The scene at MechaCon check-in is bedlam. A man in a glittery green bowler hat, possibly left over from St. Patrick’s Day, jostles a woman with blue and purple hair, who consoles her crying sister. A girl in a metallic red and blue jacket, matching bikini bottoms and black high-heeled boots shivers nearby. Other people in varying degrees of costume stand around the registration desk in vague gestures toward lines; the confusion seems to stem from the fact that there are multiple registration levels. Red-shirted volunteers keep trying to line people up based on the first letter of their last names (“N through Z!”)
Behind me, a young man in an electric blue wig, a red fedora with playing cards tucked into the band and goggles seems indifferent to the chaos. He’s carrying two boxes at about chest-level.
“What’s in the box?” I ask.
The first box has a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards, he says.
“And the other one?”
“It’s a box of string.”
"And what is the string for?
“No one is supposed to know what the string does.”
Shyly, he opens the box’s lid to reveal a tangled nest of extension and power cords.
After a summer of high-hedonist activities (tubing, daiquiris, kiddie pools filled with Jell-O), return to civilized culture in August with the city's annual "Museum Month."
During the event, major local museums offer free admission with an active membership at one of the participating institutions. For example, buying a membership to the Contemporary Arts Center gets you in to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the National World War II Museum, Le Musee de Free People of Color and several other properties.
The program is a great way to check out museums during a traditionally quiet month for tourism, when galleries and exhibits are less crowded. Budget-friendly memberships include Ashe Cultural Arts Center (from $25), the Historic New Orleans Collection (from $35), and Longue Vue House & Gardens (from $35).
A complete list of museums is available online.
Jebney Lewis’ latest sculpture is a series of contiguous steel plates. But it’s also a map of the New Orleans ward system and a musical instrument that gives off an eerie, theremin-like hum.
The sculpture is part of a project called Songs of Home Songs of Change, created in collaboration with the composer Rick Snow and the writer Christopher Staudinger. For the project, the group asked area high school students to record sounds that remind them of home or that tell the story of the changing city. Using electronic transducers, the recordings are played through the ward-shaped plates to create resonant tones.
“They’re ordinary sounds, in some ways, or sounds that we’re familiar with, but these young people have a different way of looking at them,” Lewis says. “They’re pretty abstract when you play them through the plates, but they’re recognizable enough to be kind of evocative.”
In a 4,500-square foot St. Claude Avenue warehouse that was once an auto body shop, the team from the Frenchmen Art Market has been hanging chandeliers and screwing in lightbulbs until after midnight.
They’re preparing the Art Garage, an offshoot of the popular art venue, and no detail to spruce up the industrial space is too small.
“As far as the decor, [Frenchmen Art Market founder Kate Gaar] feels like, if you wrap anything in lights it can be beautiful,” Alicia Conforto, who handles marketing for the group, says. “There’s going to be a ton of lights as well as the funky little seating areas that we normally have.”
Conforto says the new venue will be much more than the Frenchmen space, which continues to operate as a traditional art market. Although the Art Garage has a retail area where local artists can show and sell their work, the focus will be on gallery space and art happenings. The first of these will take place when the venue opens to the public at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 22. That night, Foundation Gallery curator and artist Alice McGillicuddy will take part in a live art installation that she calls “art boxing.”
McGillicuddy will wrap herself in bubble wrap that she’s injected with paint and “box” with another artist in a boxing ring lined with canvas. The paint splatters from the bout will create an original work.
The spring schedule for the venue is still in flux, but patrons can expect to see these types of events regularly. Its members are looking forward to being part of the burgeoning St. Claude arts district.
“[Kate] just sees the potential over here, and so she’s been keeping her eye out for a space for several months now. We kind of jumped when she found this,” Conforto says.
Joseph Therrien, a touring company member with Bread and Puppet Theater, knows how to start a revolution. To win hearts and minds, skip the canvassing and start making puppets.
“People — their inhibitions, their ideological beliefs — kind of soften when they see a puppet,” he says. “Especially with [Bread and Puppet], because we use a lot of humor and music, as opposed to someone who’s on the street, ranting on a soapbox, or someone trying to get signatures for a petition. As important as those things are … [puppets] really unlock something in people and make them more receptive.”
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