NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), Arts New Orleans, and New Orleans East community partners celebrated the completion of the first phase of the New Orleans East Public Art Project today with the unveiling of a series of youth-driven murals at Joe W. Brown Park.
Over one hundred community members, project partners, and special guests attended today’s public unveiling event, which featured a second line parade to each of the murals located at various points throughout the park led by the Zulu Tramps. Following the second line, attendees were invited to a reception at the NORDC Recreation Center to enjoy music and refreshments, meet with the artists, and learn more about the upcoming sculpture projects in New Orleans East.
NOLABA’s Strategic Neighborhood Development (SND) team, led by Greg Lawson, met with more than 60 neighbors and stakeholders in New Orleans East in February 2020 to identify and discuss the most pressing needs and priorities in the community, which included: 1.) Transportation, Way Making and Connectivity 2.) Business Attraction for Economic Development and Quality of Life 3.) Narrative Correction and Improving How the Community is Perceived and 4.) Place Making, Public Art and Establishing New Orleans East as a Destination.
“I am so proud of these incredibly beautiful and creative murals in New Orleans East - which represent so much more than art; but the realization of a vision," said Norman E. Barnum, IV, Interim President and CEO of NOLABA. "In perfect alignment with all that we aim to do here at NOLABA, this project documents and maintains our culture through artistic expression, supporting and building up our youth through mentorship, and listening to the needs of residents and business leaders through community collaborations. Together with our partners, we're helping to realize a collective vision for New Orleans East, one that will help this community continue to rise and become a place that all are proud to call home.”
The new youth-led artwork, which was developed as a result of those meetings, reflects the unique culture, values, and aspirations of the New Orleans East neighborhood. The pieces are now on display for local residents and families to enjoy at various locations throughout Joe W. Brown Park, including the library, picnic shelter, pool building, and the NORDC recreation center.
From November through February, 24 talented youth artists in Arts New Orleans’ Young Artist Movement (YAM) program worked closely alongside five professional mentors (all New Orleans East residents/stakeholders), including Journey Allen, Jamar Pierre, Courtney "Ceaux" Buckley, Ceci Givens, and Wendo Brunoir, on the Joe W. Brown Park mural series. YAM is an arts education and workforce development program for youth ages 14-24 that beautifies neighborhoods and connects youth to their communities through the research, design, and installation of public art.
The youth murals are part of a broader multi-year creative placemaking project titled, “Public Art in New Orleans East: Altering the Perception of a Vital Corridor through Art and Engagement,” resulting from a $75,000 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant secured by Arts New Orleans in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy and NOLABA to support public art projects across the New Orleans East community. Representing one of just 63 grants awarded nationwide, this funding will support a range of New Orleans-based community engagement activities and public art investments along commercial corridors in the East, ultimately laying the groundwork for sustainable systems change.
“As a former resident of New Orleans East, I know firsthand the beauty and cultural richness of the East,” said Joycelyn Reynolds, Executive Director of Arts New Orleans. “We are proud that our talented local youth and artists will be central to its beautification and revitalization, and we look forward to working collaboratively with New Orleans East residents and partners in the coming years to bring their visions to fruition.”
In addition to the new youth murals in Joe W. Brown Park, NOLABA, Arts New Orleans and partners are working toward several other exciting art interventions in New Orleans East, including:
Sculpture Commissions at Key Interstate Exits - A series of three sculptural commissions at Crowder, Read, and Bullard that will serve as gateways to the East, welcoming visitors and residents in a way that captures its rich cultural identity.
Sculpture Commissions on Lake Forest Blvd. - Sculpture projects located at the intersections of Read and Wright with the goal of enhancing transportation, way making, and connectivity in an area that’s central to economic, social, and cultural activity.
As part of NOLABA’s ongoing efforts to focus more resources and economic development activities in the East, it is also in the process of engaging with community stakeholders to certify and install the New Orleans East community as one of those under the Louisiana Economic Development’s (LED) Louisiana Development Ready Communities (LDRC) Program. The LDRC program, which was officially launched in 2011, encourages and supports selected Louisiana communities to become development-ready, competitive, and “open for business” by creating and implementing a strategic community and economic development plan.
The New Orleans East Public Art Project will reinforce a sense of pride within this once-thriving commercial corridor, spur economic development activities throughout the area, and address long-standing community concerns through site-specific public art installations.