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Arts & Culture

New Orleans Public Art Tour: Sculptures

The first time I drove by the bunny men, I was unprepared for these long-eared identical figures staring down at me. I kept driving, though, subconsciously questioning their presence. These bunny men are part of the many public sculptures in New Orleans that one might not even notice. This is a call to action: it is time to take notice of the bunny men and the other sculptures of New Orleans.

Bunny men (photo by Emily Ramirez Hernandez)
Alex Podesta’s “bunny men,” originally apart of an exhibition called “City Watch” (photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

Latin American History

As Hispanic Heritage month began on September 15, it is fitting to include local sculptures that pay homage to Latin America. The Garden of the Americas, located on the Basin Street neutral ground between Canal and Saint Louis Streets, hosts three monuments of Latin American independence heroes and reformers: Benito Juárez, Francisco Morazán and Simon Bolívar.

Benito Juárez was the first indigenous Mexican president. He was exiled twice from his country, and during that time he lived in New Orleans before returning to Mexico and winning the presidency. A bronze monument of Juárez, sculpted by Juan Fernando Olaguibel, was a gift from the Mexican government. It was dedicated on May 17, 1972 to commemorate the centennial of Juárez’s death. It stands on the Basin Street neutral ground at Conti Street. In 1993, after years of neglect, the statue was restored by the Mexican Consul General at the time and the local Mexican-American community.

Benito Juarez pedestal (photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)
Benito Juarez pedestal (photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

A sculpture of Francisco Morazán, the second president of the Federal Republic of Central America (the unified countries of Central America), stands in the Basin Street neutral ground at Saint Louis Street. Sculpted by Mario Zamora, it was a gift from the Morazan Society of Honduras and the Republics of Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It was dedicated on Oct. 21, 1966.

A statue of Simon Bolívar, one of the leading figures in Latin American independence, stands at Canal and Basin Streets. The 12-foot high granite statue, a gift from Venezuela, was dedicated on Nov. 24, 1957. It is surrounded by the flags of the Latin American nations he liberated.

At one point planned for the Garden of the Americas, a bronze monument of Cuban independence leader Jose Martí, is today situated on Jefferson Davis Parkway near Banks Street. It was dedicated on Jan. 28, 1996 as a gift to the city by local Cuban-Americans. Another leader who was exiled from his country, there is evidence that Martí spent that time in New Orleans.

Poydras Street Sculptures

Jason Kimes, "At Rest"
“At Rest” by Jason Kimes (photo: courtesy Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition presented by the Helis Foundation)

A newer addition to the New Orleans sculpture scene is the “Pink Rabbit for New Orleans” sculpture by Baltimore artists David Friedheim and Trisha Kyner on Poydras Street near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The sculpture is one of the many that has landed on the Poydras Street corridor through the Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition presented by the Helis Foundation. A few of my favorites include: Ed Wilson’s “Nethership,” a rather haunting and lovely boat that appears to be rowing itself, on Poydras Street between St. Charles Avenue and Camp Street; “At Rest” by Jason Kimes, which is slightly reminiscent of bottle cap art but classier, on Poydras between Camp and Magazine Streets; and “Reawakening” by Wesley Wofford, a bright red humanoid figure, on Poydras between O’Keefe and Baronne Streets.

Grendel's Mother, PINK RABBIT [Crista Rock]
“Pink Rabbit for New Orleans” by David Friedheim and Trisha Kyner (photo: courtesy Poydras Corridor Sculpture Exhibition presented by the Helis Foundation )

Central City: New and Old

The bunny men mentioned earlier — sculptures of identical men wearing white bunny suits — gaze down from the roof of Tasseology on Oretha Castle Haley in Central City. The sculptures were created by local artist Alex Podesta and were originally an exhibition titled “City Watch” stationed on the roof of the Falstaff Brewery-turned-apartments. Today the owners of Tasseology also own the bunny men, and they are sharing them with the community.

Margaret Haughery was one of New Orleans’ most beloved philanthropists and, known as “a mother to the motherless,” was a tireless advocate for orphans. Her Italian Carrera marble statue, designed by sculptor Andrew Doyle and erected in 1886 just four years after her death, stands in Margaret Gardens at the intersection of Camp and Prytania at Calliope Street. The statue has long been neglected, but today the local Monumental Task Committee and the Friends of Margaret are working to restore her.

Margaret Haughery
Margaret Haughery statue (photo by Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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