Founder Tegan Bukowski on SERENESocial

Tegan Bukowski, the founder of ArtistsActivist, has been writing on SERENESocial.com for the last few months. Recently, she wrote about our ArtistsActivists project to redesign and build the Diakonos Orphanage in Haiti. See the excerpt below, or click here to see the article on SERENESocial.

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On this World Women’s Day I would like to highlight the efforts of my ArtistsActivists all-women team of designers who have been working on the design of the Diakonos Orphanage in Haiti. Our design and planning efforts are culminating in a fundraising event on this Monday, March 10 at the Skylark in Manhattan. We hope to raise a portion of the construction costs and get the word out about this very important project.

Haiti’s orphaned children problem goes beyond the issue of children not having families. Abandoned and orphaned children, especially girls, are often exploited as “restavek” or household slaves. They are abused and malnourished and denied access to any education. Having spent time with the adorable and sweet kids of Diakonos, it is hard for me to believe that such terrible exploitation still exists in the world. It breaks my heart to imagine that some of these kids might have been slaves before being adopted by Diakonos. Everyone deserves a family. Everyone deserves freedom and education and a comfortable home where they can feel safe. From the beginning, Diakonos has been dedicated to creating a home for these kids, and they continue to grow due to an immense need in their community.

Diakonos Orphanage is located in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburb of Port au Prince that was badly hit by the earthquake in 2010. The orphanage building was thankfully not entirely destroyed and the kids were kept safe inside, but Wilfred Longchamp, one of the co-founders of the orphanage was killed in the quake. After this tragedy, Diakonos continues to thrive as an organization under the guidance of Wilfred’s sister, Martine Longchamp. Martine’s daughter, Kiziana, has started a bi-yearly arts workshop that brings in hundreds of kids from their entire community called Art Day Celebration. These powerful and amazing women continue to create a family for the Diakonos kids, my team of architectural designer women (myself, Alisa May and Yasemin Tarhan) hope to give them a home.

The ArtistsActivists design for the building will increase the amount of kids that Diakonos can accommodate to 50. The design centers on the idea of “hearth”, by creating a centralized plan we hope to make the house feel like a home rather than an institutional building. A lush garden is planned for the backyard that will provide fresh foods everyday day and cut costs for the orphanage. A new water well will provide fresh water for the orphanage to consume and sell.

Please consider supporting the project by donating on Crowdrise. We really can’t do this project without you. Thank you!

    Cocktails for Haiti Orphanage Fundraiser

    On March 10, 2014 we hosted an event at the Skylark in Manhattan to raise funds for the Haitian orphanage that we designed for Diakonos International. The event was a success and we had so much fun! Thank you to everyone who came and to our co-hosts: Millana Snow, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Emmanuel Hector, Amie Romano, Erin Ralph and Martine Longchamp and Eddy Albertini. Our partnering organizations were Diakonos International, Art Day Celebration, SERENESocial, Sanctuarity and the Skylark.

    We surpassed our fundraising goal for the night, but there is a long way to go for the entire orphanage building to be funded. If you couldn’t make it to the event, please consider donating via our campaign on Crowdrise.

    Check out the pictures from the event!

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      Event: Cocktails for Haiti at the Skylark March 10

      Please join us this next Monday, March 10, for our event at the Skylark in Manhattan to support the building of the Diakonos Orphanage that Yasemin Tarhan and I designed. There will be a silent art auction of Haitian and American art and photography, amazing cocktails served by the Skylark barkeepers and an truly magnificent view from the windows of the venue. Come one, come all!

      March 10, 2014 from 7PM to Midnight
      The Skylark, 200 W 39th St, 30th Floor, New York, NY
      Ticket price is $20 or a donation of you choosing. Get tickets at Eventbrite now.

      Check out the full design of the architectural project here.

