Friday, April 24, 2009

School at Blair Grocery has a blog!

Check it out - and Greenhills people who were in New Orleans over spring break notice how much has grown since we worked there!

upcoming workshops

I'm teaching a lot of encaustic workshops lately. There are still openings in two that are coming up in May and June.

Advanced encaustic
- May 30 from 10am to 4pm at BBAC This workshop is intended for those who have either taken a previous encaustic class or encaustic workshop. It builds on prior encaustic experience focusing on big texture, mixed media, incorporating one's imagery and collage. Students are encouraged to bring drawings, prints or works on paper they would like to incorporate into this rewarding medium.


Encaustic Collage
- June 27-28, Saturday 10-5 & Sunday 10-4 at Yourist Studio Gallery
Encaustic’s ancient Egyptian roots date back 2000 years. It is a beautiful, luminous material made from bees wax and pigment. By applying layers of wax one is able to achieve various textures and relief. It is also the collage medium par excellence. Participants will learn how to use encaustic as an element in mixed media assemblage. This two-day workshop will explore the use of encaustic with collage materials in two and three dimensions. We will use found objects, old prints/photographs or drawings, while at the same time utilizing the ancient practice of encaustic painting. Participants should bring materials they are interested in incorporating into mixed media assemblage or collage pieces. This includes but is not limited to old photos, magazines, tools, small objects, natural materials like seeds, dried leaves, pebbles, etc.

This workshop is appropriate for all skill levels - no experience in encaustic needed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Orleans - still contemplating housing

I'm still thinking about New Orleans and think I will never stop. I'm not naive and I've spent a fair amount of time in parts of Detroit that are also shockingly destroyed but the level of destruction and lack of reconstruction in many parts of New Orleans is truly horrifying.

street scene - 5th ward

boarded up house - 5th ward

another boarded up house

porch - can't remember exactly where

lovely tree in Garden District

row of trees - also in the Garden District.

The difference in feel in the areas that lost all their trees compared to the Garden District, which is full of magnificent huge trees, is dramatic. Most of the trees in the 9th ward and the bits of the the 5th ward I explored are gone. All other issues aside this one is very noticable and very sad. Locals tell me the lower 9th had equal numbers of gorgeous trees before Katrina. The contrast is stark and obviously makes a huge difference in the heat of the summer.

finished Make It Right House

Make it Right house being built

Robert Green's not yet complete house

Mr Green in front of his home to be.

The Make it Right houses are not given to the people who live in them. They have to pay although what they pay is based on some sort of means test - they're not a give-away. It's a terrific program but will not build enough houses to solve the enormous problem New Orleans faces in terms of repairing/replacing thousands of homes destroyed by Katrina.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Orleans - a petition

I'm back from New Orleans and still processing all that we saw and experienced. I'll be posting more on this in the future to be sure. In the meantime, Robert Green sent me this petition. I signed it and think it's tremendously important - please sign it and share the link. Here's the text:

"On August 29th , 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The hurricane terrorized the whole city. Many, fortunate enough to evacuate, did so in frightful haste. The many poor, were left behind to weather the storm and fend for themselves. Katrina came and with it, a storm surge 13 to 18 feet high. The remaining residents of Lower 9th Ward persevered and then…. The federally built levees broke. Over 1,300 lives were lost, 22,000 homes were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were dislocated. The federal government, slow to initially respond eventually showed up, after national outrage over President Bush and FEMA’s performance. The surviving and returning residents of the Lower 9th Ward found their once thriving community, obliterated. They were ground zero. They buried their dead and salvaged what little possessions that were left, and hoped for help. After months of waiting, President Bush and Congress responded by allocating billions of dollars towards rebuilding the Gulf Coast Region including New Orleans. Over three years later, 99% of the Lower 9th Ward has still not been rebuilt. Not one major housing development by Federal, State or Local government has taken place. Over 2,200 homes were lost in the Lower 9th Ward. Actor Brad Pitt has committed to eventually building 150 homes in the community. To date, less than 15 have been built. His project has proven however that there is a viable way to rebuild the Lower 9th Ward with housing that is stronger, safer and smarter. We applaud his efforts. Unlike him, the government has ignored the Lower 9th Ward and with your support, we seek to change that! We of the Rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward Coalition have a plan to rebuild the housing, schools, recreation and commercial establishments lost to Katrina. The funding to accomplish this goal has already been allocated but the “will” by State and Local government, is not. They have been busy spending rebuilding funds in other parts of the city to the exclusion of the hardest hit community in New Orleans, ground zero, the Lower 9th Ward. Our new President Barack Obama has stated it best, “This will be a priority of my presidency. And I will make clear to members of my administration that their responsibilities don’t end in places like the 9th Ward –they begin there.” We intend to keep him to his word and you can help! Sign our petition, encourage your family, friends, churches and schools to do the same! Together, we can help this community, that have lost everything. It’s the right thing to do, and the American thing to do! Give your support and prove that after a natural disaster we take care of our own! If you would like Rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward Coalition updates, please include contact information on the petition."

