Alumni Spotlight: Petrouchka Moïse

Petrouchka MoiseDr. Petrouchka Moïse is the first graduate of the LSU Doctor of Design in Cultural Preservation program, adding to her growing list of “firsts” in her many accomplishments. In the spring of 2020, Dr. Moïse became the first doctoral graduate of the College of Art & Design.

As part of the inaugural Doctor of Design cohort, Moïse’s doctoral research focused on the identity and role of the Haitian artist. Her dissertation and exhibition are titled “Mitan-Morphic: The Evolution of the Contemporary Haitian Artist in Relation to Trauma.” Her work showcased contemporary artists who no longer allow the lens on the Haitian culture to be out of focus or limited in its range.

“Haiti has always been presented as an island of ‘self-taught’ artists; however, the lens used to see and define the ‘Haitian artist’ has never been in focus,” she explained.

Petrouchka Moise and Professor Desmond in graduation robes“I myself am a self-taught artist and consider myself an outsider to the artistic establishment,” she said. “I struggled with my identity of being a creative; however, there existed no platform where I could analyze how my Haitian background influenced my artistic growth. Through my work in Haiti and the States, I have met other Haitian creatives that were working through similar shared spiritual and emotional upheaval as they try to find cultural validation within the Diaspora.”

Visual arts are the first step in how a community tries to remember the impact of a disaster, and all forms of art are utilized in the collective healing of trauma. “I witnessed this firsthand in my work with the Louisiana Office of Mental Health and the Governor’s Office of Community Programs during the recovery and the rebuilding of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “Unfortunately, I also witnessed, during the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, that the contribution of the Haitian art community was appreciated, but not seen as a form of healing or revitalization to the nation as a whole, unless through the means of tourism.”

Since the earthquake, Moïse worked with several diaspora-based organizations to affect change and maintain a collective dialogue. As a member of the Louisiana-Haiti Task Force and Cultural Crossroads, Inc., she questioned how to use the arts as a means of sustainability.

Post-graduation, her post-doctoral research focuses on contemporary art in consecrated Vodou spaces. Dr. Moïse was awarded a 2020 CLIR/Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Data Curation for Haitian Visual Arts. Dr. Moïse is central in coordinating the Haitian Art Digital Crossroads project (HADC).

Now, she works jointly with the Grinnell College Library and the Waterloo Center for the Arts. The HADC aims to make the Haitian art collection of the Waterloo Center for the Arts, the largest publicly held collection of Haitian art in the world, digitally accessible as a preparatory study for creating a digital hub for a network of online resources in Haitian and Caribbean studies.

As of 2022, Dr. Moïse accepted a position as assistant professor and Cultural and Community-Based Digital Curator at Grinnell College. In her role, she looks to develop interdisciplinary initiatives to enhance the learning experience of the academic and cultural community. She also expands her scholarship as an artist/scholar by investigating the narratives surrounding identity through resin, wood, word, and water.

Dr. Moïse serves on the following: 1) Grinnell College Africana Diaspora Studies Department Steering Committee, 2) Haitian Studies Association – Executive Board Member, Communications Committee Chair, Emerging Scholars Committee Member, Art & Design Working Group Co-Chair, 3) CLIR’s Future Libraries, Archives, and Museums in Excavation (FLAME) podcast series.

As a Grinnell faculty member, she aims to continue her research and work with others in art, culture, and education.

Being treated as an outsider, “I understand how important it is for an individual to have a sense of ownership in their identity, agency, and expression of their truths.”