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Local photographer provides images of hope at the Alliance for the Arts Storm Stories exhibit in September

Kinfay Moroti
Photographer/Artist Kinfay Moroti

During the month of September, the Alliance for the Arts is exhibiting Storm Stories, a media show that celebrates our collective recovery from Hurricane Ian’s devastation.

Entwined within artworks about the storm made from remnants of the storm are 80 stories of survival, loss, heroism, humanity and resilience compiled by the Gulf Coast Writers Association from oral histories contributed by survivors of Ian.

Each Saturday, professional massage and Reiki therapists will donate their time to provide 15-minute sessions for people who were impacted by Ian. And inside the Foulds Theatre lobby, renowned photojournalist Kinfay Moroti brings Southwest Florida “Hope: The Other Side of Hurricane Ian.”

From 2004 through 2019, Moroti was an award-winning photojournalist employed by The News Press and USA today Network. So when Hurricane Ian struck, he did what comes naturally.

“So when the hurricane came, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t working directly with the News Press anymore," he said. "I still was going to cover our communities, and how they dealt with it, and how it impacted them.”

Among the hard-hit communities he visited were Harlem Heights, a West Gladiolus neighborhood that has more Puerto Rican ancestry people than nearly any neighborhood in America, and Suncoast Estates, which straddles a remote section of North Fort Myers.

“So I felt like, yeah, if I can go to these places, to capture moments there. It would maybe remind folks that out-of-sight shouldn’t be out-of-mind,” said Moroti.

With their permission, Moroti digitally captured the losses these residents experienced and posted the images on his Facebookpage. That’s when hope sprang eternal.

“I have a pretty good following in Southwest Florida, so wherever community I went … is where the resources went. So, ‘Oh, Kinfay’s in Harlem Heights, he’s showing us what’s happening in Harlem Heights.’ ‘Oh, he’s in Suncoast Estates, the trailer park in North Fort Myers, let’s get some resources out there.’ So wherever I went and documented authentically what was going on no matter the socio-economic status of the community, the resources would kind of follow.”

Besides thousands of individuals, Moroti is followed by the many non-profits whose stories he helps share through his company, Hopeful Images. One such organization isBetter Together, which helps keep kids out of foster care by helping families in crisis.

“The hurricane comes, they’re still doing that but they kind of turned into let’s get out into the community physically, knock on doors, deliver vital resources and if we can help their families, we’ll do that as well,” he said of Better Together.

One of the people Better Together helped was Jacqueline, whose image Moroti had shared on Facebook just a couple of days before. The photo is haunting. She stands with her daughter, who is clutching an infant, and two of her other grandchildren, hand-to-temple in the doorway of their destroyed home with a look of utter despondency that’s immediately recognizable by anyone who’s ever experienced a loss.

Jacqueline Hurt
Kinfay Moroti 2022
Jacqueline Hurt

But while Moroti’s exhibit chronicles moments of hurt like Jacqueline’s, it focuses more on the hope to which the hurt gave birth.

“In order to get to hope, you have to go through hurt. There’s no other way to get to hope. And I have chosen to take those hurtful moments that you experienced and remind you that there is hope. That these hurtful moments actually give birth to hope,” said Moroti.

Kinfay Moroti
Jacqueline Hopeful

From the hundreds of photos he took, Moroti has chosen 11 and paired them with images of the moment when hurt gave rise to hope. To make the exhibition interactive and somewhat immersive, he has affixed both images to a distressed piece of blue tarp, which he is hanging from the ceiling of the Foulds Theatre lobby.

“So that’s what they would come to. A picture-based experience, I like to call it, that’s going to require them to put their hands on some material to re-experience some of that hurt, and then actually do a physical act to get to the hope …”

Since the people Moroti shoots are not mere subjects, he hopes that many of them will turn out for the show.

“I’m more than excited about everyone that’s pictured learning that there are pictures and because it’s going to be up for 30 days I look forward to meeting them back there and reliving those moments with them, for sure.”

Where Moroti’s pairings place an emphasis on hope, Storm Stories focus on healing. There is one twist. Instead of the usual Opening Reception, the Alliance will be holding a closing reception on September 28th, from 5-7:00 pm, to honor the one year anniversary of Hurricane Ian.


