serge-toussaint_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

It was a year this Wednesday since an earthquake that devastated Haiti and took hundreds of thousands of lives. The aftershock caused massive health problems and homelessness keeps growing.

In tribute to the victims, the art community, led by Haitian artists, came together to design and paint a 5,000-square-foot mural commemorating the first anniversary of the earthquake.

Chris Purdy, an artist with MLK Murals, who has worked on the colorful mural, said it is designed to capture Haiti's past, present and future.
“We also want to remind people that, in order to overcome adversity, people must learn to give back. Everyone who has come to these shores and has experienced some kind of prosperity should and must give back,” Purdy said.

Marie Louissaint, president of the Little Haiti Optimist Club, said, the mural was a combined effort of the Optimists, MLK Murals and other organizations.

Youth Expressions, a program for Haitian youth, donated the wall of its building for the painting. From time to time, some of the youths from the organization stopped by to help with the painting, said Eric Lopez, program manager for Youth Expressions.

The mural was designed by artist Kevin Morris. Working against time, about a dozen artists managed to finish the work, sealing the paint on Monday in time for its unveiling on Wednesday,

“This entire project has been embraced by the community,” Purdy said. “Although I am not from Haiti, I am a descendent of the Caribbean. And I am doing all I can to help. We are doing a good work for a good cause.”

Other artists who donated their time to paint the mural include Cairns “Nice” Athouris, Drew Carry, Veronica Estrada, Gino (a tattoo artist), Kyle Holbrook, Bayunga Kialeuka, Kevin “Smurf” Morris, Addonnis Parker, Jones Pierre, Serge Toussaint and Darrin Watson.

Louissaint said Pierre, a member of the Optimist club, suggested that a statue be created to mark the anniversary, but the mural got the nod because it was “more cost and time effective.” 

The project started on New Year's Eve, with the priming of the wall of the building at 7900 NE Miami Ave. The painting started on Jan. 3, giving the artists 10 days to complete the project, Louissaint said.

Purdy said many of the artists are already well established, including Gino, whose art is sold to famous rap stars.  Holbrook has done mural projects all over the world, including a recent work in Haiti, where he helped put some 7,000 Haitians to work.

“This is an example of what can be done when the community pulls together,” Purdy said.