Haitian Art Benefit for Riverwest Radio
By launching Riverwest Radio, Xav Leplae has given a voice to a particular Milwaukee neighborhood and to a cast of interesting people from across the metro area who serve as volunteer hosts on the station’s half-hour programs.
The station began in 2012 as an internet channel broadcast from Leplae’s storefront, Riverwest Film & Video (824 E. Center St.). On New Year’s Day 2016, the station went on the air as WXRW-LP (104.1 FM) with a signal reaching five miles in all directions from the studio.
Riverwest radio has received sponsorship from local businesses but continues to operate on the proverbial shoestring. To raise money, Leplae has organized an auction of contemporary Milwaukee and Haitian art to be held April 8-15 at Green Gallery (1500 N. Farwell Ave.)
Leplae first became interested in Haiti while driving a taxi in New York City in the early ‘90s. He estimates that he looked at 1000 paintings on the main square in Port-au-Prince on a recent visit before purchasing the 55 paintings featured in the show. He told Huffington Post correspondent (and Milwaukee expatriate) Joe Kutchera that when he started looking at paintings, numerous street merchants approached him with rolls of paintings under their arms.
“Fights broke out,” Leplae said. “It became a mob scene. Everyone saw me as a ticket to their next meal. I told them, don’t worry, I will look at all of your paintings,” he explains. “When there’s such disparity between our worlds, money is the conduit for conversation. Haiti needs more people going there to do business.”