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Art of the Sleight

Hollaback! Wins Grant to Curb Street Harassment Through Art

One New Orleans group is fighting cat-calls with gallery walls. Well, more like a moving gallery. Hollaback!, a national organization dedicated to fighting street harassment, just awarded their NOLA chapter a grant for a public art installation aimed at curbing street harassment.


Hollaback! New Orleans Site Director Vanessa Smith-Torres says that the parent organization was looking for a new means of programming and launched a contest to facilitate that end. Smith-Torres says, “Being New Orleans, we naturally had a lot of artists, filmmakers, and creatives involved. So, an art installation was a natural fit.”


New Orleans cruised to the win. The proposal had a couple of different aspects. The first portions is based on storytelling, in which victims of street harassment record their stories. Those oral histories would be housed both digitally and in a structure where others can view them. The second element would have physical presences around different parts of the city. Organizers envision with either a traveling booth or even a canvassing campaign a la the love signs popular earlier this year.


“The installation is a response to harassment located in the public space in which it occurs,” says Smith-Torres. “The video component adds a powerful element as the stories will not be scripted, or second hand. But rather real experiences told in each person’s own words and voice.”


If the descriptions sounds a bit ambiguous, that is because are deliberately. Smith-Torres says, “We are leaving a bit of it open to get other artists involved.”


The National Organization of Minority Architects-Louisiana has already signed up. Recruitment efforts are underway and Holdback expects to rev up the project shortly.


“We get expect to be up and running after International Anti-Street Harassment Week. For that event, we’re working on a chalk-walk and on the 17th we are displaying those ‘Stop telling women to smile’ posters.”


Hollaback! is a non-profit movement to end street harassment by letting victims and the general public expose harassers with the help of their phone.The New Orleans chapter started a few months ago. 


Up to 99 percent of women experience some form of street harassment in their lives. It can make victims feel unsafe, vulnerable, embarrassed, and objectified. “Our goal is to make people think twice about the comments they are making and how they are making them,” says Smith-Torres. “If you understood how the nice things you were saying were really perceived then maybe they would think twice before saying something like that to a stranger on the street.”


The Hollaback smartphone app, which is available for both iphone and android, enables users to report an incident anonymously with just a few clicks. An incident can be reported whether someone is a bystander or a victim, and the app allows details like what was said by the harasser and location to be recorded. 

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