Helping Haiti though art in Queens, NY

A report by Tequila Minsky for the Times Ledger.

Friends of Haiti and fans of Haitian art will have a chance to support relief work on the Caribbean island while picking up some beautiful artwork this weekend at a fund-raising gallery show put on by From Here to Haiti in Whitestone.

The relief organization begun by Queens resident and painter Patricia Brintle started working in Haiti’s southern department of Grand Anse after the 2010 earthquake, and its efforts expanded after Hurricane Matthew damaged many more buildings in 2016. From Here to Haiti facilitates the repair of non-governmental buildings and creates jobs for the local people through that repair work, and Brintle funds the work in part through an art gallery at the group’s Utopia Parkway headquarters.

The show this weekend will feature paintings by well-known Haitian artists Bernard Séjourné, Jacques Enguerrand Gourque, Gesner Armand, Eric Girault, Phillipe Dodard, and Gina Samson as well as works by wood sculptor Randolf San Millan.

The 80 pieces on display and sale will also include work by international artists, such as France’s Chantal Westby, Guyana’s Carl Anderson, Sierra Leone’s Ebony Thompson, and Senegal’s Akassa, whose works in acrylics with terra cotta have a unique, three-dimensional feel.

For more than half of these artworks, it will be the first time that they are on public display.

“Some of the art is from personal collections and they’ve decided to sell,” said Brintle, whose oil and acrylic paintings will also be available for purchase.

Nader Gallery, MedaliaArt and Couleur Vision are also participating in the show.

Priced for every budget, some prints will sell from $10 and up — all the way up to one painting, which is priced at $7,000.

A full 30 percent of the sales will go to fund the work of the Queens-based not-for-profit with ongoing projects throughout the island.

“Our first project was in 2011, after the earthquake. We fixed the columns and the roof of a church in Les Abicots,” said Brintle.

In six years of work, From Here to Haiti has put roofs on churches, repaired walls, built latrines and dug a well. Why churches? Often the most stable and largest building in a village, they are used for shelter during environmental catastrophes.

Volunteers from the United States sometimes join Brintle and her husband Joe on the Haiti trips, paying their own way and assisting as needed. But it’s the local hires who do the bulk of the work.

“We’re there to help them help themselves,” Brintle said.

The local focus goes beyond just hiring local workers. The group’s work is steered by local requests and partly funded through the efforts of local beneficiaries and their relatives overseas.

“Our priorities are guided by funding. The people who make the request (both in Haiti, and family and kinsmen originally from that region) help with the fund-raising,” said Brintle. “At least one-third is raised by the people from the area. The board decides which projects to take on.”

A special collectors’ preview — an evening when the art lovers have a chance to converse with the artists — will be from 6–8 p.m. on April 21, but the exhibition and sale will continue over the weekend, from 1–6 p.m. April 22–23, at the headquarters of From Here to Haiti at 1446 Utopia Parkway in Whitestone. For more information, call (646) 209–3891.

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