Doing Art in Haiti: Another kind of pilgimage.

Its been months in the preparation and years in the making.

 Friday I leave the little town on the edge of the bay and near the big waters and head for Haiti. I am going to be an artist in residence at the National School of Art of Haiti. - ENARTS - for four weeks.

It is a very different sort of trip there, a very different sort of engagement.  

It is a sort of pilgrimage into the land of the imagination - not just the land of my imagination but of the imagination of Haiti as well. I will spend  a bit over four weeks in an intensive time of creative work with Haitian artists and artisans, and hopefully my imagination will explode into new visions. We will see. But mostly I will, God willing and some friends in Haiti consenting, walk for a short while in the company of artists, who I hope are also visionaries. I can't wait.

Earlier in the summer ten young people and eight adults went from St. Peter's, Lewes, on another sort of walk - a holy walk - with Lakota friends. At the close of our time there was an honor ceremony and I was given a scallop shell in memory of the trip. The scallop shell is a traditional sign of pilgrimage and it served to remind me that our pilgrimage in South Dakota was also a kind of strange pilgrimage, in that there was no destination apart from the walking together, no certificate at the end, no completion. It was a walking with.

Sunday evening those of us who went from Lewes had a chance to thank those in the parish who sponsored us by buying "shares" in our engagement there. Several of the young people spoke powerfully of the walk with Lakota young people and how the act of walking with others was so very different from learning about others.

So in some ways my trip to Haiti this time is a "walking with".   I hope to walk with Haitians trying to sing, dance, write, make marks on paper, distress metal into art, and on and on. And the act of walking with these friends will, I sense, be very different from learning about their art, or even learning to do art as they do.  In the end I will be walking my own walk, in terms of creative activity, and my aristic work will stand or fall on its own. But I will walk for a time with others who have found vocation in this way, and maybe (God willing) I will find greater clarity in the work I do.

I will take the Shell with me.  Thanks to the Rev. Margaret Watson, of Eagle Butte, SD, for the shell and the jog forward. Thanks to Kathryn, my beloved, for the support of  my years of dreams and visions and trips to Haiti.  And of course to Yvan and Cecile, friends for very many years, who are family wherever I am. And thanks to St. Peter's for encouragement both for this, and for my engagement with youth work there, and for a place where that other vocation of mine - the ministry of priest - gets mostly played out.

It turns out walking with the young in Lakota Land makes me younger, young enough to test vocation again, to taste the delicious idea that there might be a "new thing" in living, even as the years remaining are, shall we say, limited.

What I will be doing at ENARTS is working as a printmaker, working in relief printing (mostly from wood blocks carved there).  I hope to spend two days a week at an atelier for iron art makers, and three days in open studio time at ENARTS. If the reader is interested, examples of my work can be seen at www.preludiumarts.net 

I've been to Haiti in good times and bad for over forty-five years. Mostly I have been there to be with my good friend  Yvan Francois and his good friends and family.  I've been involved in life there on all sorts of levels. 

But this is something new for me. At long last I will be a contributor, not to Haiti the needy (but it never needed me) or Haiti "the poorest country in the western hemisphere" (Yvan and I hate that intro) but Haiti the creative and wonderous. A very small contributer, for sure, but there none the less. 

In a world that celebrates disaster and pain (for there our attention is often drawn) it is a blessing to be present in celebration of the small acts that reflect the larger Grace and greater will of The Creator, who had something god-like in mind for our hands and hearts. 

In the rubble that is the world, may we all find ways to mark the presence of Joy.


  1. As Augustine said of pilgrimage, "Solvitur ambulando" (walking solves it). May your way be rich with surprise and blessing, and may a hundred flowers bloom!

  2. May this be a voyage into an art, and into your own, and you continue to develop your artistry.

  3. "Several of the young people spoke powerfully of the walk with Lakota young people and how the act of walking with others was so very different from learning about others."

    I wish I could have heard it and drunk a deep draft of this!

    God bless you in your journey to Haiti --and may your vision be fulfilled.

  4. I also have traveled to Haiti. First in the sixties with Papa Doc officiating (terrorizing) and later in the eighties with Baby Doc riding a wave of personal prosperity. Both visits I was almost overwhelmed with a desire to JUMP IN and do product development. The artisians were very talented and did magical things with materials at hand or readily available...like them, I like inventiveness when creating art with materials at hand (more easy to keep the flow up/demand met too). So, you are DOING almost exactly what I had a desire to do in Haiti on each visit...participate in the explosion of creativity that is THERE and waiting for another boost. Enjoy, I know you will, prayers for you and Haiti, siempre, Len


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