  • Kinfay Moroti leads Hopeful Images, an initiative that helps organizations share their stories through photojournalism, messaging and storytelling campaigns. Prior to Hopeful Images, he served from 2004 to 2019 as an award-winning community and international photojournalist with the Fort Myers News-Press and USA Today Network. In 2020, he captured moments inside Lee Health’s COVID-19 intensive care unit that were the first from an ICU to be shared with the world via USA Today.
  • In addition to his photojournalism and work with non-profits, Moroti is also known for his “Artversations,” which are art pieces that foment unique Moroti-led encounters with viewers.
  • Moroti maintains that Hope: The Other Side of Hurricane Ian is a “continuation” of the work he’s done in various Southwest Florida communities both as a photojournalist and through the vehicle of his thought-provoking Artversations.
  • As a result of Moroti’s coverage of Hurricane Ian, friends, families and volunteers across Southwest Florida met moments of hurt with acts of caring, with nonprofits joining businesses and governmental agencies in getting aide to people in need throughout Southwest Florida.
  • However, Moroti did not go out to document the aftermath of Hurricane Ian with that thought or expectation in mind. The help that resulted from the photos he posted on Facebook was a pleasant surprise and it wasn’t until much later that the idea came to him to pair the original photos with ones taken several days later as different organizations began delivering resources to affected people. “It’s like I’ve got all these ingredients, now what can I do with them,” Kinfay laughs.
  • Regarding his emphasis on hope, Moroti says, “I understand that hope is not a strategy. Hope doesn’t pay bills. Hope doesn’t rekindle a marriage once it’s broken. I understand that. But hope is the best of all things, and I’m a hope artist. That’s what I deal in.”
  • “Every hope doesn’t necessarily involve that big fix,” Moroti adds, pointing to hurt-and-hope photographs of a child. In the former, the girl stands forlornly before an open refrigerator. Although the now-spoiled contents are meager, the child nevertheless wonders how and when she’ll each again. In the latter image, she raptly enjoys a small meal, clearly grateful to have the food. Some of Moroti’s pairing are that subtle and nuanced.
  • The art exhibit on view at the Alliance for the Arts (AFTA) features 53 works of art created by the following Florida artists: Robert Allen, Stefanie Babb, Charles Baker, Laura Ball, Elita Barfield, Austin Bell, Linda Benson, Meagan Bonesteel, Laura Borror, Danielle Brant, Stacey Brown, Leslie Brunn, June Burke, Ramon Chirinos, Tracy Owen Cullimore, Sharyn Dahn, Dana Donkle, Marian Fuller, David Giansante, Julie Griffin, Sherry Haney, Sue Higgins-Ferrell, Peter Horan, Rose Jung, Jane Lane, Leoma Lovegrove, Pam Lowe, Doug MacGregor, Dave Mancini, Ying McLane, Susan Miller, Richard Plummer, Nanci Polomski, Dennis Porter, Carole Price, Ellen Prior, Josey Prior, Vickie Resor, John Rizza, Sharon Rodgers, Leah Schneider, Lynne Schwartz, Nancy Searle, Julie Siler Olander, Pat St. Onge, Dominick Tascher, Eric Taubert, Christopher Tuscan, John Warminski, Alex Wilkinson, and Deborah Zwetsch.
  • The book produced by the Gulf Coast Writers Association is available for purchase at AFTA during the month of September.
  • AFTA will host a soft opening reception for Storm Stories from 5:00-7:00 p.m. on September 1.
  • The 5:00-7:00 p.m. closing reception on September 28 will feature light refreshments, as well as authors, artists and event sponsors in attendance.
  • The 15-minute massage and Reiki sessions are free to first responders (September 9), residents impacted by the storm (September 16), anyone who lost or suffered damage to their home or job (September 23), and educators and volunteers who helped in the aftermath of the storm (September 30). For more information or to reserve a spot, call the Alliance at 239-939-2787.
  • On Saturday, September 16, AFTA will offer its FREE monthly Family ArtLab from 10:00 a.m. to noon that will be focused on remembering and continuing to heal from Hurricane Ian. Children and families will participate in the creation of AFTA’s Resiliency Garden. Families can stay after Family ArtLab for a screening of the 2017 film Coco in the Theatre (admission is $2.00).
  • A meditation workshop designed to be a fun-filled experience where participants explore the magic of breath work and creativity will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 23. The class is $60 for AFTA members and $75 for nonmembers. To find out more and register, visit artinlee.org//creative-healing-workshop/.

To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.

Spotlight on the Arts for WGCU is funded in part by Naomi Bloom, Jay & Toshiko Tompkins, and Julie & Phil Wade.