In the 1940s, a watercolor painter from the United States, DeWitt Peters, moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When he arrived, he observed the sprawling amounts of local art—adorning everything from walls and sidewalks to the local taxi buses called “tap-taps.” The Indigenist movement was in full swing in Haiti; local artists were making both a name for themselves in the country and helping establish the nation’s identity as separate from the United States’ occupation through the art they created.
At the time, though, Haitian artists hadn’t considered that they could make money from their art. The small nation didn’t even have its own art museum yet, so Peters opened Le Centre d’Art, an art gallery and school to encourage and promote local untrained artists, in 1944. Artists already popular in Haiti, including Hector Hyppolite, the Voodoo artist colloquially known as the “grandfather of Haitian art,” made their way to the center and took up residence there; the center provided government-funded equipment and materials many artists couldn’t afford.
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