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The aesthetic appeal of Metairie, New Orleans’ biggest suburb, has historically been limited to areas like the Lakefront or Lafreniere Park. Those green pockets stand in contrast to the strip mall style development that lines Veterans Boulevard. But Jefferson Parish is taking a big step towards beautifying Metairie by commissioning ten artists to paint murals on the exterior walls of selected Fat City businesses.

The project is the brainchild of Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee Sheng, the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, and Fat City Friends, a non-profit organization designed to support revitalization of Fat City, an area previously known as a bars-and-nightlife hotspot.

“It’s been a great private/public partnership,” said Warren Surcouf, project manager for Fat City Friends.

Luis Hurtado's mural at Breaux Mart, 2904 Severn Ave.

Mural by Forrest Reiff, David Art Center, 3020 N. Arnoult Rd.

Mural by Hollis +Lana at Akira Sushi, 3226 N. Arnoult Rd.

Surcouf said plans for the murals began in January 2014. The project’s goal was twofold. First, Fat City Friends and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce wanted to beautify the area by covering its ubiquitous empty wall space with art.

“There’s a lot of blank space out there that lends itself to transformation,” said Forrest Reiff, a Mid-City artist who painted a mural on the David Art Center at 3020 N. Arnoult Rd.

Second, local officials knew how much foot traffic traversed Lakeside Shopping Center every day. They wanted Lakeside’s shoppers to patronize Fat City businesses outside the mall and encourage people to spend more time in the neighborhood.

They decided a good way to do that was by making it more inviting with art. Surcouf cited studies from other cities such as Miami and Philadelphia that indicated outdoor murals can stimulate economic development.

When all of the artists are finished, there will be ten murals. Eight of the ten locations have been selected. The farthest point from one to the other will be about a quarter of a mile, making the murals part of an easy walking tour for interested locals and tourists. There is no overarching theme to the works; artists are free to follow their own visions for each space.

Surcouf estimated that the paintings will be completed in August of this year, but that is not a fixed date. Delays may occur, especially if it is a rainy spring or summer. At the latest, the murals should be finished by fall 2015. The total cost for the project is approximately $150,000.

It's pretty remarkable...to take something drab and homogenous and make it spirited and different. Nick Stillman, deputy director of the Arts Council of New Orleans

Nick Stillman, deputy director of the Arts Council of New Orleans, said the ten murals’ completion in a concentrated area in the span of a few months is unlike any project he’s read about in any American city.

“It’s pretty remarkable‚Ķto take something drab and homogenous and make it spirited and different,” Stillman said.

Aside from Reiff’s mural on the David Art Center, the other completed mural is on Akira Sushi at 3226 N. Arnoult Rd. Conor Hollis and Amorette Lana of Denver painted the Akira mural. Even though they are currently based in Colorado, Hollis grew up in Metairie.

Two other paintings are underway, one on Breaux Mart at 2904 Severn Ave. and another on Laurel Outdoor at 3613 Hessmer Avenue.

Reiff said the form poses its own unique challenges because most artists are used to working on a much smaller scale. “How am I going to do something 65 feet long and 18 and a half feet tall?” Reiff thought when he undertook the project.

Both the size of the mural and the use of spray paint in completing it were new experiences for Reiff. But while it was initially intimidating, he appreciated being pushed out of his artistic comfort zone.

“It forced me into a new creative spot, which I always enjoy,” Reiff said.

The feedback Reiff received from the David Art Center’s owners has been overwhelmingly positive. They enjoyed his work so much that he may do smaller side projects with them in the future.

Reiff said he hopes the Fat City murals project will be a catalyst to similar endeavors in the rest of Metairie and other neighborhoods throughout the Greater New Orleans Area.

“As time goes on, people will understand that art is necessary,” Reiff said.

Photos by Marcus Carter.

Our Local Publisher Partners

The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

WWNO

WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

WWOZ

WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

PRC

Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

NOMA

As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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