Hurwitz Center

MFA in Community Arts (MFACA) Programming in Haiti

Ken Krafchek, Paula Phillips, Anne Kotleba, and Gracie Xavier traveled to Haiti to teach art curricula to high school through adult-aged students who are enrolled at the Jakmel Ekspresyon Community Arts Center. The team’s fast-track courses in monotype printmaking and bookmaking, digital photography and stenciling, and beginning drawing and collage correlated with the Center’s mission to provide professional certification and expanded work potential for those enrolled.

On December 29, 2013, a four-member team from MICA's M.F.A. in Community Arts (MFACA) program boarded their flight enroute to Port au Prince, Haiti, and onward to Haiti's southern city of Jakmel. During this two-week teaching residency, MFACA Graduate Director and faculty member Ken Krafchek '95 (Studio Art); Paula Phillips '96 (Hoffberger), M.F.A. in Community Art faculty member; Anne Kotleba '11 '12 (Community Art), OSI Community Fellow 2013-14, director, Baltimore United Viewfinders; and Gracie Xavier '14 (Community Art) presented fine arts classes to more than 50 local high school-aged students and adults who are artist-members of the Jakmel Ekspresyon Community Arts Center.

The citizens of Jakmel are still recovering from 2010's catastrophic earthquake and accompanying tsunami; the 7.0 magnitude epicenter was located just 30 miles north of the city. Like the more publicized capital, Port au Prince, many miles of property were destroyed and massive numbers of people of all ages and status perished. Participating art students lost family members and friends, the majority of their schools and many of their teachers. Daily power outages persist, some over 12 hours in duration; poverty has increased and limited resources of all kinds, including quality art materials, continue to challenge the citizens of Jakmel where art is not deemed a luxury, but a vital, integral living organism, symbiotic to life and living.

Communicating through spoken word was an initial challenge to the team, Jakmel staff and students alike. It is interesting, though, how art processes; able and dedicated teachers; committed students and staff; safe space and the will to give and receive seemed to transcend and outweigh the spoken word. The 'making,' the 'teaching' and the resulting 'relationships' that were forged amongst all became the prime ingredients for successful art outcomes across the board. The MICA team's art workshop curricula integrated with Jakmel Ekspresyon Center's mission to address the social justice concerns of local disenfranchised Haitian artists by providing a safe and welcoming space for learning, exhibiting and performing. These art outcomes stand as witness and attest to the determination and will to prevail and thrive by sharing stories of Haitian life. The classes the team conducted were free-of-charge and were intended to facilitate further uplifting of the voice and vision of local artists.

The classes taught by the MICA team also matched components of the overarching goals of the Center, which is to award artistic certifications in several artistic disciplines to those who qualify, ultimately providing a more balanced opportunity for successful and meaningful entrepreneurship within the community. Regardless of the difficulties and challenges, the students worked diligently, increasing the depth and breadth of their professional skills portfolios, ultimately receiving certifications within various artistic disciplines.

On January 13, the final day of the workshops and residencies, the MICA teaching team, with the assistance of the Jakmel students and staff, installed a closing exhibition of all of their artwork. The Center's participants and staff, their families and friends, as well as many other community members attended and participated in closing ceremonies, which involved performances, spoken word, viewing the artworks and much socializing. It was an amazing culmination and celebration of the time spent--a true celebration of life. MICA's Lucas Fund and Friends of Art Education provided support for this initiative.