Aah, 2020. You came in carried daintily in our arms across the threshold of time like a blushing bride with the promise of a new life together filled with promise and anticipation. We weren't even a month into our blossoming nuptial bliss when you made us realize that our expectation of a marriage filled with slow motion running through sepiatone valleys filled with flowers and sunsets was to be, instead, a trailer park marriage of alcoholism and spousal abuse. Yes, 2020, you took us all for a ride and we will never forgive you for it.
I could speak at length about the broken promises and songs never sung, but we all have our own stories that would overshadow anything that I could write here. What I will speak on here is the voice of the artist. Yes, the artist. Those that get up with the sun and set up shop with folding tables, folding chairs, and anything else that can fold, pack away, and be easily transported from location to location. They show up from seemingly out of nowhere bringing with them the beautiful things they create that reflect the majesty and fragility of our sometimes meaningless existence. They offer us perspective, context, or just beauty for the sake of beauty.
I live in a tourist city. Tourism is the blood that beats through the heart of everything we do here. Tourist dollars pay for our public works, our rent, the pumps that sometimes keep us safe during our summer rainy season, and just about everything else here. For those dollars we offer an experience for those tourists that is completely unique to this city. Nowhere else in the world is like New Orleans, for good or ill. For a few bucks you can feel like you've stepped back in time. You can feel a freedom that simply doesn't exist in any other American city. You can feel simultaneously at home and in danger. The feelings you can feel in this city are like a drug. Some of us got addicted and stayed. Others just want a hit then to go back to their homes feeling slightly smug that they got to live in sin for a few days.
COVID has taken that rush of experience and brought it to a screeching halt. This city that relies so much on the outside to make the inside work has had the rug snatched out from under her. Not only have so many of our citizens been forced to not work for several months. Without tourists, our ability to bounce back during the phased reopening has been severely hindered. This has been felt across the board in this city, but for now I'm focusing on the gut punch received by the city's artists. From the artists of Jackson Square to the sellers at the world famous French Market to the smaller art markets around the city, the once thriving arts community in New Orleans is now struggling. Artists that have been the life blood of this city are now thinking of relocating to less volatile cities. With every artist that walks away, the color of this city becomes less vibrant. The reasons to come here become less acute. What do we have to offer the world but the culture in which we live and the soul that reverberates through our streets? As we lose more and more of our people, those reverberations diminish. Our scream becomes an echo. Our light that shines the way dims and our path becomes harder to follow.
While walking through the French Quarter last weekend my lovely companion and I happened upon a street artist named Ernest Mop Brown. His charcoal work had so much life and movement to it we just had to stop and talk to him. Each of his New Orleans scenes spoke. It was a certain place at a certain time with a certain sound and a certain feel. It was beautiful and raw. I was moved to do a small highlight video about him. I wanted to take a moment to let the world hear his one voice in the greater chorus that is New Orleans. Here is a link to Ernest's Instagram page. He sets up on Royal Street near Pirate's Alley by St. Louis Cathedral. This video is not my finest work, but I think his story supersedes my mediocre shooting of this one.
This is the first in what I hope to be a series of videos highlighting local artists and their work. I would love to show the faces behind the brush strokes. There are so many incredibly talented people who live here. They deserve more than a glace by the passing, Hand Grenade sipping face that takes but a moment to admire the skill it's taken a lifetime to perfect. I want to give a these artists their due.
As with all YouTube videos, if you like what you see please like, subscribe, comment, and share this video. I'm trying very seriously to build a worthwhile YouTube site and I can only do that with your help. Also, if there's anything, anyone, any site, any whatever in the southeastern USA you'd like to see me do a video highlighting please tell me in the comments of this blog post or any of my YouTube videos and I'll look into it. I'm finding my voice at the moment and I'd love your input.