Monday, October 04, 2010

Heart of Haiti Comes to Miami

Here in South Florida, we're used to the cadences of different voices coming from Latin America and the Caribbean, but rarely, in our daily lives -- at least many of us -- come in touch with the real artistic and cultural traditions of those south to us in this continent.

One particular community, Haiti, has an artistic expression so deeply colorful, so expressive in every range of human emotion -- from the plaintive to playful, from the spiritual to irreverent -- that it has made yours truly wish she'd be one of those ladies of leisure who could open art galleries just to support the amazing creativity that comes out of this island nation.

Well guess what? Fate has a way, because happily, a new project has fallen onto my lap that I'm very happy to share with all of you.

There are women out there who have a vision -- women like Willa Shalit of Fair Winds Trading, who really takes to heart the idea using art for social change, something that is also close to my heart and that I wish I could do more of ... well, I guess blogging and social media helps me do that indirectly, so I'm grateful.

Shalit's efforts have helped bring economic recovery to women in post-conflict zones, one example being Path to Peace baskets, made by survivors of the Rwandan genocide and sold in the United States by corporate giant retailers like Macy's. Trade, and not just aid, has helped these women in ravaged zones earn a dignified living by making handmade artisan goods.

The same philosophy has heralded a new project for our neighbors in Haiti, who suffered a devastating earthquake earlier this year. Heart of Haiti launches locally this Thursday, October 7, 2010, 6:00 PM at Macy's in Dadeland Mall. Three artists will showcase their works, which are already on sale online.

Remember what I said earlier about not coming across artistic traditions from other countries? It's certainly the last thing you'd expect to see at a retail mall with major brands. And yet, it's happening.

heart of haiti macy's necklace holder and pendantIs support for artists important in the aftermath? I think it is. Food, water and shelter was, of course, the first priority in helping Haiti after the earthquake. But art that is shared can do more than just bolster spirits -- it can define a community when everything seems to be falling apart. Art doesn't have to take a back seat now; it can also help recovery from disaster.

The Heart of Haiti collection at Macy's is just that -- a way to celebrate the creative expression of these artists and support them in a way that is lasting.

I encourage all of you South Florida bloggers out there to come see the outcome of this project for yourself this Thursday. It's a special opportunity to meet the artists and see the pendants and other decorative objects inspired by the courage and resiliency of Haiti.

Heart of Haiti artists will be at Dadeland Macy's Home Store starting at 6:00 PM on Thursday. If you can't make it, kindly spread the good word and share the love on Twitter (@heartofhaiti) and Facebook. The hashtag is #heartofhaiti.

Also, if you like, tune in Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 1:00 PM EST on Social Chats. I'll be discussing the project with Heart of Haiti representatives and co-host Tonya Scholz. If you're busy during the day, you can listen to the show after it's broadcast.

What's not to love about this project? Like I said, it's a dream come true for me. Pinch me that I'm getting paid to share this with you. Hope to see you there.

Other coverage, to date: Miami Herald

PS ... if you doubt the power of artistic expression in the aftermath of catastrophe, or if you're simply having a bad day and need to smile, check out my friend Natasha Tsakos' heartwarming video, which she produced in collaboration with Ecoworks International: We Bring Joy in Haiti.

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