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      Tegan BukowskiPosted by Tegan Bukowski
      Executive Director, AA.ORG

        AA Cameras, Seth Caplan, and Arts in Bushwick

        Besides his role in ArtistsActivists as Photography Director, Seth Caplan also volunteers with Community Projects in his Bushwick neighborhood through the local organization Arts in Bushwick. As stated in their mission, Arts in Bushwick “serves and engages artists and other neighborhood residents through creative accessibility and community organizing.”  Last week, Seth used our ArtistsActivists cameras to lead his AIB students on a photography workshop through the city.  Read on for more images and a description of the program from Seth.

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        This year, we started our High School Fellowship Program to do just that, specifically focusing on giving art and community leadership opportunities to local students who are passionate about art and interested in pursuing art after high school. The Fellowship is in its pilot year and will include four workshops with neighborhood artists and galleries, and four “art club” meetings involving professional skills and community building.

        I had the opportunity to plan and lead our first workshop at the Bushwick Community Darkroom with fellow AiB coordinator and photographer Lucia Rollow. We wanted to introduce the Fellows to the darkroom through a photogram workshop and work with them on the idea of portraiture and identity. The latter was done through a discussion of Dawoud Bey’s Class Pictures series. I was grateful to have use of our cameras here at Artists Activists, to use at the AiB workshop. The Fellows used the cameras to take portraits of each other outside, focusing on the landscape of their neighborhood and how identity is expressed through the interaction between artist and subject.

        The workshop was a great success. The students were able to experiment and get their hands dirty in the analog processes of the darkroom while experiencing a totally new medium for them. Then, they took a moment to think hard and make purposeful decisions while taking portraits with digital cameras, a technology and mode of expression they are quite familiar with. I am grateful to be able to be a part of two such wonderful organizations, all currently run by volunteers, where resources can be shared to reach common goals. Here, Artists Activists’ cameras went into the hands of Bushwick high school students who took an afternoon to focus on slowing down the process of photography in order to get a better look at themselves and their community.

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          Photoblog: Windows of Europe by Alex Hall

          During my semester studying in Geneva and traveling to many cities throughout both western and Eastern Europe my windows project developed enormously. I began photographing the exterior of windows and doors a little over a year ago. It began as a project to explore people’s reactions to facades. The interest stemmed from my own reactions and judgements I felt myself having about a neighborhood or building depending on the facade – ignorant of what was behind it – and catching myself when i would form judgements about people and places from their facades.

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          I decided to zoom in on those facades, and as people have photographed portraits I began to photograph portraits of windows and doors. I wanted others to check themselves before their judgments are formed as well. We depend a lot on facades when we are in unknown places, they lead us to decide what streets to walk down, what we think of the people in the neighborhood, and often misjudge environments. Photography can allow one to view every window – door – building as simple beautiful art, and this is exactly how we should view everything we pass. although it can be interesting to question class levels and socio economic issues one has to be aware of the minute facts they are basing their opinions on when viewing a facade. I hope my series provokes you to ask yourself why you are making the assumptions you are about who might live behind these facades. furthermore, to imagine someone living there and then step back and just view it as paint, cement, brick, glass, and structure, and see what thoughts the colors leave you with.

          The full series may be found at:
          windowsofeurope.tumblr.com and will be continued as I live in Paris for the next 5 months and travel to Morocco, Barcelona, Dublin and Florence.

          Alex HallPosted by Alex Hall, AA.ORG

            Photoblog: Pigeons and Peace in Bogota by Nathan Berther

            Starting on Monday December 9, 2013 people began gathering on Plaza Bolivar in Bogota in order to stand up for the 2012 elected mayor, Gustavo Petro, after he was banished from the mayors office and politics for the next 15 years. Allegedly he “violated constitutional principles of commercial competition and freedom” when he tried to de-privatize the city’s garbage collection system in 2012. “They want to force out this mayor, not for his name, but for what he stands for … he is in the first place a man who made peace” said Petro about himself. People and Pigeons united in the plaza.

