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Students Receive United Nations Honor

Written by Kate Harner

Willimantic, CT -- Three Eastern Connecticut State University students joined Executive Vice President Michael Pernal and Akus Gallery Director Elizabeth Peterson on Jan. 29 for the inaugural Arts for Peace Salon at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel in New York City.

The salon was presented by Arts for Peace, an initiative of the World Association of Former United Nations Internes and Fellows (WAFUNIF,, and was organized by Director Dean Leslie and Development Officer Frank Dominguez. "Arts for Peace puts art into practice and uses it for peace in real and usable ways," said Leslie.  "It touches real people in their communities. We use visual arts, dance, performance, music and communications to further our mission."


Paintings from "Haiti Rising: Selections from the Stanley Popiel and Ingrid Feddersen Collection of Eastern Connecticut State University." 

The Eastern students' band, The Phantoms, was awarded the 2011 United Nations Arts for Peace Emerging Artists Award for their humanitarian work this past January, when they volunteered in Haitian orphanages and spread their message of love and peace through music.

Band members include Jordan Lorrius, a senior communication major from Stamford; Matthew Grosjean, a senior political science and economics major from Ellington; senior Donald Palardy '11, a computer science major from Jewett City; and Christopher Brechlin '10 from Meriden.


                                          Ingrid Feddersen

The Phantoms performed "Ayiti Kanpe," which means "Stand up, Haiti," and "Volim te New York," which draws parallels between the NATO bombings of Belgrade, Serbia, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.

Lorrius and Jourdan Urbach, a sophomore at Yale University who is both a violin virtuoso and philanthropist, were also named United Nations Arts for Peace Goodwill Ambassadors.


                          United Nations Director Dean Leslie

On display during the salon was the exhibition "Haiti Rising: Selections from the Stanley Popiel and Ingrid Feddersen Collection of Eastern Connecticut State University."  The late Stanley Popiel and his wife, Ingrid Feddersen, donated more than 240 Haitian paintings and sculptures to Eastern in 2000. Feddersen spoke at the Arts for Peace Salon about her and Popiel's frequent visits to Haiti between 1975 and 1999, when they collected art and worked with the Haitian Health Foundation ( 

Haitian artist Serge Geffrard, many of whose surrealist paintings are in Eastern's exhibition, was also present and answered questions about the artwork.

"This collection is not just a gift from Popeil and Fedderson, but also a gift from the Haitian artists and people themselves," said Executive Vice President Michael Pernal. "We are honored to have these works displayed at Eastern and at this event."

UN-Pernal and peterson.JPG

Elizabeth Peterson, director of Eastern's Akus Gallery and Michael Pernal, Eastern's executive vice president.

Peterson, director of Eastern's Akus Gallery, curated the Haitian art exhibition, which had previously traveled to the Yale Institute of Sacred Music in summer 2010. "Haiti is one of the richest nations in the world -- not in material wealth, but in cultural life," said Peterson.  "Art and music are the heartbeat of Haitian culture.  Haitian artists and musicians know better than most of us that the arts are what buoy you up, inspire, empower and delight. Art is an essential ingredient for peace and well-being."

Peterson spoke about the loss of thousands of works of art, particularly in Port-au-Prince at the National School of Art, the Center of Art, and the George Nader Gallery and Museum, as well as conservation initiatives spearheaded by the Smithsonian Institute to repair damage and train a new generation of Haitian conservators.


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