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Curtain Closes on Exhibit BE

Goodbye to the Largest Temporary Art Gallery of the South



The final hours of Prospect.3 wound down with the grand closing of Exhibit BE (1.19.) On Martin Luther King Day, visitors packed into the once abandoned, now repurposed five-story De Gaulle Manor Apartment Complex in Algiers to celebrate the temporary exhibit intended to be open to the public for a single day (11.15). That day stretched out for over two-months.

 

Headed by Brandan “B Mike” Odums, who spirited Project BE, a similar installation at the Florida Housing Projects, Exhibit BE shined a light on the obscure, often forgotten worlds of graffiti and blight. 

 

Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, David Banner, Dead Prez, New Breed Brass Band and more played for the finale (1.19.) Badu entertained attendees for the last hour with a DJ set. 

Part social experiment of the dueling nature of graffiti as art verses vandalism, part healing memorial to the tenants evicted from the complex in 2006 following Katrina, the massive project expressed the potential for abandoned spaces to become places for positive communal growth rather than virtual human neglect. 

“There’s a disconnect between art and community, art and development,” said Odums in a panel discussion (11.15). “Developers come in and think I know what this community needs. They don’t have a relationship with the community.” 

Odums first attempt to transform urban decay into a living work of art with Project BE was discovered by the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) and immediately barricaded from public view. In contrast, Exhibit BE caught the eye the new owners of the site at 2300 Murl St. Instead of shutting things down, the RDLN foundation saw an opportunity to relate to the community. They have plans to build a Sporting Complex where the desolate apartments still stand.  

“They’re going to demolish it tomorrow,” said an Algiers man, as he perused the splattered sheetrock of an interior room infested with floor debris.

 

It remains unclear whether the main gallery covered in art from ground to roof will be demolished to make way for the Sporting Complex. However, rumors have surfaced that due to the overwhelming support and interest in the exhibit, developers may keep it. 

Some fights are not easily won, particular those dealing with blighted properties in New Orleans. Odds are they’ll be forced to renovate or demolish the existing larger five-story structure. A smaller building on the property featuring murals of Civil Rights heroes could be salvaged, but as witnessed in the crumbling landscape of blighted houses, nothing is set in stone. 

“Sometimes we lose sight of the ability to reinvent ourselves,” said Cummings, RDLN Foundation sponsor, on opening day (11.15.) “We have a joyful culture and terrific climate and some of the most colorful characters the world has ever seen. I think that's the laden resource, the competitive advantage New Orleans has. I see the common ground being the creativity to flourish into the 21st century.”

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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