Largest Haitian art collection in Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Largest Haitian art collection in Waterloo

WATERLOO (KWWL) - Haiti's connection to eastern Iowa runs deep.  The largest collection of Haitian art in the U.S. is housed at the Waterloo Center for the Arts.  The earthquake may mean many of that country's most revered creations could be lost.  Kent Shankle is the curator at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. He oversees the country's largest collection of Haitian art. At more than 900 pieces, there are paintings with vibrant colors, metal works made out of oil drums, and intricate flags made of thousands of tiny beads and sequins.

"Haitian art is incredibly unique and a lot of that comes from the spirit of the people. They have a resilient and joyous spirit," said Shankle.

One that's shown in many of the pieces on display in Waterloo.  The collection began in 1977 and grew from there.

"The collection was started by a local couple who traveled to Haiti and fell in love with the place and started collecting and asked us to establish the collection. They continued to donate to the collection and others followed suit," said Shankle.

Shankle says the country's masterpiece collection in its national museum is probably destroyed.  He just hopes the art community survives.

"A lot of the artists will be deeply impacted by this devastating tragedy. Who knows if they'll ever be able to make art again?" asked Shankle.

Shankle is the co-president of the National Haitian Art Society and was planning an art conference there later this year.  That's probably cancelled.

Online Reporter:  Bob Waters

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