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Arts & Culture

Visionary Visualizes Sculpture for the NEW Orleans

Sculpture for New Orleans is a visual arts initiative created by Michael Manjarris to rank New Orleans as one of the premier cities for art.

“We are a tank: steady, strong, moving forward,” he says. “We want New Orleans to be one of the top five visual art cities in the world.” Michael Manjarris sounds so motivated for his Sculpture For New Orleans – an effort to fill the neutral grounds of town with important sculptures – that I feel like I was talking to a religious devotee.

Eyes sculpture by artist Louise Bourgeois (Photo courtesy of blog.nola.com)

In fact I think I made a faux pas when I asked him if he would do a program called “Sculpture for Mikko’s New House.” I am plunging into the first time buyers’ market, I own no furniture; so I figured he could, you know, help beautify my emptiness.

“We lost a ton of art from Katrina,” he says gamely keeping me on task. “We want to help the artists that left.” He wants to repatriate the local artists that had to leave, and at the same time display important, and fabulous works. And it seems a lot of people share his vision. He asked institutions all over town and got a hundred percent return – that is, everyone he asked to donate space to show sculptures said “Yes.” “We put down 20 million dollars of art for $300,000.”

Propeller sculpture by James Surls (Photo courtesy of Sculpture for New Orleans)

Ok, so no free interior decorating for me, but for the exterior of New Orleans, the view along the high-traffic drive paths through the city…wowzers.

While passing Lafayette Square, the gigantic mesmerizing eyes of Louis Bourgeois watch you; in front of the Ogden Museum is this propeller looking joy by James Surls; or these cool looking jewel and chain things downtown in the middle of the street. This awesome stuff is all over the place.

My favorite of the fifty or so sculptures already installed is Flowers for Theresa, gigantic morning glories gloriously vining across the ground in front of Gallier Hall by Aria da Capo.Not only because Aria is a buddy, but it reminds me of my secret morning glory tattoo. The tattoo is another story for another time.

Flowers sculpture by Aria da Capo (Photo from Flickr by wallyg)

“If someone takes a moment to enjoy a piece of art,” Manjarris suggests. “And they forget for a second the stress of their day, then we’ve done our job.”

And I would propose a second accomplishment for Sculpture for New Orleans. We are clearly, definitely, absolutely a town associated with music. Amen. And there is so many other forms of art here. With a zealot like Manjarris and his people setting the stars as their destination for New Orleans to be in the same visual art breath as Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, and puts yet another reason we are so cool on the table, well, double amen.

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