Art Day Celebration was created to provide underprivileged and impoverished children with the tools to develop their creative and artistic abilities through art. The program aims to uplift children and help them find a purpose while simultaneously providing an outlet for self-expression.
Enter New York based artist Sophia Domeville. Born and raised in the United States, she identifies with her Haitian roots. She joined ADC last year which provided her an opportunity to visit Haiti for the first time. This year’s celebration will take place July 18th-22nd in Haiti.
Your culture influences you on a great level — was this always the case or did it grow as you became more involved with your art?
I visited Haiti for the first time last year as a teaching artist and have never been the same since. My culture has always been a major part of my life growing up. It was a catch-22 growing up Haitian during the ’90s. Being from a different culture that was not popular — especially Haitian — was quite taboo when I was a child. I didn’t really embrace my Haitian culture until I was in college. There, through my discovery of my own voice as a female artist, I re-discovered a deeper love for my culture as a Haitian woman.
What does the Art Day Celebration mean to you on a personal and professional level?
On a personal level, Art Day Celebration (ADC) was a manifestation of a dream I had last year when I first decided to dive back into my career as an artist. I was looking for an opportunity to share my passion and vision of using art as a medium to change the world. I had this immense need to visit Haiti and connect to where my gifts as an artist were most influenced. Visiting Haiti through ADC as a teaching artist was my right of passage as a woman. I changed so much internally and spiritually that I can never be the same again.
On a professional level, I sharpened my skills as a teaching artist with the ability to teach over 150 orphans in one setting and working with an amazing staff. My art changed quite dramatically as I discovered my voice through richer colors and expression.
How did the experience of teaching those children affect you?
My experience teaching the children affected me so deeply. I was in awe at how innately talented they were by just laying down canvas and paint on a table. I enjoyed seeing the eager minds as they immediately started to map out their work to be painted. I have two memorable moments, watching 150 children deeply engaged in art and the look of complete peace as they all painted. My second memorable moment was finally capturing the beauty of Haiti as we drove to WaMu Beach in the Northern Part of Haiti. Our drive was so breathtakingly stunning as if I was flipping through the pages of a travel magazine. This trip made me appreciate Haiti even more. We need to break the stereotypes we hear and see so much about in the media because Haiti is truly a beautiful country.
Why do you think it’s important that children have access to art and creative tools?
The importance of art in general is such a necessary tool for ALL children during their developmental stages of life. I feel it is very crucial to supply our children with tools to express their creativity whether it be through writing, music, dancing, acting, photography, drawing, paint and more. Art, I feel will continue to change the world, the perception of society and especially change one’s life.
ADC’s stated purpose is “bring healing, restore hope and nurture the creative abilities of underprivileged children.” How has art transformed your own life, and in what ways do you see art changing the lives of these children?
Art has saved my life from many issues I had while growing up in a strict and sheltered Haitian household. My art, allowed me to break free from stereotypes, find my own voice and understand my purpose as a woman. The ways I see art change the lives of the children I taught in Haiti, honestly just to let them see and understand their vision through the arts meant the world to me. I feel the bigger impact is showing the children that their work was seen across the country, made a difference in someone’s life and helped fund their art program.
What kinds of things are you looking forward to doing?
I will be traveling back to Haiti in July 18-22nd as Art Day Celebration’s lead teaching artist for our program “Art on Canvas”. There I will be in charge of creating the curriculum, leading the staff of fellow teaching artists and making sure all of the children participating are able to paint their own expression. I look forward to heading back to a place I call home, seeing the children again and creating more experiences with fellow artists.
What other nonprofits are you a part of and what makes Art Day Celebration so different?
Halls That Inspire is a nonprofit organization that uses art as a means to encourage and uplift youth. Using a “hands-on” approach. This 4 week intensive program teaches youth leadership development along with the art techniques needed to beautify the halls of their schools and other facilities. By using positive messages that reflect academic excellence, self-pride, and anti-bullying as a focal point, youth are better able to resonate with who they are and how they are connected to their communities and schools. I am the current Vice President and will step down to transition as their new Executive Director this summer overseeing all art projects, working with numerous schools throughout the country and implementing our new programs.
My passion of giving back to the community also granted me an opportunity to become mentor/teaching artist and one of the founding members for herDIVASpot, a non-profit entity that promotes the value and self-development of school aged young ladies. As a teaching artist, my workshop within our organization is called DIVINE in which I teach art-integrated projects and lesson plans that teach students specific skills on one’s personal value, self- identity and analyze the impact that family genealogy can have on self-worth.
What makes Art Day Celebration different from these two organizations it is closely connected to my roots. As a Haitian woman and as a Haitian American artist, I get to give back to a place where I feel my gift originated from.
What made you become so passionate about giving back to these communities?
I have been a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc for the past 10 years and our motto is “Greater Service, Greater Progress”. I learned early on as a member of my organization about the power of nourishing our community though, “Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service.” I never forgot the tools I learned during my process, and I always enjoyed the experience of helping others within our community. It gives me great gain to see the impact of my work as a volunteer, as a teaching artist and as a mentor because I truly feel I can and will continue to change the world, one step at a time.
You have spoken of redefining culture as a measure of success. What do you mean by that and in what ways would you say you’ve done so?
I think others have titled me as such, I learned success to me is not just about financial gain, it’s more about the impact I have made as a woman, artist and mentor within a community. I feel as an artist pursuing my passion, I am breaking ground on various levels and changing the perception of how a woman, in particular, a Haitian woman should live her life against what is “normal” to our society.
Though you’ve certainly already left your mark, what else would you like to do in the future as it relates to Haiti or in general?
What I would like to do in the future within regards to Haiti is to continue working as a teaching artist and possibly connect the large amount of art programs we have down there under one umbrella. I feel if we all gather together as ONE, we can truly change the face of Haiti and help cultivate the next generation through the power of art.
Artists and non artists can get involved with ADC by going to
http://www.artdaycelebration.com/volunteer-recruitment-form/ and filling out the volunteer form. They may have the opportunity to work with Art Day Celebration in Haiti or during one of our fundraisers this summer.