Little painted streetcars have cropped up all over town. Who started them, and is it possible to purchase the pattern so I could paint one for my own yard?
The streetcars are part of "A Streetcar Named Inspire," a project of the Young Leadership Council (YLC). Described as a public art festival, the project displays fiberglass replicas of streetcars decorated by local artists all over the New Orleans area. The streetcars, which started showing up around town in May 2008, will remain on display through the spring.
The YLC's sponsorship program has several options for funding the miniature streetcars. For $5,000, you become a Purple Sponsor and get a painted or unpainted fiberglass streetcar placed at a public location selected by the YLC. If you are a Green Sponsor ($5,500), you get to choose where it will be displayed, but I believe it has to be a public location. Since you want your very own streetcar, however, you must be a Gold Sponsor ($7,000), which allows you to keep the streetcar after the display period ends. If you sponsor a streetcar, the YLC will put a plaque on it with your name, the name of the artist who painted it and the title of the artwork.
Money from this project goes to the Downtown Development District, which has a plan to make the corner of Basin and Canal streets a dynamic public art space.
The YLC, founded in 1986 by a group of young adults who wanted to help New Orleans through community projectd, has raised more than $25 million since its inception. It has about 1,000 members, and 25 people serve on its board of directors.
Other YLC projects include the ubiquitous bumper stickers that proclaim "New Orleans: Proud to call it home" as well as the Festival of Fins in 2000. During that festival, which lasted from May through September, more than 200 fiberglass fish were painted and designed by 150 artists and placed all over the New Orleans area. In November 2000, 105 of the fish were sold at auction, raising more than $550,000 for local nonprofit organizations. The YLC may hold a similar auction for the streetcars next spring.
Going back to the 1920s and '30s, the majority of houses below Canal Street had wooden steps. I can remember how housewives cleaned them regularly, and I thought they used a brick and water. However, some have told me it never happened. Can you help?
It's true. Women did use bricks or brick dust to clean their steps. However, the bricks were not kiln-dried bricks but sun-dried bricks. There's a big difference.
Sun-dried bricks have been used for at least 5,000 years and are believed to have originated in the Middle East. In their primitive form, bricks were not fired in a kiln; they were hardened by drying in the sun. This type of brick is more fragile than a kiln-dried one and crumbles easily. That's why sun-dried brick dust and water were used as an abrasive for cleaning wooden floors well into the 20th century.