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Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010

'Writing on the Wall' panels, desks, tents, hundred of shoes and other donations head to Haiti

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- "Writing on the Wall," a democracy-themed interactive arts project and special feature of Indiana University's ArtsWeek 2008 and IU's Moveable Feast of the Arts, is en route to a "second life" as graffiti-covered construction material for use in Haiti.

Writing on the Walls

Answers to the questions, "What is democracy?" and "What does it look like?" appear in more than a dozen langues on the "Writing on the Wall" panels being sent to Haiti for use as construction material.

The 26 festive, plywood panels, described as "perfect" for use as walls, helped fill a cargo container of aid donated by the university and Bloomington communities and collected as part of relief efforts by IU's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, with help from the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

The cargo container was shipped to Miami last week and will continue on to the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti. Charles Beeker, director of the Office of Underwater Science at the School of HPER, said he plans to work with officials in the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Ministry of Culture in the Dominican Republic to make sure the container both gets to Haiti and is distributed appropriately. Beeker traveled to the Dominican Republic last week to conduct field research.

"We've got three generators, three desks, three sets of fans, sets of office chairs, the panels, which are essentially prefabricated walls that include a subtle message. We want to help agencies in Haiti get set up and operational; it's important for the country's infrastructure," Beeker said. "The container also contains clothing, 500 shoes, numerous tents, tarps and sleeping pads, hygiene and first aid supplies and other donations meant for individuals."

Writing on the Walls

The "Writing on the Wall" panels helped 'Cram the Container' along with tables, chairs, generators, tents, tarps, sleeping pads and 500 shoes.

"Writing on the Wall" was a collaboration in 2008 between the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, IU's SoFA gallery, and Joe LaMantia, a longtime Bloomington community artist. Blank white panels were set up to create a wall in Bloomington and eventually on all of the IU campuses, where LaMantia would encourage onlookers to take up a pen and answer the questions, "What is democracy?" and "What does it look like?"

The answers come in more than a dozen languages. In addition to the wall panels, murals were created by five graffiti artists as part of the project. The murals are on permanent display in Ballantine Hall at IU Bloomington. The panels, however, were packed away in university storage, until Beeker noticed them and inquired about their use in Haiti.

LaMantia said it is a humbling experience, and a compliment, to have the "Writing on the Wall" panels used in this way.

"It's what a role for an artist can be, where you take one thing and change it into another. This is becoming the second life of the project -- it gets changed into a physical entity, not so much a political entity. We're taking words and putting them into action that is critically needed, helping with the pain and suffering in Haiti. It's one of those turns of events that turned out just right."

More information about IU relief efforts can be found at http://www.indiana.edu/~haiti/.