Review: New Orleans artists present a celebration of diversity and place

By Saskia Ozols, guest columnist

The current exhibit by the Renegade Artists Collective, “Off the Beaten Path,” includes an outstanding combination of voices that link symbolism of New Orleans and the Greater Gulf South, through commentary on its history and notes on considerations for the future. 

RAC exhibition curators Erin McNutt and Cheryl Anne Grace, both painters themselves, organized the show to include artists of varied genres and professional backgrounds — all currently working in New Orleans and without traditional gallery representation. The exhibit features work by professional mid-career artists along with the works of select students, art majors chosen by a committee from local universities. 

Exhibiting new talent with established professionals has been a formula in historic art communities to assure longevity. It both preserves and promotes a healthy, thriving art community. The structure fosters growth and provides a pathway for both artists and collectors to persevere through generations despite otherwise challenging conditions. Cities such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia have long histories of this structure in their most venerated institutions.  

This structure is especially important now as visual arts practice, preservation and education are quickly slipping away from public view.

Viewpoint: Reflections on taming the demons within

With the ongoing war between Russia and the Ukraine and with New Orleans’ never-ending crusade against crime and corruption, there is much for Christians, Jews and Muslims to reflect upon during Holy Week, Passover and Ramadan. Everyone has demons that haunt them. New Orleanians, it seems, have more than their fair share. The ability to fight off temptation often determines the quality of a person’s character and the kind of life they lead. Yet the longer I observe people — including politicians at all levels of government — the more I wonder what makes integrity fade away.

Viewpoint: Early childhood education, on the April 30 ballot, can prevent crime

In what is predicted to be an extremely low-turnout election on Saturday, April 30, Orleans Parish voters will have the opportunity to support a unique property tax dedicated to early childhood education. If approved, the legislation could generate about $21 million annually — creating 1,500 early childhood education seats in New Orleans. According to the legislation’s advocate Yes for NOLA Kids, the owner of a $200,000 home should expect to pay an additional $5.20 per month in property taxes. An owner of a home assessed at $1 million might pay $26 monthly. Currently more than 8,300 low-income children in New Orleans under the age of 4 are unable to access an affordable, high-quality early childhood education program. 
“When more kids are participating in preschool programs, we won’t have all the crime that we have now.” Cynthia Hedge Morrell
 “We’ve known since the days of famed researchers Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori that early childhood education has always been essential to creating thinking, caring, socialized, well-rounded children,” said long-time educator Cynthia Hedge Morrell, retired teacher and principal of McDonogh 15 Elementary School who later served on the City Council.

Viewpoint: Ukrainians have what it takes to defend their country, global security expert says

A new book by a New Orleans author examines military strategy that can be applied to business success in the civilian world. James P. Farwell’s The Corporate Warrior: Successful Strategies from Military Leaders to Win Your Business Battles was released in early February, a few weeks before Russian invaded Ukraine, drawing many Americans into closely following military maneuvers. 

Farwell said the Russian offense against the Ukrainians appears to be poorly organized and lacks a key leader and well-thought-out plan. “The Russian army was not prepared for this fight. Their troops are not well trained, armed or supplied,” he said. Comparing Ukrainians’ struggle against Russia to the Afghani’s struggle against the Taliban, Farwell discussed some intangible strategic assets.

Viewpoint: New Orleans wins big with 2022 NCAA Men’s Final Four

New Orleans’ reputation as a world-class destination for sports tourism will be on full display next week (April 2-4) when thousands of fans and players descend upon the city for the 2022 Men’s Final Four in the Caesars Superdome. It will be the sixth time that the Men’s Final Four has been held in New Orleans. For more than 30 years, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation has played a leadership role in coordinating the highly competitive bid processes that have led to more than 100 signature sporting competitions in the city. They have also worked seamlessly with various national governing bodies like the NCAA to execute these multi-million-dollar events, many of which draw television audiences in the millions.  

“This year is extra special,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards at last month’s “Tip Off” press conference. “When you think about what we, in Louisiana, and what this city and region have gone through these past few years, through it all the NCAA has stuck with us.”  

