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In Haiti, Where Does Art Fit In?

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There's no doubt that art can help us cope with troubled times. It's a way to process the inexplicable, express the unutterable.

But with tens of thousands of Haitians still displaced and living in tent cities, some might consider art a luxury few can afford. Diane Ford Dessables, though, founder of Ayitian Arts Project, says that in addition to the obvious emotional benefits, there are real economic reasons for supporting Haiti's arts.

"What we're doing here is focusing on art and using art as a means of spurring community development," she tells NPR's Michel Martin.

She's the person behind 3 Pent Ayisyen (Three Haitian Painters), a small exhibition at a Washington, D.C., restaurant that focuses on the works of artists who live and work around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

"We're actually trying to increase the income artists receive — and that residual income permeates throughout the Haitian economy," Dessables says.

While small in scope, the aim behind the exhibit is to generate enough funds through the sale of paintings to repair an arts school in Jacmel that was left damaged by the earthquake that devastated the country two years ago.

The exhibition features works by artists Augustin Mona, Michelet "Najee" Calice and Henry Robert Derazin. It will be on display at Washington's Busboys and Poets restaurant through Feb. 17.

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