On June 1st, we gathered together with friends and supporters for our annual Haiti Optimiste event in New York City at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) to benefit Artists Institute. This year’s event was hosted by Grammy Award-Winner Maxwell and Artists Institute founder David Belle.
The event opened with a performance by the event’s artistic director, Haitian musician Paul Beaubrun. Paul is one of Haiti’s most promising new international musical talents, with a recent chart-topping solo album and appearances alongside artists such as Arcade Fire, Sheryl Crow, and Lauryn Hill.
After his performance, guests viewed a screening of the short documentary “Dans la cour de Vivianne Gauthier”, which explores the life and legacy of Vivianne Gauthier, one of Haiti’s most iconic dancers, choreographers, and teachers, and the role that her remarkable home has played in her career. Directed by Marie-Claude Fournier and beautifully shot by Ciné Institute graduate Marco Saint Juste, the film was produced by Ciné Institute for the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation.
Following the screening, Riva Précil and Bohio Music took to the stage. Having studied dance with Madame Gauthier in Haiti, Ms. Précil gave a striking performance of dance and music that left the audience breathless.
Afterwards, Artists Institute Director Paula Hyppolite and graduate Cesar “Bougon” Massena gave inspiring testimonials about the training made available through the Institute and employment opportunities for graduates. Paul Beaubrun then returned to perform a new song “Surrender”, dedicated to Bougon and his incredible journey. Paul recently wrote the song while attending a Songwriters Summit at Artists Institute hosted by music legend and APJ Advisory Board member Jackson Browne.
David Belle then came to the stage to join Paul, bringing with him Maxwell and Artists Institute advisory board member Michael Brun. Both guests spoke about their experiences at the Institute and the importance of supporting young Haitian artists. Michael Brun told the story of writing his hit single “Wherever I Go” at the Institute and his own personal journey of connecting with his Haitian roots. Maxwell then spoke about how his trip to Artists Institute helped him connect with his heritage. He expressed that he has been searching for an organization that he could trust, whose impact is evident and consistent. He is excited to be supporting APJ and Artists Institute on his upcoming tour, donating $1 from every ticket sold to support our programs in Haiti. The news was met with overwhelming applause!
Following these testimonies, supporters in the audience were asked to consider making contributions of their own to fund the future of the school. The response was overwhelming and shattered previous records from the event.
The show wrapped up with a screening of the “Wherever I Go” music video, directed by Ciné Institute graduate Marc Henry Valmond and a electric performance by Haitian roots band Lakou Mizik. The audience was on their feet dancing in the aisles, some joining the band on stage before everyone was led out of the theater in a rara procession to enjoy a reception with amazing Haitian cuisine prepared by Nadege Fleurimond.
It was truly a magical night thanks to so many friends and supporters. Our deepest thanks to all who came to Haiti Optimiste and for your support of Artists Institute. Until next year!
Click here to see more photos from the event.