Project NOLA must have started when I was a young child although I was unaware at the time I had a growing interest in New Orleans. My mother spent years wondering what life was like under the bridge and she passed down this interest to me. It was an interest like many others that could have been passed by just as you pass the homeless man on the street on your way to lunch, but this time it wasn’t. My husband and fellow ceramic artist lives in Louisiana and we frequent New Orleans. As our visits became regular, I became less interested in the tourist trap and beignets that made the place famous. I became deeply interested in the people of this special town specifically the people who live under the bridge.
I decided that I had to get to know these people and I had to do something for them. I could have donated money to a local mission as many people in this situation would have, but I had a strong desire to go beyond the act of giving monetarily. It is hard for me to know what money will do but I was clear in what I believe an experience could do. So I set out on a journey to give a gift, volunteer, interact, and to attempt to record the life of these unique people through the food they eat. The project started in my studio in Columbus, OH where I made fifty handmade plates each with a unique design reminiscent of my time in New Orleans, based on the architecture, ironwork, and geography. The colors are bright and vibrant mixed with subtle earth tones on the porcelain surface. Stamped on the back of each plate is a quote intended to spread ‘love’ these include: love with everything you have and love each other deeply.
I contacted the New Orleans Mission to help me execute the project. I was connected with Christopher and Daniel who run the Street Mission. These amazing men and a few others invited me to join them on their mission during my visit in May. My first question to these men was what do the people eat? What they provide are mostly sandwiches and processed food including chips, etc. I had it on my heart to provide real whole foods for these people.
My past projects have been an attempt to record and bring awareness to the food we eat and where it comes from. In this situation it seemed that where your food comes from would take on a different meaning. I decided to pursue this information but I was left wondering how I could possibly collect and document this kind of project. I settled on disposable cameras and allowing the people to record for themselves in a similar way that I had in my Dish Set Challenge projects. I passed out the plates, a fresh piece of fruit, cameras, prepaid mailers, and shared my idea with each person I met. I asked them what they ate and very directly where it came from. The responses were varied but one that I will never forget was a gentleman who shared with me that he was on food stamps but that means he never eats a warm meal because they do not let you buy prepared foods. My mind went spinning thinking food stamps although they make sense for someone who has a kitchen and a place to store food, made absolutely no sense for this man living on the street.
Welcome to Project NOLA where I hope you will find new meaning in what happens ‘under the bridge’.
If you have it on your heart to support this project please contact us directly or , THANK YOU!