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Screenprinting Program-A Great Start!

    This spring I had the great pleasure of participating in a month long artist residency at Jakmel Ekspresyon (JE) in Haiti. JE was set up and run by Sue Frame, an art educator and impassioned activist based in Chicago, following the devastating earthquake in 2010. The earthquake death of an incredible trans-activist Flo left a hole in the community that Jakmel Ekspresyon has been trying to fill. Flo’s work centered around creating safe space for the LGBT community within Haiti and interactive art installations about American privilege to travel and resources.

    JE aims to continue Flo’s mission of using the arts to empower and teach women, the LGBT community, people with disabilities and any other individuals who are often excluded from opportunities by Haitian society. JE establishes deeply appreciated and needed safe space, as well as providing free/affordable arts education to talented local artists. The program is intensively training 15 artists in 2-D design, Screenprinting and 3 months of business practices, so that JE can provide Jakmel with a functioning screenprinting facility and fine art space.

    JE brings in teachers as an artist in residence program from all over the world. Each AIR creates their own syllabus based on the development and needs of the class and the previous teachers curriculum. As the June AIR for JE I had the privilege to live with one of the theater directors that collaborates and helps run the facility. I also shared the house with his wife and their beautiful, enormously fat new born baby!

    I specifically worked in, JE’s screenprinting program.  The screen printing program is an ambitious push to establish an industry that does not exist in Jakmel. Without this program, anyone wanting art or a product to be screenprinted must travel over an hour to Port-au-Prince (the capital of Haiti).

    My role for the month of June and a little of July, was teaching beginning screenprinting. The students were incredible artists that were very thirsty to learn.  We quickly extended class hours from the scheduled 2 hours a day to 7! There were a fair share of difficulties: no running water at first, then no pressurized water, no spray adhesive for mounting t-shirts, only four 150-200 mesh screens for 15 people, and only 4 printing stations. However, anyone who knows me understands that I love down and dirty printmaking! My students were incredibly innovative, as were all the teachers and there is little that some yoga mats, mosquito netting, flour and some brain power can’t fix!  We fixed the light-leaking emulsified screen space with mats. A fellow printing colleague from New Orleans, my friend Meg helped make screens out of mosquito netting, which actually worked! We used wheatpaste, for everything from mounting shirts to transparent base (instead of more expensive and specific products). The students chipped in, teaching and inventing techniques I would never have thought of!! At the end of the month they had editioned two color postcards, three color posters and had worked on Photoshop to develop and screenprint images of themselves!

    The experience was incredibly rewarding for everyone involved. With four more teachers coming, and muling the supplies in with them, the space will continue growing and improving! The experience was so rewarding I want to get back to Haiti in November to continue working with my students. 

This brings me to: I’M TRYING TO FUNDRAISE! As one of the few remaining free art education spaces in Jacmel, its mission is tremendously important. Please take the time to check out the JE website .If you are looking to donate to Haiti, there is still a lot of work to be done after the earthquake and continuing programs like Jakmel Ekspresyon will help rebuild a creative, healthy community.

-Pippin Frisbie-Calder


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