Astrel Joseph is one of the young adults who has been involved with Living Media since the very beginning, having served as proof of the incredibly deep artistic talent that exists in rural Haiti that has been left untapped. Even before the birth of Living Media, Astrel was a student of co-founder, Lee Rainboth’s, and he had been searching for ways to take his art to the next level. Now, as he participates in LMI’s various programs, he has found the opportunity to do just that, reach a new level with his art.
To Astrel, art used to be just a fun pastime, but nothing that could be taken seriously in his society. He always knew that he liked to draw but never imagined that his interest in art could ever turn into anything more. Now at age 23 he has become one of our most popular artists at our gallery alongside professionally trained painters from the cultural capitol of Haiti, the city of Jacmel. Having started out in our original art classes at the Living Media Learning Institute, Astrel pursued his art through every opportunity offered. The day that he sold his first painting through our gallery he still remembers as a time that changed his outlook on life and what was possible. He describes himself as an artist that rotates between creating work to tell conceptual stories on social issues such as religion and injustice, and creating work for purely technical reasons practicing different methods of applying paint and mixing colors. He now depends on his art to support both himself and his family. He has a wife and a 6 month old daughter that he now cares for, and with the income that he gets from his art he is working to build a house for them. He loves his family dearly and says that he is proud to be able to work to provide for them.
But Astrel is not just a painter. As a participant in our Dreamer program, he has been offered the opportunity to explore many more creative endeavors in addition to cultivating his skill in painting. With the support he receives as a Living Media Dreamer he has been able to attend classes to learn screen printing, keyboard, and English. And he not only receives a superior education in the arts but has also formed a very meaningful relationship with his sponsor, Mary, from Iowa, who he considers one of his closest friends. Through this program he has received the encouragement that he needed to believe that his gifts are valuable and have power to help himself and others around him.
As Astrel’s ablilities grow, he has now started to use them to teach others about art as well to share with them the beauty that he has found. One way that he does that is as a co-instructor for our new art students at the Learning Institute helping them experiment with new ways to express themselves through the skills that they learn there. He also has started to teach visiting teams about Haitian art history and basic drawing techniques. This new activity that Living Media has begun offering for our volunteer teams from the US has proven to be a unique opportunity for our foreign guests to take a look through the eyes of our Haitian artists and get the chance to be creative themselves. Astrel says he enjoys this opportunity to share his knowledge and hopes that more visitors to the country begin to see the value in Haitian art and what they can learn from Haitians such as himself.
Astrel enjoys sharing his creativity with his community in any way he can. This has also led him to get involved in music as well as he uses his natural gifts as a writer and artist combined with what he has learned from his coursework to contribute to a local hip hop group called Prophetie Squad in which he sings. “The music allows me to say things that I can’t in my painting and it gives me a voice to say what’s important to me.” Astrel says. He also appreciates the opportunity to be viewed as a role model as many in the community see him perform and use his public platform to bring both joy and a new perspective to those who hear his music. He pours his entire heart into the lyrics that he writes and hopes that audiences and listeners can appreciate that.
We all at Living Media have been inspired by Astrel’s work for sure, and we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next! To support programs such as the ones Astrel benefits from, please visit our Donate page and make a contribution today. Or consider becoming a Pledge Partner with Living Media and sign up for regular donations to help us bring these creative education opportunities to as many people in our communities as possible. You can also view our Online Gallery to see some of Astrel’s work and support him directly through a purchase of a painting or one of the t-shirts that he creates for our Gallery Shop. Thank you for partnering with us to help young Haitians like Astrel discover their gifts and follow their dreams.