Overview of Links to Haiti & Partners

Why Links to Haiti?


The Links to Haiti Cultural Exchange started in February 2010, when Haiti-American and former Links staff member Marie Casimir, Link Up artist Annie Rudnik, and activist Alex Polotsky planned a fundraiser to support victims of the devastating earthquake on January 12th. They partnered with Nicole Gallery, Chicago’s only Haitian Art gallery, supplied original paintings by Haitian artists to sell at the event to benefit Partners in Health’s work post-earthquake. The benefit was a success and the outpouring of love and support paved the way for Links Hall to establish an ongoing meaningful cultural exchange with Haitian and Chicago artists.


In February 2017, thanks to the support of the Southern Mobility Grant from the National Performance Network, Marie Casimir traveled to Jacmel, Haiti to meet with Dieufel Lamisere, founder and Artistic Director of Dance To Save Lives and HaitiDansCo. While developing the collaboration between Links Hall and HaitiDansCo, Dieufel shared the story of how their dance floor was built in collaboration with Jakmel Ekspresyon, a community center that provides local artists with space and facilities in a non-discriminatory environment started by Sue-Frame, former Assistant Director of Instructional Fabrication at the SAIC and Paul Karner, Director at the Carrefour Collaborative. Then in March 2017, the National Performance Network chose Links Hall and Dancing Grounds (New Orleans) proposal to co-commission Onye Ozuzu’s Project Tool to receive a Creation Fund Award. Project Tool is a dance performance installation developed through the fabrication of portable sprung wood dance floors created by the dancers themselves.


When Project Tool received one of the four 2018 Joyce Awards, the opportunity to fully realize an artistic exchange between Onye and her collaborators and Dieufel and HaitiDansCo became within reach. Links to Haiti will bring Project Tool to Haiti to work with HaitiDansCo and lead up to HaitiDansCo coming to Chicago to perform with Project Tool as part of the 2019 Hyde Park Jazz Festival.


We invite art and dance lovers join Links Hall, as we continue this ongoing beautiful exchange, as we travel to Haiti’s to experience its rich cultural offerings live and in person!


Links to Haiti Partners

Black Arts Retreat

Creating, connecting and rejuvenating in a safe and natural space.Black Arts Retreat (BAR) was founded in 2013 with the simple, yet profound mission of uniting lovers and practitioners of the African Diasporic Cultural Arts. Since that time, we have hosted 4 Black Arts Retreats in the Northeast United States and 3 international retreats in Berlin Germany, Dominica, West Indies and Bahia, Brazil. This independently organized retreat series is a haven for creators of all kinds, including those who don’t consider themselves to be artists (yet). Through the years we have brought together a dynamic international tribe to commune in nature, immerse in creativity and connect to each other across all perceived boundaries.

Project Tool

Project Tool is a dance performance installation in which Onye Ozuzu has been building a collection of sprung wood dance floors with a team of collaborators. What is learned physically, emotionally, and conceptually in the process of building has become the material used to craft the performance. This project stems from Ozuzu’s fascination with the inter-relationships between body, task, and tool. The act of building this floor explores the use of tools as if they are partners in a dance with the body. This project carries on through Ozuzu’s body and the bodies of other dancers who participate through the skills and know-how to make the floors upon which they dance and the opportunity to channel that practicality into their artistic practices. Project Tool offers the opportunity to stand strong in the embodied fact that we can literally build our own platforms.

Project Tool is a 2016 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist recipient as well as a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Links Hall in partnership with Dancing Grounds and NPN. Project Tool was supported by a Rebuild Foundation residency at Dorchester Art Housing Collaborative. This project is also partially supported by an Individual Artist Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Finally, this project was made possible through a grant from 3Arts that was partially supported by 67 donors to 3AP (3Arts Projects), including: Dawoud Bey, Dionne Champion, Margi Cole, Osubi Craig, Kristina Fluty, Darrell Jones, Stephanie Kobes, Lisa Lee, Jewel Malone, Mazi Mutafa, Pranita Nayar, Eliza Nichols, Chiedu Ozuzu, Justin Richards, Donatto Surratt, Kubilay Uner, Zachary Whittenburg, Fo Wilson, and The Instigation Festival.

HaitiDansCo. / Dance To Save Lives

Founded by dancer/choreographer Dieufel Lamisere, Dance To Save Lives provides orphans and homeless teenagers the necessary resources to keep them off the streets.They train youth in Haitian folkloric and modern dance forms. These accessible activities and services are provided daily for free in the city of Jacmel, Haiti. The students are immersed in the world of dance, allowing them to learn what it takes to be a professional performing artist, choreographer and/or dance Instructor. They also gain experience by touring as performers across the country of Haiti as HaitiDansCo./Dance To Save Lives maximizes the potential of the youth by exposing them to the rich traditional and contemporary aspects of Haitian culture through the lens of the performing arts. The organization hopes to increase the number of opportunities for these students to become successful performing artists of the future in Haiti. Mr. Lamisere began HaitiDansCo in NYC performing in the US and internationally. Today the dancers perform throughout Haiti and most recently toured to the Dominican Republic.

Marie Casimir

I produce performance, cultural events, multidisciplinary works, and exhibitions.

Djaspora Productions is my new company which bridges and celebrates the diverse human experience using arts and culture as a means to share, create, impact change and inspire others to act as global citizens in our own backyard and abroad. We work With and For creatives of color from all walks of life providing professional resources and building community across geography and interests so that we can thrive TOGETHER.

Roell Schmidt

Since 2009, Roell Schmidt has been the Director of Links Hall – Chicago’s experimental dance and performance incubator founded in 1978. With musician/presenter Mike Reed, she opened Constellation | Links Hall – a collaborative arts venue for dance, music and progressive performance in 2013. She is dedicated to fostering generosity, equitable partnerships, and artistic risk in the creation and public sharing of original live art. She is currently part of the Ragdale’s Curatorial Board and Navy Pier’s Program Committee. Prior to Links, she worked with Lookingglass Theatre Company, The Chicago Chamber Musicians, and as a freelance film/theater maker. She has served on the City of Chicago’s Cultural Advisory Council, the National Performance Network/Visual Artist Network’s U.S./Japan Connection Curatorial Team, the Chicago Dancemakers Forum board and consortium, and the Joseph Jefferson Awards Arts Technical team as well as on local, regional and national grant panels. She holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.