again - here's the link to sign

And here are a few more photos of what much of the lower 9th ward still looks like. It's a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Orleans - Day Ten - last day here

Today was a day we divided up and went to a variety of places. One group went to ARNO, one group went to the St Bernard Parish Community Center and our group went to Turner's Blair Grocery School where we worked in the garden for a good chunk of the day. We built raised beds, weeded, watered, hauled vast quantities of dirt and compost and had a great time getting sweaty and dirty.

tired gardeners
A famous view we drove past most days - it was very striking to see where so many people sheltered under terrible conditions during Katrina. On a couple of occasions we drove past it when events were getting out and traffic wasn't noticably heavy. A clear sign of a terrible economy.
house in poorer neighborhood - lots of houses here are painted in wonderful colors. The older ones with lots of picked out details remind me of San Francisco.
Yet another roof in terrible shape

Beautiful big tree in the Garden District. Most of the trees in the lower 9th ward were lost during or post Katrina. Areas hit less hard are lined with wonderful huge old trees.
We visited Yougurt more days than not - delicious stuff!

More lovely tree-lined streets in the Garden District near Tulane.

This Wal-Mart is near where we stayed in Chalmette. It hasn't re-opened post-Katrina nor has it been replaced. The water level during Katrina covered all but the air conditioners on the roof - pointed to by red arrows.

Later in the evening all our groups got together in the lower 9th ward area to see the houses built by Brad Pitt and Make it Right. Don Paul from Rebuild Green met us there and gave us a tour and took us to meet Robert Green. Mr Green is a local resident who lost many family members during Katrina when the levee near his home was breeched when a barge hit it. His mother, grandmother and a very young grandson all died. He met us at his home - a pair of FEMA trailors and a new house under construction by Make it Right. He has been the key local contact person working with the Make it Right foundation and the local community and spent a generous amount of time speaking with us about his experiences and the rebuilding program.

side of Robert Brown's FEMA trailor
Memorial to Robert Brown's family
snapshot of Robert Green and Brad Pitt

View from next to Robert Green's home

scaffolding and partially built Make it Right house

view of a couple more of the Brad Pitt houses

our group in front of a completed house

After taking leave of Mr Green we drove a short way to the levee

lift bridge and levee

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Orleans - Day Nine - back to work

The two houses above are near each other in the lower 9th ward - they really illustrate the range of repair and lack thereof in the neighborhood - although there are many houses in worse repair than the first one.

We did more work in the 9th ward village today but I won't post those pictures just now since they're more of the same.

We went out to lunch at Willie Mae's Restaurant in the 5th Ward today. This is a place with an amazing history. Before Katrina Willie Mae the woman won a James Beard award for her wonderful food - absolutely fabulous fried chicken. She'd never heard of the award until she won it at age 89. The restaurant was badly damaged by Katrina and repaired by the neighborhood. It reopened with many famous chefs in attendance. There was a program on the restaurant on the Food Channel which Amanda Harper and I had both seen and been intrigued by and another story on NPR. Given all this history we had to try it. The food was amazing. People kept coming. Clearly many of them were from out of town thanks to the stories.

Willie Mae's great grandchildren now run the restaurant. She comes in from time to time but is in her 90s and frail.

feasting away. It's a tiny place but the food is wonderful. I ate fried chicken, cornbread, red beans and rice and it was all terrific.

This is the neighborhood and it's pretty rough.

playground down the street from the restaurant.

Shut elementary school right across the street from the restaurant.

Another closed school in the 5th ward.

tugboat and levee - view driving back to the 9th ward from the 5th.
Louisiana National Guard Baracks. These are huge, elaborate baracks that go on for miles in the lower 9th ward. Far more prosperous looking than anything else.

Huge refinery - also in the 9th ward and right next to residential areas.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Orleans - Day Eight - Easter

One of many street musicians. She was terrific!

Not surprisingly there were many people elegantly attired with many fabulous hats today.

Snazzy couple

float at Easter Parade - flying beads are hazardous

more parade

pretty in pink

Freaked out miniature horse at parade

float w/jazz band in parade
French Quarter architecture

Mrs Wolkoff at Jackson Square

Mr Donato joined the break dancers

Cathedral at Jackson Square

Time for café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde

Clearly a rough day with lots of hard work. More seriously today was a real glimpse of the wonderful New Orleans culture. It was also a striking sign of the lousy economy because the crowds were thin. Nice for us, not good for the local economy which depends so heavily on tourism.

tomorrow we're back to work!