A small local nonprofit hasn’t waited for the city or new owners to beautify some of the houses that have been moved from the giant dual-hospitals footprint and, in the words of one community member, “dumped” into the Hoffman Triangle neighborhood.
With help from local residents, United Saints Recovery has been busy painting the houses and plans to show them off Sunday at a celebratory block party.
While one of the houses moved to the triangle was demolished and another destroyed by fire, the other houses have stood for months on forlornly untended lots and their fate is uncertain.
According to Chris Schottland, United Saints Recovery’s director of community development, volunteer Frank Lemann walked into his office with ambitious plans to tackle the larger issues of blight abatement, as well as crime and public safety concerns. Lemann saw the houses as “an opportunity for children to participate in the process of improving their own communities and receive art instruction in the process,” Schottland said.
Lemann was named “community art director” and promptly went to work on the house in the 3300 block of First Street.
The murals are layered over the outside of the houses. Boarded-up windows and doors are adorned with brightly colored pictures of the architectural details that should be there, complete with flower boxes and faux doors. Other paintings depict musicians as well as children at play.
According to Schottland, reaction was positive. Lemann was able to attract support from other organizations, including KidsmArt, Eleanor McMain Secondary School and Tulane’s Department of Public Service, and set to work on another four houses.
Working with visiting artist Henry Hecchavarria, volunteer artist Liddy Rodiman painted murals and panels offsite and then installed them on the houses.
The public is invited to attend the “Outdoor Art Exhibit and Block Party” this Sunday from noon to 2pm on South Johnson Street between Jackson Avenue and First Street. The event features beverages, music and art activities and is free and open to all.