by Liberty Finch
It might take a village to raise a child, but what if the village is obliterated by a category five hurricane? And what if instead of a child, those in need are members of a once-thriving art community who lost everything in the wake of Hurricane Katrina? How do you help that community rebuild, literally and figuratively, what they lost—from homes and studios to paint brushes, canvases and a life’s work of creativity?
Here in the Twin Cities, art aficionados and community activists are answering those questions.
Woodward manages the Northrup
King Building (NKB), a Northeast Minneapolis warehouse that offers studio
space to more than 150 artists. Woodward has been working with Minnesota Helpers—a
nonprofit organization that serves individuals and families of natural disasters—as
well as local galleries, to coordinate The Katrina Collection. The show
features artists from Bay St. Louis, Missouri, an arts community located about
60 miles from New Orleans, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The Katrina Collection is currently on display at NKB, Frank
Stone Gallery and Minnetonka
Center for the Arts. None of the galleries are taking their usual sales
commission, so all proceeds go directly to the artists.
More than 20 artists are represented in the show, including Lori Gordon. Gordon
lost everything in the storm—her home, her studio—even her tree
house. “I think I’ll miss the tree house the most,” she said
recently at Frank Stone Gallery’s opening reception. “It had a raised
walkway. The studio stood in a grove of bamboo, and held 40 years of work and
Gordon spent years as a landscape painter—driven to capture the warm and
varied hues of a multitude of Gulf Coast sunrises. But these days she works
in collage and mixed media, creating art from the rubble that’s washed
up on her property.
“Five weeks after the storm, I started sifting through the rubble of my
life and began creating something new from the mounds of debris,” she
wrote in an article for Art Gulf Coast magazine. “I have found treasures
in the form of clocks that stopped at the moment that destruction rained down
… Broken dolls that washed up on my lot have been transformed into visual
stories of shattered lives. Plaster angels have found new halos of dartboard
wire, and fragments of paintings that I plucked from tree limbs like damaged
fruit have been reborn in new forms.”
Gordon used recycled elements and found objects to create the looming and beautiful
“African Mask.” It’s a wall sculpture that at once exudes
both power and vulnerability. Long, colorful strands of woven yarn cascade from
the mask, hiding words etched onto a surface. The words tell the story of Gordon’s
personal, post-storm aftermath.
Despite the struggle that’s ensued these past seven months, Gordon and
many of the other Gulf Coast artists remain upbeat and optimistic. They are
grateful for the outpouring of support from Minnesotans, happy to be working
again and thankful to have places to showcase their work.
The Katrina Collection will be at least through April, and Woodward hopes
to arrange additional gallery space for more Gulf Coast artist showings (more
than 350 art pieces arrived in January). She said she’d like to display
the collection at least through Art-A-Whirl, which takes place May 19-21.
NKB will be hosting two receptions for The Katrina Collection, featuring
several Bay St. Louis artists: on “First Thursday,” April 6 from
5 to 9 p.m., and on Sat., April 8 from 5 to 8 p.m.
For information on how to donate art supplies, or to “adopt an artist,”
go to Hancock-Art.com.
Northrup King Building is located at 1500 NE Jackson St., Mpls., 612-363-5612.
Frank Stone Gallery is located at 1224 NE 2nd St., Mpls., 612-617-9965. Minnetonka
Center for the Arts is located at 2240 North Shore Dr., Wayzata, 952-473-7361.