Artist from Haiti makes a life in Whiting

WHITING — On a cold Vermont night, Julner Remy warms his spirits with recollections of his native Haiti, recollections he commits to canvas and wood with deft brushstrokes.
His paintings have recently become far more than a balm for his soul. A lot of his work is now on display at the EastView at Middlebury retirement community, where the 33-year-old Whiting resident currently works as a caregiver.
“It keeps me connected to Haiti,” Remy said recently during a break from his studies at Vermont Adult Learning (VAL), where he is on track to fulfill his high school diploma requirements by this fall.
“It’s like a memory you have that never dies.”
It was in 2009 that Remy and his wife, Alison, moved from the Caribbean nation of Haiti to Whiting. Alison Remy is a Vermonter who had traveled to Haiti in 2002 to teach at an orphanage-based school in the community of Jacmel, in southeast Haiti. Julner Remy was raised in an orphanage and was at the time working with mentally challenged children at the same facility where Alison was teaching.
They met, and fell in love. Alison, a special educator at Rutland High School, would travel back and forth to Haiti, teaching and volunteering and maintaining ties with Julner. She and Julner got engaged, and decided to make their home in Whiting.
It’s a move that Remy has not regretted.
“I’m not a big fan of the cold, but I survive it,” he said, noting the stark climate differences between Vermont and Haiti.
While Alison has continued to teach in Rutland, Julner has worked at various jobs to supplement the income of a family that now includes two children. He has worked at the Silver Towers camp in Ripton, which serves children with disabilities. He has detailed vehicles at a car dealership. He now assists elderly residents of EastView, where his artistic talents are on full display. Several of his paintings will be on exhibit at EastView through the end of this month.
His paintings are largely acrylic on canvas and explode with tropical colors evoking street and market scenes that Remy recalls from Haiti. Many of the works have an impressionistic flair to them. Some of his artwork keys on religious icons. Virtually all his pieces feature people. Remy will soon shift gears to painting Vermont subject matter, transitioning from the boisterous streetscapes of Haiti to the bucolic landscapes of the Green Mountain State.
JULNER REMY’S ART will be on display at the EastView at Middlebury retirment community through the end of February. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Knowing how tough it is to make a living as a painter, Remy isn’t placing all of his eggs in the art basket. He is studying hard at VAL, taking a steady diet of English and math courses. After earning his high school diploma, Remy wants to go on to college to become a nurse.
“I like it; I like challenges,” he said of his academic pursuits. “I have always wanted to go farther in life. Everything you want, you have to work hard for it.”
Plans call for the Remy family to return for a visit to Haiti this summer. Remy, of course, was not in Haiti when it was hit by a massive earthquake in 2010. Many of Remy’s friends were affected by that earthquake, from which the country is still rebuilding. But the Remys’ return will be for a happy occasion — a friend’s wedding.
Officials at VAL have watched, with admiration, Remy’s scholastic improvements. They are also excited to see his artwork exhibited.
“He’s done amazing work,” said Joe Przyperhart, coordinator of VAL’s Middlebury location. “He’s a very dedicated student, articulate and humble. He has a very kind soul.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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