Things to do
Not just naive: check out the art at Le Centre d’Art
Le Centre d’Art, Port-au-Prince
Photo: Anton Lau
Located at Rue Roy, Le Centre d’Art is an institution dedicated to nurturing Haitian artists and their work, as well as documenting and safeguarding the legacy of Haitian art by making it more accessible to the Haitian public. As well as offering free access to Haitian art and its history, Le Centre d’Art also offers art classes.
Le Centre d’Art was born from a genuine desire to see Haitian art grow and expand. In the Haiti of the late 1940s, before the Haitian Naïve style was made famous by international art dealers, there was no such thing as an art gallery in Port-au-Prince, let alone a public art school; this was not in the scope of the government of the time.
It was still, however, an issue that was very important to many intellectuals in Haiti and particularly to American watercolorist DeWitt Peters. An artist by trade, Peters was always encouraging others to pursue their artistic interests; Le Centre d’Art is the fruit of this encouragement, support, and guidance. From its founding days, Le Centre d’Art has been invested in mentoring Haitian artists in their craft.
About the collection
As part of its mission to give Haitian art its rightful place in Haitian society, Le Centre d’Art has five collections which are split up according to medium.
There is a collection that features paintings on different types of supports, one which showcases metal and wooden sculptures, a collection regrouping graphic art by prestigious artists and one collection where paper archives and artwork dossiers are preserved. The last collection features art publications – which includes the very first Haitian art review published by Le Centre d’Art itself.
Lovers of art will be happy to learn that although Le Centre d’Art was affected by the 2010 earthquake, the collections were successfully saved and works that were damaged have been restored. The team efforts resulted in over 5,000 pieces of art being saved and the gallery reopened in 2012 with a fully restored collection.
Most of these paintings you’ll see in Haiti are under the umbrella of Naïve art. Popularised through initiatives launched by Le Centre d’Art, as well as Peters’ own encouragement of individual artists, you can now find examples of the Naïve style all over Haiti - on the walls of the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Pétion-Ville, at the Wynne Farm Nature Reserve in Kenscoff, or in the public squares of Champ de Mars.
Le Centre d’Art is no exception, but you’ll find an unlimited range of expression here. Works from creators of all types of backgrounds are shown in the collections – from Naïve artists to storytellers to autodidacts and intuitive visionaries. The mission of Le Centre d’Art is to bring Haitian art into the light – regardless of its genre or origin.
Classes at Le Centre d’Art are taught mostly by Haitian artists who are either affiliated with programs linked to the gallery or who have called the gallery home at some point in their career. These paid classes are open to participants of all ages and backgrounds, and some – like the children’s art class - are specifically geared towards the public.
How to visit
Le Centre d’Art is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon. Entrance to the gallery is free.
For lovers of art, lovers of history, and lovers of art history, Le Centre d’Art is an accessible portal to Haitian creativity. A wonderful way to spend an hour or two out of the tropical sun and immersed in Haiti’s rich and colourful culture!
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