Monday, March 8, 2010

Along the Mississippi, part I

Pontchartrain Park. All photos courtesy the author.

I went to New Orleans last week for a site visit to see Joe Baker, Executive Director of the Longue Vue House and Gardens . We're working on connecting our places, and we spent time driving around the city after looking at every nook and cranny of Longue Vue (fabulous mansion, too bad about the plants killed by the freak frost!)

The founders of Longue Vue, Edith and Edgar Stern, were socially engaged civil rights leaders who, in addition to creating Longue Vue, built Pontchartrain Park, one of (if not the) first middle class African American sub-divisions in the country. This area was also devastated by levee breaches caused by Katrina, but the destruction was not reported in the way it was in the Lower Ninth Ward. (Perhaps there is something more nefarious, undermining about the word "ward?) The city is in a state of enormous flux--but we all know about this from the reporting that has happened since Katrina.

We were also lucky to tour the new arts area of St. Claude to see galleries The Front, Trouser House, KK Projects, Antenna and Barrister's Gallery. Most are non-profit and speak to the revitalization artists can bring to place.

Above is an image across from KK Project's main space--the white house was the site of Mel Chin's safe house from Prospect I, now being dismantled to make way for more projects and an urban garden out back.

The houses in this neighborhood look worse than those of Pontchartrain Park--due to devastation of the man-made kind, not nature! Many of these places seem to be ruins--but it is often hard to tell if they are degrading or coming alive, as in most urban areas. Where are the Sterns of this day and age?

Before we got on our plane back to STL we were sipping a glass of wine and enjoying a shrimp boil at Amy Graham and her partner Macon's place over-looking the Mississippi.

I'll be back.

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