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From the Director
It is early October as I am writing this, and the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina are still in daily evidence. We all know that emergency relief efforts will go on for some time. The end of the year is the time when our thoughts go to family and friends, a time to assess, take stock, and be grateful for what we have. This year, those who want to make charitable donations might think about directing their donations to artists and arts organizations affected by Katrina. There are several hard-working groups offering assistance, including Americans for the Arts <www.artsusa.org> and the Southern Arts Federation <www.southarts.org>. And the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston <www.mfah.org> has created a Katrina Artists Fund Trust. Responding to damage inflicted on artists living and working in the Gulf states, the Katrina Artists Trust Fund will provide grants to help artists restore their ability to work and re-launch their careers. Additional information on aid and grants for Katrina-affected artists, is available on the Web site of the New Orleans-based Arthur Roger Gallery <www.arthurrogergallery.com>.
As the clean-up efforts continue and people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast put their lives back together, there is the opportunity if not the absolute need, to look to the future and see what the possibilities are and what can be done for this city and for this region. The reconstruction of New Orleans will offer a fantastic opportunity for dialogue as developers, architects, landscape architects, and civil engineers meet with local, regional, and national government agencies to determine the future of the area. And what of sculptors’ visions? What contributions should artists make? What contributions can they make? Will they be asked to participate? Will they have a place and a significant involvement in the remaking of what has been destroyed?
All too often artists are called into a design or construction process months or even years after the initial plans and ideas have been developed. In many cases, a sculpture or mural becomes the final embellishing touch to a process or program that has only grudgingly left funds for “a work of art“ to be displayed within a new site. If the budget is large enough, the work is by a well-known artist, and the commission or purchase is simply an “add-on“ feature, something either to appease the local community or satisfy the percent-for-art requirement.
Could the rebuilding of New Orleans and other coastal communities—with the necessary reconstruction of housing, municipal buildings, schools, parks, and the urban infrastructure itself—become a new interdisciplinary design model? Here is the moment to bring together people with vision from multiple disciplines, including artists.
For several decades now, artists and local communities have worked together to create innovative and functional projects, temporary installations, and exhibitions. What if in New Orleans this notion took hold on a large scale? What if the efforts, imagination, and talents of artists were called upon now rather than later? What if the many funding agencies led by the NEA and state arts organizations inserted themselves into the process now? And what if art became the glue of rebuilding?
ISC Executive Director
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