April 15, 2016 01:34 PM

“The most civilized, educated and creative people on earth,” King Henry I said in 1811 about his plans for the Haitian people.

Haitians, however, already had a long-standing sacred tradition of painting, covering walls of voodoo temples in elaborate paintings of the sacred spirits. This tradition easily moved to easel painting, and Haitian artwork is known for its use of vibrant colors with greatly varying subjects from flora and fauna to scenes of daily life, domestic interiors and the marketplace, fishing and harvesting sugar cane. These paintings often portray tragedy, but leave viewers with a sense of optimism.

Alex Bien-Aimé is a Haitian artist, born in La Petite Riviere de l’Artibonite, who emerged in 1991 and received his degree in Plastic Arts in 2005 from the National School for Arts in Haiti. He is currently in charge of the Mission at the National Haitian Museum and has organized exhibits across the Francophone world, from Belgium to Canada. He has been a major promoter of Haitian culture for 25 years and uses his own artwork to show the lingering pain of slavery in Haiti.

As an expert in mosquito and malaria control, Glenn Stokes found himself working in Haiti from 1969 to 1990 and almost immediately became interested in Haitian art. He and his wife, Yvonne, started collecting artwork during this time, and their collection now includes close to 400 paintings.

These two very different men who share a common passion are coming together Saturday, April 16 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Acadiana Center for the Arts to engage in a conversation about their shared devotion to the art of Haiti. The gallery talk is in conjunction with the exhibition, “Haiti: Paintings from Paradise — The Collection of Yvonne and Glenn Stokes,” on view at the AcA through April 30. The exhibition commemorates the 30th anniversary of Festival International de Louisiane and is free and open to the public.

For more information about the exhibit visit the AcA website at acadianacenterforthearts.org/haiti-paintings-paradise.

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