AID AND PRESERVATION EFFORTS

Perhaps you were one of the fortunate museum visitors to the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida or other U.S. venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to see the wonderful hand-made quilts of Gee’s Bend. Fashioned by a group of African-American women in a remote area of Alabama, these bed covers bespoke of their makers’ innate sense of superior color, design and technique. Prized by collectors and justly lionized by art critics, the quilts are part of the women’s heritage.

Now their artistry is being put toward a generous effort to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. On Saturday, March 13th, some of these quilts will be auctioned off at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in Miami, Florida’s design district at 3530 North Miami Avenue. Festivities get underway at 7 p.m. and the auction begins at 8:30 p.m. Thank you to acclaimed quilters Mary Lee Bendolph, Loretta P. Bennett and Gunnie Pettway for donating these prized fabrics, which range in price from $15,000 to $20,000. They are also making a special quilt for the occasion. Let’s hope some high rollers and representatives from corporations with an eye toward helping Haiti are among the bidders that night. All funds will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund. (For more information, telephone 305/573-2700 or visit the website
www.bernicesteinbaumgallery.com).

Angela Charlton of the Associated Press, with an article datelined Paris, France, wrote in the Miami Herald this week about an official who worries that bulldozers in Haiti are endangering its art and architectural heritage. “There is a temptation to demolish everything,” says Daniel Elie, director of Haiti’s governmental Institute for the Preservation of National Heritage. “When the bulldozers come, it’s fatal.”

United Nations officials believe that preserving the country’s churches, artwork and mementoes from its slave result, which ended with the establishment of the world’s first independent black republic, are essential for the nation. Cathedrals and other buildings dating back to the 17th century are barely standing or reduced to rubble. One cannot help but wonder if the re-building effort will include attempts to duplicate these buildings or start from scratch with other designs.

Elie’s agency is compiling lists of buildings that should be protected to send around to other government agencies, journalist Charlton writes. She continues: “Elie is joining Haiti’s culture and communications minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue and UNESCO officials for talks this week to determine the most urgent needs for restoring damaged historical and cultural sites.”

Only time will tell how much of Haiti’s precious paintings, sculptures, Vodou flags, artifacts and buildings still exist and how many others can be saved, repaired and rebuilt. And will the world continue to pay attention to Haiti and its remarkable people? This is a country that deserves global attention for decades to come.

–Candice Russell

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