City reawakens to art

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The sculpture 'At Rest' is one of seven new sculptures displayed on Poydras Street in the New Orlean Central Business District.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The sculpture 'At Rest' is one of seven new sculptures displayed on Poydras Street in the New Orlean Central Business District. "At Rest'' sits in an area between Camp and Magazine streets.

Loaned sculptures set up  along Poydras Street, throughout New Orleans

Seven new sculptures are on display along Poydras Street from O’Keefe Street to the Mississippi River, the first phase of an outdoor exhibition that will feature 25 sculptures from 25 distinguished artists from across the South.

The installation is part of Sculpture for New Orleans, a program started in 2008 to support public art in New Orleans, using large-scale outdoor exhibitions to increase the visibility of art in the city.

The sculptures join another 45 installations throughout the city.

Tucked among the tress and shrubs of the recently landscaped Poydras Street neutral ground, some of the sculptures blend in, such as the bronze “Standing Vase With Five Flowers,” by James Surls, and the steel “Nethership” by Ed Wilson.

Others bring bright colors to the corridor, like the red Polyurethane human figure in “Reawakening” by Wesley Wofford and the tall yellow painted steel “Zach’s Tower” by John Henry in front of Harrah’s Casino.

On Convention Center Boulevard, Louisiana artist Russell Whiting’s “Man Defeats Chair” does just that — featuring a carved steel man holding his arms in victory while standing atop a chair.

“These sculptures are a great addition to our cultural landscape,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release. “New Orleans is a world-class city with world-class art on every level. We are proud to partner with Sculpture for New Orleans on this project.”

The exhibition is curated by Sculpture for New Orleans and The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and is funded by The Diana Helis Henry and The Adrienne Helis Malvin Art Funds of The Helis Foundation, and in partnership with the Department of Parks and Parkways, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art/University of New Orleans, UNO Foundation and the Wisner Foundation.

Artist and Sculpture for New Orleans founder Michael Manjarris has been working to transform the Poydras Street corridor into an outdoor gallery, inspired by the Sculpture on Park Avenue program in New York City.

Manjarris said his citywide effort began immediately after Hurricane Katrina, when he was contacted by David Oestreicher, then-president of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. Manjarris said Oestreicher saw support going to musicians but wanted to make sure that visual artists also were getting help.

A sculptor who has been showing his art in the city for the past 25 years and who works designing and building sculpture gardens, Manjarris said he was quickly able to get numerous sculptures shipped from some of the most famous sculptors.

The artwork on Poydras Street is on loan from the artists, with a request of a two-year loan as part of the “rotating show,” Manjarris said. Not only does the exhibit “put New Orleans on the international art scene,” but with $20 million worth of art on the ground throughout the city, it also contributes significantly to cultural tourism, he said.

“All we want to do is uplift the spirit of the people in New Orleans,” Manjarris said.