We need to take our cues from places like New Orleans, whose citizens go out of their way to make their surroundings reflect their personalities, regardless of their income level.
Editor’s note: This piece, which originally ran April 13, 2011, is being republished as part of The Drive AltDaily Drive.
It’s nearly impossible not to be enchanted with New Orleans, and not just by the iconic architecture and charm of the French Quarter.
This is a city that feels ALIVE: art, in one form or another, is literally everywhere. Walking through Bywater, a colorful and blighted neighborhood adjacent to the Quarter, we came upon this project by Candy Chang, an internationally-reknowned public installation artist and Bywater resident:
Some plywood, chalkboard paint and a little elbow grease transformed an abandoned house into an inclusive and inspiring art project. We had so much fun adding to it and reading all the stuff that people had written. Some was funny (…have a pet unicorn), some was inspiring (…see my daughter graduate from college). All of it begged the question, “why can’t we have something like this in Norfolk?”
The answer is, we CAN. We just have to do it. With a little effort and vision we can turn the spaces around us into reflections of our interests and what’s important to us. There’s no reason we should have to travel to other places to experience creativity and color. Here are some other cool things I saw in New Orleans that could easily happen more often around here:
An abandoned bathtub reimagined as a beautiful garden:
A funky hydrant brightening up a patch of weeds near the railroad tracks:
People taking pride in their homes and making them vibrant, fun and beautiful, all with a few coats of paint:
People spontaneously breaking into dance as they walk by street musicians:
Every street name is written out in tile on it’s corners: such a simple thing, but what an impact it makes. On the corner of Marigny and Dauphine we found this painting transforming an ordinary telephone pole:
The bike culture in New Orleans is huge, and everyone is really into embellishing their rides and creating their own works of art, such as this one:
Kind of reminds me of our friend Wes Cheney, who lives in Norfolk and creates bicycles of all shapes and sizes out of bamboo. There is growing momentum in the bike culture here in Norfolk, and many people actively encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto their bicycles. May is Bike Month. A perfect time to get the bike out of the garage and start riding more often.
There is so much room for creativity in Hampton Roads. We need to take our cues from places like New Orleans, whose citizens go out of their way to make their surroundings reflect their personalities, regardless of their income level. Art and beauty can be attained on many different levels, as long as we have a little imagination. And collectively, with enough effort, we can show the world how fun our cities are and, more importantly, how colorful the citizens of Hampton Roads can be.
Want to make Norfolk prettier? Send me an email. I’d like to help. firstname.lastname@example.org.