(L-R) Paul Haggis, Ben Stiller, David Belle
(L-R) Paul Haggis, Ben Stiller, David Belle Photo Credit: Fabiola Jean

By Fabiola Jean

Black History Month kicked off to a great start  in lower Manhattan at “Retouch/Haiti Charity Cocktail Party.” The benefit was a collaboration with Splashlight’s production manager, Camille Park, founder of Artists Institute, Paul Haggis and CEO of Artists for Peace and Justice David Belle. Artists for Peace and Justice supports communities in Haiti through programs in education, healthcare, and dignity through the arts.  Artists Institute is a college for art and technology located in Jacmel, Haiti. The Institute creates modern opportunities for Haiti’s youth to foster entrepreneurship and business development in local creative industries.

“Artists bring a certain level of consciousness and compassion,” Park said. “The idea that inspired the fundraiser was that many of the conversations had to do with  what these students will be doing after they graduate, what’s next? We thought well Splashlight is a photo studio and we retouch photos all over the world why not train one super qualified student, furnish him with two computers send him back to Haiti and he trains a whole group of other re-touchers? And if they dedicate themselves to completing the rigorous work, Splashlight will hire them. It’s a self sustaining initiative.” Splashlight is a production agency offering photography and video services for top fashion brands and retailers like Macy’s.

Proceeds raised from the benefit will go toward passport and visa fees, room and board, winter clothes, phone, travel health insurance and two fully-equipped retouching computer stations for Artists Institute in Haiti.

Artists Institute is a free college for art and technology in Haiti. The institute creates opportunities for under privileged youth to foster entrepreneurship and business development in local creative industries. It offers programs in music, film and music production and audio engineering.

Among some of the  highlights of the evening were silent auctions, unique artwork sold by Artisan Business Network, Jimmy Jean-Louis calendars, raffled photographs shot by Artists Institute students  and celebrity photographer Marc Baptiste, as well as an intimate photo booth set up by the celebrity photographer. In addition, there were performances by Ian Mellencamp and special appearances by board member and renown actor Ben Stiller, model Anderson Noel,  and Maurepaz “The Mambo Kid” Auguste, world champion kick boxer from Haiti.

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