            For more than a week people and pigeons have been peacefully protesting and standing their ground in the name of democracy and against the countries long struggle with corruption and unjust leadership.

            White pigeons have long been used as a symbol of peace. The following images are an impression of the protests in the early afternoon just before the great masses arrived.

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            See more images after the jump!

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              Inspiration: Bas-Citronniers School via Yves Deshommes


              Image Credit: Bas-Citronniers Website

              It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that persistence is key in humanitarian aid. As ArtistsActivists is setting up a self-sustaining orphanage in Carrefour, Haiti we came across a similar Haitian story. Just as Martine and Wilfred Longchamp returned to Haiti to start Diakonos Orphanage this story follows a man who returned to his home town to find it in ruins and had the heart to do something about it.

              Yves Deshommes came to New York when he was 17, having been raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He works as a concierge in the Rodin Studio Building, at 200 West 57th Street, now used as an office building for doctors and dentists. The earthquake left five of his nieces and nephews dead and his mother with a bad leg injury. After visiting the areas around Port-au-Prince he decided to look for an area with the most desperate need of aid. Coming across the Bas-Citronniers he decided to dedicate his aid on this isolated region, “reached only by fording the La Rouyonne river five times, Mr. Deshommes said.” Upon returning to NYC Mr. Deshommes founded the Haiti Bas-Citronniers foundation. Sixteen trips later, and having spent much of his own money, he has been able to provide the un-sheltered with large tents, establish the construction of a school, and develop plans to build a community center, vegetable garden and clinic. It simply took instincts for him to realize that “going once but not returning doesn’t do anything.”

              Mr. Deshommes immediately understood that “We have to do this right because it’s a template.” And it was through the arts that he has been able to realize much of his aid work on the ground in Haiti. He found that buying art from local Haitian artists to re-sell in New York benefited them in the short run, and long run. With the aid of the tenants in the building in which he works, Mr. Deshommes has been able to put on small art shows in the offices, leading to the sale of many paintings. He also exhibited in the Harlem Fine Arts Show at Riverside Church, in New York. Simply bringing the art from Haiti, where the arts market was diminished, to the thriving arts market in New York, has provided funds of tens of thousands of dollars, himself raising $40,000 of the $200,000 goal for the foundation.


              Image Credit: New York Times Librado Romero

              There are many small communities ignored by NGOs and UN aid. Although large organizations can often get funds and provide eminent humanitarian aid, it is people like Mr. Deshommes and our staff at ArtistsActivists who understand the importance of aiding a community to get back up on their feet and become self sufficient for a lifetime. Large organizations donate food, provide shelter, and sometimes aid in education. However, they do not re-construct communities, they create temporary places of relief. Our re-construction of Diakonos Orphanage will create a long lasting, self-sustaining community and we will remain active with it even after it reaches that point. Mr. Deshommes is an inspiration to us all as he shows how through the arts, and through persistence, one can let a community know that they are there for them and will not drive off in trucks and pack up tents one day when it seems the perils of the earthquake are subsiding. We applaud you Mr. Deshommes and know that we are following your template!

              All quotes taken from this NYTimes article published on January 18, 2013.
              Or visit the Bas-Citronniers School Website.

              Alex HallPosted by Alex Hall, AA.ORG

                Inspiration: Landfill Harmonic

                Our very own Darrel Holnes shared this a amazing and moving story with me today and I just had to share.  In one of the most destitute slums in Latin America, Cateura in Paraguay, a group of kids are being given the chance to learn how to play instruments.  But these instruments aren’t like the instruments you would find in an American middle school.  Each instrument is painstakingly made from garbage found in the dump that the slum is built on. These instruments are immense works of art.  The music that the kids play on these instruments is truly unbelievable given the materials used to make them.  Watch the short promo for the documentary below, and visit their website to contribute!

                Tegan BukowskiPosted by Tegan Bukowski
                Executive Director, AA.ORG