Photo: From left to right Erntz Jeudy, Jean Menard Derenoncourt and Viviana Dominguez.
Thousands of paintings have been rescued from the rubble of collapsed museums and galleries in Port-au-Prince after the devastating earthquake of January 2010. The artwork was brought to the Smithsonian Institution’s Haiti Cultural Recovery Center (CRCH) to be conserved by US professionals under the direction of Chief Conservator Stephanie Hornbeck.In July 2011, after finishing the St. Trinité Episcopal Cathedral wall paintings removal, I was contracted to work as the Chief Paintings Conservator at the Center a building that had survived the tremors http://haitiartconservartionla.blogspot.com/. By the time I arrived, after rescuing 3 wall paintings at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the disheveled office space was turned into fully equipped paintings conservation “atelier”. I found an overwhelming amount of paintings severely damage and in need of urgent care. Just one single of these wrecked pieces would have been a major challenged in any museum around the world. But at CRCH decisions needed to be made, there was no time for mourning or being intimated by the scary sight of the damaged paintings. We had to select the best treatment possible using our professional skills, creativity and the materials that were available to as.
We also trained 3 remarkable Haitian artists from the Ecole Nationale des Arts (ENARTS): Jean Menard Derenoncourt, Franck Louissaint and Ernzt Jeudy. These artists apart from being personable and fun to be around proved to have great skills for the tedious conservation treatments and showed serious commitment to the work they engaged in. They enjoyed learning about the theory behind conservation and were thrilled to be rescuing their Haitian Patrimony. They took pride on what they were doing. Our project was successful and an important legacy for the future of Haitian Culture.
I discovered the marvels of Haiti art, an area previously unfamiliar to me. I have learned about their perspective towards life, beauty and their dreams through the paintings I have conserved and by sharing time with the Haitian artists. The Haiti Cultural Recovery Project has been a transcendent experience for me.