De Gaulle Manor, an unoccupied apartment complex off of General De Gaulle Boulevard in Algiers breathes new life as artists transform the once blighted space into a dazzling presentation of art, history, and community collaboration.
Exhibit Be, the latest project from New Orleans Artist Brandon Odums and a host of local talent, occupies the old apartments with immediacy and fervor. The exterior displays are arresting, murals cover the building’s facade with images of gas-masked stormtroopers, cyborgs, rocket ships, and larger than life children, calling attention to the imagination a forgotten space can inspire and the greater issues surrounding housing policy and opportunity and community rights in Algiers and New Orleans at large.
Odums, the mastermind behind 2013’s Project B, a similar project that turned the Florida public housing projects into a celebration of civil rights heroes through spectacular spray paint portraiture and writing, saw De Gaulle Manor as another prime location for artistic transformation and began painting more portraits there some months ago. When Bill Thomason, a board member of the RDLN Foundation, which owns the property, discovered Odums work, he was enthralled and engaged the artist in talks to expand the project and open it up to public viewing.
Odums, along with Ayo Scott, Rontherin Ratliff, Ana Hernandez, WildSeeds, Ceaux Young, 3, Jess, Swan, Rone, Meek 1, Uter, Dvote, Stevie, Devin, Pyro, Sion, Sneek, Phats, Temps, Knowla, Rype, Enemy, Candy Chang, Dapa, Tdoe, Alex G, Geo, Kate Hanrahan, Jeremy, Noble, MRSA, Bordeaux, Paws, Fat Kids From Outer Space, Marc Fresh, Melon, Doom, Xistence, Bryson, SAB, Sank, and Mario Padilla worked throughout November to prepare the space for opening and together achieved the record for the largest single-site street art project in the south.
Accompanying the display, viewers are encouraged to walk through the complex, and some ground floor apartments host installations that present mixed-media critiques and histories of New Orleans housing policy, with special attention paid to injustices endured by the former residents of De Gaulle Manor. As one installation notes, following damages incurred during Hurricane Katrina and subsequently never repaired, over 100 families were evicted from their homes on Thanksgiving of 2006. This as well as the exhibit’s scale and its running concurrently with Prospect.3, New Orleans’s international art biennial, make the project both timely and wholly arresting, and it raises questions about how we deal with abandoned spaces.
Exhibit Be will run until the close of Prospect.3 in January with a closing reception planned for January 17th. Until then, the exhibit plans to be open every Saturday, and visitors are encouraged to check the Exhibit Be Facebook page for updates about hours and viewing schedules. Go see some cool stuff and don’t forget to check out our list of other abandoned sites, see if any projects come to mind!