Haiti partnership projects on display

Incorporating elements of engineering, global health and visual design, the Dartmouth/Haiti Partnership Exhibition, which debuted in the Hopkins Center’s Strauss Gallery last Tuesday, truly embodies an interdisciplinary approach to art. Curated by studio art professor Jack Wilson, the exhibit offers enlightenment on the many projects concerning Haiti that the College has been involved in since the 2010 earthquake.

Wilson, who is teaching an “Integrated Design: Engineering, Architecture and Building Technology” class, was inspired by Dartmouth’s impressive response to the 2010 earthquake. Working with Partners in Health, a group co-founded by former College President Jim Yong Kim, Dartmouth sent health care providers, medical supplies and monetary donations to the relief effort.

After learning of impactful initiatives led by the Geisel School of Medicine, the Tucker Foundation, Student Assembly and the Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health, Wilson said he sought to become involved in the cause and has now introduced a studio arts perspective to Dartmouth’s initiatives.

Several of the posters examine Haitian rural and urban architecture. Others describe the $300 House project, which brings affordable housing to victims of the earthquake. Last February, Dartmouth hosted a workshop for designers, builders, physicians, politicians and other professionals to develop prototypes for the house’s infrastructure.

“That was perhaps the first, or most significant, example of studio arts students collaborating with business students,” Wilson said.

Another poster highlights the Porter Symposium, hosted by Dartmouth through support of the Porter Family Foundation. Held in February, it brought together members of the Haitian government, medical community and business professionals to collaborate on solutions to economic development, education and health care problems in Haiti.

A video playing in the center of the exhibit displays footage from the workshop and symposium, Wilson’s several trips to Haiti and the Haitian performances and artwork brought to the College by the Year of the Arts campaign.

“The arts are really an essential part of solving these problems,” Wilson said.

He cited the work of Haitian graffiti artist Jerry Rosembert-Moise as an example of art restoring hope and celebrating Haitian identity and culture.

Chelsey Kivland a postdoctoral anthropology fellow who lived in Haiti from 2008 to 2010 while she conducted research, became one of the core members of the consortium of College officials engaged in projects in Haiti. One of the exhibit’s posters is dedicated to her study of the interplay of violence and politics in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.

“It’s an academic exhibit,” Kivland said. “I think it’s interesting to think about how to present our academic and applied work in an aesthetically pleasing manner, as part of this art domain and within an artistic sphere. That in and of itself is an interdisciplinary exercise. In particular, this exhibit is interesting because it allows us to think what it is about a university partnership that is different from a corporate partnership or an organizational partnership.”

Kivland brought her class, “Race, Power and Development in Haiti,” to an advanced showing of the exhibit last Tuesday.

The images of street life in Haiti that circle the exhibit are “very important for providing context for the particular project,” she said.

Kivland noted that the works present “what street life is actually like in Haiti: lively, bustling, with people socializing and enjoying their lives while earning their livelihood. Overall, the exhibit presents people in Haiti as agents of their own history and of their own future as opposed to victims in need of Dartmouth’s saving grace.”

Kivland stressed the importance of an interdisciplinary technique to problem solving in developing countries.

“If you were to ask an average Haitian what’s needed in Haiti, the answer would be very long,” she said. “It would be, we need food, we need good schools, we need better electricity, we need access to drinking water, we need better hospitals and we need a decent health care system.’ The list would go on and on, and you would be given a list that is comprehensive. It’s extremely important when looking at development in Haiti for it to be interdisciplinary, because the problems are interdisciplinary.”

The key to responsible humanitarian work is this interdisciplinary mindset, said Elliot Sanborn ’14, a student in Kivland’s class.

“I thought the exhibit was a terrific example of interdisciplinary cooperation with an emphasis on experiential learning,” Sanborn said.

The exhibit demonstrates that access to the right resources can allow the Haitian community to take an active role in helping themselves, Kaya Thomas ’17 said.

“I really enjoyed the exhibit because it focused the Haitian community and their partnership with Dartmouth rather than presenting Dartmouth as a savior for developing countries,” she said.

The Haiti/Dartmouth Partnership Exhibit is open through Nov. 24.

Top Stories