomas Menino bought one of the paintings and displayed it on the wall behind his desk in his office, which was a historic moment.
As it is the main gallery of City Hall, Scollay Square Gallery is the ideal location for any art exhibition, as more people are likely to pass through it daily.
“All of our potentially 19,000 city workers who may need to come to City Hall at some time, all of the guests and constituents coming here for services will be able to really reflect on the magic, lush colors, the feeling here of the Caribbean, which is magic to do in winter in Boston,” Mayor Michelle Wu said at the reception.
Mayor Wu was right. As the reception carried on, numerous people were seen both slowing down to get a closer look at the art, and excitedly asking questions about the artists and Haitian culture.
The year’s gallery is important not only to the featured artists, but also to the Haitian American community in Boston, according to City Councilor At-Large Ruthzee Louijeune, who is Haitian American.
“I’m so happy that we’re here to celebrate Haitian beauty and Haitian talent,” said Louijeune. “So much of these beautiful colorful paintings tell the story of our culture, the story of our struggle and of our survival and our beauty and our healing.