New Orleans had already hosted the Super Bowl several times when in 1987 former First NBC Bank president Ian Arnof approached the Young Leadership Council about the idea of a nonprofit sports commission aimed at developing New Orleans into a national leader in sport tourism.

Viewpoint: We need to stop demolishing our historic homes (sponsored)

By Susan Johnson, guest columnist

From the street, the house at 1025 Henry Clay Ave. resembles an old-fashioned, eclectic California cabin on a generous lot, with an open, full-length wooden porch, chamfered roof, and double front doors with parti-colored inlaid paneling. In its centenary year, it inspires interest, admiration and affection. 

Yet the house will soon be torn down, if the new owner has his way. The old cypress tree in the backyard will be cut down, too. 

More than this, it looks like the Historic District Landmarks Commission and District A Councilman Joe Giarrusso III are going to let him do it. 

On Feb. 2, the HDLC commissioners approved the demolition of 1025 Henry Clay on the recommendation of HDLC staff, with a vote of 10 to 1.

Viewpoint: It’s time to consolidate the city’s law enforcement under an elected commissioner

Thirteen year-old Byron “Little B” Kelly Jr. was just a normal kid who enjoyed haircuts and football. Kelly’s decision to walk to the corner store Tuesday evening (March 15) inextricably placed him in harm’s way. Unfortunately, Kelly’s life — like those of many other victims of senseless acts of violence — ended far too soon. Despite multiple marches, candlelight vigils and impassioned pleas by the public, the New Orleans Police Department under the direction of Superintendent Shaun Ferguson has not been able to reverse the crime epidemic. Carjackings may have slowed during Carnival but could spike again anytime.

Viewpoint: Progressive prosecutors like DA Jason Williams are often on the hot seat

District Attorney Jason Williams, who pledged to redesign the city’s justice system so that it “equitably serves all people,” is among the busiest public officials in town. With criminal trials having resumed this week after a long Covid-19 hiatus, Williams is personally arguing a murder case. He is also keeping a watchful eye at the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where federal prosecutors are seeking to overturn a ruling issued by the late Judge Martin Feldman that would prohibit them from using information about Williams’ prior tax delinquencies in his upcoming tax fraud trial. 

Williams has acknowledged the “lawlessness and cowboy stuff happening on the streets” of New Orleans. Today’s criminal environment, or perhaps a nudge from the Justice Department, has caused Williams to dial back on such campaign promises as quickly addressing hundreds of split jury convictions, not trying juveniles as adults, and reforming what he labeled “the ineffective and unfair money bail system.” The Metropolitan Crime Commission and others uncovered a breakdown in the screening process of those arrested. Through a procedure known as 701 releases, since last June more than 800 individuals were let out of jail after charges were not filed in a timely fashion.

Viewpoint: Striving for peace during a Lenten season like no other

 

In the pre-dawn hours of Mardi Gras Day, Chief Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and his North Side Skull & Bones Gang reminded onlookers of their mortality and the need to appreciate life and the people around them. For more than 200 years, culture bearers with African and Caribbean roots have beat drums and danced in the streets on Fat Tuesday while spreading a message of peace and love. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find much peace and love in 2022. Almost 1,300 Louisiana residents were too busy battling Covid last weekend to take part in any Mardi Gras festivities. Another 71 Louisianians missed out all together because they recently succumbed to the virus. We still don’t know how many revelers might have become infected during the holiday. 

Four other individuals — including two visitors to New Orlean, Heaven Nettles and Brandon Bovain — perished needlessly in the past few days.

Viewpoint: As new variant threatens the city, maskless officials send a dangerous message

When New Orleans elected officials don’t feel the urgency to consistently wear masks at Carnival festivities, how can they expect citizens and visitors to take the rules seriously?  Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor have been blowing up with posts this week regarding the reckless behavior of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, her besties and others whose images were captured sans masks at the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball last Friday night. National and international media attention was extensive. 

“Why waste your emotions on this,” wrote  Daveida Pittman on Nextdoor. “We all know what it is. But the citizens elected her again, so apparently people love the hypocrisy ….” New Orleanians  understand that the rules Cantrell put in place allow for masks to be removed when eating or drinking. Most of the Gallier Hall video and other images available appear to show that masks were barely worn once the party moved into high gear.