Monday, January 8, 2007

Neighborhoods: 1508 Crescent St. Gentilly

The second "Neighborhoods" event will be held this Saturday night, January 13, 4-8 pm, at the home of Belinda Tanno, Joe Threat and their daughter Leah in Gentilly. The "Neighborhoods" project, instigated by Robert Vicknair, is a series of one-night-only site-specific art and sound installations in homes of New Orleanians that have returned and hope to rebuild.

The first project was "Neighborhoods: 679 Jordan Ave," at the home of Kathleen Kraus in Holy Cross. "Kathleen's house was a hub of creative activity," Robert said. In order to bring some of that activity back to her now darkened neighborhood, Robert invited a group of artists to create pieces for her gutted house and its position near the levee, and had musicians play or create sound for the space. Robert created a piece as well: since elections were the week before, Robert collected piles of political neutral-ground signs and cut them into house silhouettes. He painted them and installed them along the levee outside Kathleen's front door (see picture.)

The second Neighborhoods project will feature art by Scott Saltzman, David Sullivan, Jonathan Traviesa, Robert Vicknair, and Monica Zeringue; sound by Anton Gussoni, and SpartieTucker, and music by the Panorama Jazz Band. "It's a rescusitation, an effort to bring art back into Belinda's home, whose studio was destroyed as well," Robert says. Robert wants the neighbors included too - a family that's rebuilding on the same block, Trish Chapham, and her mother, Verna (who was a riveter at the Higgins Boatyard during WWII) were interviewed and photographed. Three other families who were displaced from the neighborhood will be remembered in installations as well.

There is no electricity at the site of the installation, but food and drink will be served. Robert received a grant for this project, and another one is planned for Mid City later this spring.


Shannon said...

Sounds great! I plan on being there.

Shannon said...

This was such a great event. The art exceeded my expectations, the music enhanced the atmosphere, and the food? Awesome.

Alternative Arts New Orleans said...

this comment comes from an out-of-town visitor that evening, Jon Goldman of Cape Cod:

My brother Adam and I were in St. Bernard Parish last weekend.  And not much has changed  in terms of people returning, rebuilding and the bombed out nature of the lower9th, Chalmette and other areas since the filming started last July.  Adam was clearly astounded by the destruction, having not seen it before.  All of the television images, magazine articles and images just don't compare to driving mile after mile, block after block, house after house of total devastation.  But the place and it's people ARE resilient.  Adam and I ventured to an art opening in one of these completely empty shells of a building in Gentilly.  Artists, photographers, Sculptors, painters, dancers, architects and musicians filled this unlighted house interior with deeply moving artworks.  One piece truly caught my eye.  It looked like a plastic t-shirt with comic book faces inked on its surface.  Hanging on a hanger in front of a storm-soiled former bathroom window, it had a ghostly presence.  The artist told me that a friend who lived a few block from where we were standing had walked him through his devastated house while directing him on a cell phone.  The artist carefully did whatever the friend had asked him, and in disbelief, the sought after prized possession to be rescued was his comic book collection. The Artist found the packages of comics remarkably intact and above the waterline.  The images on the plastic t-shirt were taken from these comics and showed the classic style of grimace, superhuman strength and explosive response that echoed the graphic characters and in a powerful way the the emotional rawness of the interior of the bombed out house and the surviving artists and audience in attendance.

The enormity of this never-ending crisis continues to inspire creative responses that help these folks move forward.  It is a struggle, but the underlying resilience and creative impulse inherent in this city despite its high murder rate, declining population, deteriorative services is nothing short of hopeful.  My heart is there.