13 April 2009

Artists want to turn floodwall into mirror of local homes

Mural would depict city's shotgun houses
Friday, April 10, 2009 By Sheila Grissett / East Jefferson bureau

A New Orleans public art group asked regional levee commissioners Thursday to let 65 local artists paint shotgun houses on an Industrial Canal floodwall to help rejuvenate the Lower 9th Ward.

Graffiti eradicator Fred Radtke opposes the proposal.

The nonprofit community group NoLA Rising told a committee meeting of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East that it wants to paint 3,900 feet of floodwall visible from the neighborhood.

"This would be a controlled project. You'd get to approve the (art) in advance," organization President Michael "Rex" Dingler said. "It's a wall that deserves a great deal of respect . . . because of those who died."

The site is where the floodwall breached during Hurricane Katrina, destroying the surrounding neighborhood.

Radtke warned the authority's Operations Committee that granting the arts request would open a Pandora's box.

"You cannot control this project . . . in this city," he said, saying that the amount of graffiti has tripled at other local mural sites in the past several years.

"It's out of control here because the city's out of control," Radtke said. "There's no quality of life here."

Two committee members voiced strong support for the concept. "I just got back from Europe, where everywhere you go there's artwork," commissioner Stephen Estopinal said. "And New Orleans is an art town."

Commissioner George Losonsky compared Radke's objections to banning cars to try and stop drive-by shootings.

"I don't buy that," he said, supporting Estopinol's recommendation that the board discuss the matter with the Army Corps of Engineers.

If the project is done, Dingler and his associates said it would be the longest mural of its kind in the United States, larger even than the 2,754-foot "Great Wall of Los Angeles," which is the current record-holder painted with corps permission on a federal floodwall in California starting in 1976.

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Sheila Grissett can be reached at sgrissett@timespicayune.com or 504.717.7700.


AS A POINT OF REFERENCE, there are some inconsistencies listed in the story in regards to the plan that may have been miscommunicated. While shotgun houses are prevalent in New Orleans, the referenced plan mentioned "New Orleans style homes". The indication where this inconstancy came from for shotgun houses was based on an early plan that has since been modified based on historical reference.

While not mentioned in the article, some early amateur critics have said that members of NoLA Rising aren't taking into consideration the neighborhood residents and that we are filled with north-eastern hispters. NoLA Rising was started by a New Orleans born and bred original, Rex Dingler, and he believes in honoring the neighborhood residents and all people of New Orleans in this representation of our collective struggle following Hurricane Katrina. Rex first began putting artwork and street signs in the lower 9th ward after hurricane Katrina when he was working on the lower 9th Ward docks and has since promoted with every ability the re-building and restoration of the neighborhood. In addition to the street signs, ReX donated artwork to residents returning to their homes and even assisted Rebuilding Together New Orleans in their efforts. Criticism to the contrary is ridiculous and offered by those who are uninformed.

As for the composition of NoLA Rising? Well, we've had some people join us who have come from up north, but as always, it's been comprised of people living here, working here and loving here. We have life-long residents, pre-Katrina transplants (that have gained their NoLA citizenship cards by living through the storm with us), and then post-storm residents who want to be a part of the New Orleans renaissance. However, the "hipster" quotient is completely false and erroneous and we take great offence. Everyone wears only appropriately fitted pants and no one is allowed to wear a hat (however cool) at a dinner table.

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