New Orleans Contemporary Art: Post-Katrina

On Thursday, September 24, artist and gallery owner Terrence Sanders presented a private screening of his documentary film "New Orleans Contemporary Art: Post-Katrina." Just before 7 p.m. a collection of local artists, gallery owners and New Orleans' art-scene stakeholders milled about at the Marigny intersection of Kerlerec and Royal streets, sandwiched between Sanders' ArtVoices headquarters and the R Bar. The film had only been previously previewed for one night in late July at Robert Tannen's Studio 527 gallery.

The art space gone screening room was ripe with some of New Orleans most active and influential artists and curators, many who were also featured in the film. Running at about 30 minutes, the film featured snippits of interviews with Andy Antippas (owner, Barrister's Gallery), Willie Birch (artist), Dan Cameron (director of visual art at New Orleans' Contemporary Arts Center and director of Prospect.1), Dawn DeDeaux (artist), Brad Dupuy (artist), Olivia Hill (artist), Kirsha Kaechele (owner, KK Projects), Mia Kaplan (artist), Borislava Kharalampiev (owner, Gallery Bienvenu, Miranda Lash (curator, New Orleans Museum of Art, Shantrelle Lewis (curator, George and Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, Terrence Sanders (artist and editor, ArtVoices magazine), Robert Tannen (artist) and more.

"After my friend and fellow Artist Jeffrey Cook’s untimely death, I decided to document our contemporary art scene in New Orleans. The outcome is a concise and coherent motion picture that celebrates our struggle to articulate the movement of contemporary art in Nola," Sanders said in a press release for the July preview screening.

Among still images of recent pieces and installations shown in various venues throughout the city and the tune of a sobering piano piece, the colorful cast of characters (in the truest sense of the word) discussed their personal histories in New Orleans arts scene, last year's biennial Prospect.1 and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on local artists and their work.

"I came to New Orleans based on a moment in a restaurant in New York City. And I had just come back to the country from living in southern Lebanon and I suppose I had a little bit of a culture shock. So, I wandered into this restaurant and felt immediately at home. There was this table of about thirteen people, laughing their heads off, falling out of their chairs onto the floor, children on the table dancing, at this beautiful restaurant. And I just said, 'wherever these people are from, I’m moving there immediately.' I went up and said, 'where are you from?' And they said, 'New Orleans, come on!' And I did, I took a train down three days later," said Kirsha Kaechele.

At the risk of seeming self-important, Sanders finished the film with a segment of himself waxing predictive about the legacy of the post-storm players (presumably himself included) who are defining New Orleans' art scene.

"They [future generations] are going to look back, and they’re going to talk about new Orleans post-Katrina. They’re going to talk about the contemporary art movement and the way we were alive here, and that we were alive. And this is what it’s all about," said Sanders.

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