Students at Shippensburg University do not often think of the library as a place to find art, but from April 2-27, Haiti — A Nation’s persistence, is being displayed in the Main Gallery. Keely Kernan, the artist, gave a talk on the exhibition on Monday, April 9.
Kernan is a nationally and internationally recognized, award-winning freelance photographer. She has been to many nations and has spent the past seven years of her life traveling.
She has worked alongside Nongovernmental Organizations on public health issues and runs educational programs for those living in tent communities in Leogane, Haiti.
Often, working with NGOs and other programs helps to fund her art so that she can maintain her projects while working with other needs as well.
Kernan has also worked outside of Haiti in many Central and South American countries as well as South Korea.
Her heart for her subjects is evident in her art. She captures their entire story in one still moment, and does so beautifully.
The library display alternates between color and black and white photos. They show the harsh conditions under which the Haitian people live.
It has always been a poor country, but since the earthquake in 2010, its living situations are even worse.
Reconstruction is slow and there have been many roadblocks. Now, two years later, thousands of victims are still living in crude camps with barely enough to live. It is a country with annual hurricanes, health crises, political instability, economic crises, etc.
“Haiti is a place of extremes. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and it is a place where people struggle to survive. But it is also a place where the human spirit is deeply felt and life is celebrated,” said Kernan.
The celebration of art and healing are important to Kernan. Being both a photographer and a painter, she believes in its power to heal.
In Jacmel, she has been working with a group of Haitian artists to help with art therapy with children and exhibitions for the adults.
The group is called Kolektif Atis Jakmel (KOLAJ).
The exhibit also features photos of some of the children’s paintings.
Hope is the main goal in having the children paint. There is hope in art and life in color, and much of that seems to be missing from Hati’s situation.
When asked what her next project would be, Kernan said she had be staying in the United States for a while.
She free-lances doing commercial photography and works on her own projects when she is not traveling.
Freelancing is how she funds her trips, and she will save while she is here so that she can go back to her work in the countries she loves.