Visiting Artists Make a Lasting Impression On RFH Community

October 20th, 2014



Visiting Artists Make a Lasting Impression

On RFH Community

Visiting artist David Thebaud, with RFH French teacher Christine Berg, discusses his work entitled “Man With a Pipe” — which includes parts from his wrecked motorcycle — with French III and AP French students.

Rumson – “What they paint seems to affect their reality and somehow improve it,” said Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School senior Max Reynolds.  “It’s almost as if the artists are closing their minds and opening them at the same time to create a brilliant interpretation of their existence.”

Max was reflecting on his experience as a Student Ambassador for Myke JosephSurpris and David Thebaud, Haitian artists and founders of the ELT Art School in Haiti. Students in RFH French and Art classes were treated to an open dialogue and a close-up look at the work of the artists and their students on October 2 and 3.

RFH French teacher Christine Berg, who was instrumental in arranging the visit, made a connection with the artists and the ELT School – which they founded in 2002 — through the Haitian People’s Project in 2009.

Surpris and Thebaud – who is well-known in Haiti as the artist “Tebo” – spent two full days at RFH.  French students Max Reynolds and Madeline de Quillacq, a sophomore, acted as Student Ambassadors/Translators for the French- and Creole-speaking artists’ visits to Art classes.

After school ended on October 3, Canvas Art Studio on River Road in Rumson hosted a reception for Surpris and Theobaud. The event, open to the community, featured 50 pieces created by the artists and by their students aged 12 to 18.

Surpris and Theobaud expressed appreciation for the opportunity to spread the word about the beauty of Haitian culture and the importance of the ELT School, whose full name in Creole – EspwalavipouTimoun — translates to “Hope for Children’s Lives”.

“We want to give a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the RFH community for its support,” said Theobaud to Kate Okeson’s Art Studio students  “You are helping us to achieve our goal, which is to bring something important to the world and leave it behind for others — just as the artist Michelangelo did.”

Surpris, who speaks three languages – French, Creole, and English –isimproving his English speaking skills with an eye toward someday studying anthropology in the U.S. He stressed the importance of the ELT School, which provides children with hot meals and an outlet for expression as well as hope.

“One of our most talented artists is a 12-year-old-boy who once was a thief in the streets of Port-Au-Prince,” he said.

The Art Studio students asked whether prospective pupils need to submit a portfolio to be considered for acceptance to the ELT School. After answering in the affirmative, the two artists explained that the cost of supplies limits the number of students that can be enrolled in the school to 35.

“That is why were are traveling outside of Haiti, to spread the word about our school and to sell artwork that will help us to grow,” they said.

The studentsin all of the classes were dazzled by the beautiful creations and impressed by the positive attitudes of both artists about the future of Haiti, which has been devastated by political upheaval and by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake of 2010.

“Many of the intellectuals have left Haiti, and right now people are either poor or wealthy with no in-between — and there are many more poor than wealthy,” said Surpris. “We are working toward democracy and building a framework, we are just not there yet.”

In Rumson, both Thebaud and Surpris achieved the goal of leaving behind something that will always be remembered.

“I learned a lot about Haitian culture and art, and what it truly represents,” said RFH senior Ginger Wardell, who found both the artists and their art to be inspirational.  “Since I am taking an upper-level art class, it was nice to be able to actually talk to successful artists.”

For more information about ELT School or the Haitian People’s support project, visit



Mary Ann Kampfe, RFHRHS Press Release Writer or 908-347-8885