2006-2012, New Orleans, LA
Resident Artists at the Contemporary Arts Center, 2006-2009

The interdisciplinary collective The VESTIGES Project has made New Orleans its business for the past 20+ years. Over the years, participants have moved to various parts of the world and people from other parts of the world have joined in VESTIGES projects. The Katrina natural and unnatural disasters offer new challenges to its repertoire of multidisciplinary, collaborative works.

Anticipating its 25-year anniversary in 2009 and responding to the cataclysmic events of Katrina and its accompanying flood, it seems appropriate to convene a group of these creative people for a continuing interaction. With the participation of live audiences, The VESTIGES Project will explore the flood that turned New Orleans into a true vestige. A "living theater" program will provide a New Orleans-rooted yet global reach to interpret this Place – steeped with culture and history and ripe at this moment, with the future at the forefront.

Members of the United States Congress were invited to New Orleans after Katrina so they could understand and spread the word of the extent of the city's destruction and the dispersement of its residents. VESTIGES and the Contemporary Arts Center, noting the flight of many New Orleans artists, is calling on the "Cultural Congress" of the United States to also come and to tell through their art that the music, visual arts, drama, dance and literature of New Orleans need rejuvenation, just as does the economic, governmental and physical elements of the city.

VESTIGES: THINK TANK is an UMBRELLA project - a conceptual BUCKET within which to brainSTORM ways to explore New Orleans' future and to present multidisciplinary actions and installations in dialogue with the viewing audiences. It is produced by The VESTIGES Project while in residence at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans from 2006 through 2009.

VESTIGES Cultural Congress includes: Richard Schechner, Andrei Codrescu, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gillian Conoley, Jacques and Monica Arpin, Maggie Hadleigh-West, Julie Hebert, Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Lori A. Kent, Kristen Struebing-Beazley.


April 29, 2006, at NOCCA/Riverfront
"A Conversation with Richard Schechner",

Richard Schechner of the Performance Studies Department of NYU and formerly both a student and then a member of the Tulane Theatre Department and at present Artistic Director of East Coast Artists, has by invitation of The VESTIGES Project toured New Orleans and grasped the possibilities for commemoration, celebration, and rebirth. Artists like Schechner seek to rally support for the life of the people who constitute the cultural heart of New Orleans. The specific project Schechner is developing in collaboration with Vestiges, the "Home, New Orleans?" Scenario involves collaboration among artists, students, scholars, and filmmakers from New Orleans, New York, and elsewhere.

August 29, 2006 thru August 29, 2007
Anniversary lightwork installation by Debra Howell and Jan Gilbert, in the St Joseph Street windows of the Contemporary Arts Center. This "Katrina Pictionary" plays on the linguistic phenomenon in which a word's importance in a culture is reflected in the number of variations of it that exist in the cultural lexicon. The possible result of whiling away the hours of, say, an evacuation by playing parlour games, these "pages" of waterwords and images mimic both the traditional game of "Pictionary" and the somewhat sillier game of "Fortune Cookie" whereby you are required to insert the words "in bed" after every statement read by the players. Here, with "in your home" as refrain, the game addresses the flood-related losses of so many with the hope of softening the sorrows with wordplay and image. (funded by Ridgway's, Inc). View images from Waterwords

Videowork by Courtney Egan and Ann Schwab, in the Camp Street windows. Pre-Katrina, Courtney Egan and Ann Schwab discussed collaborating on a video projection piece focused on the movement of water. Originally envisioned as a trickle down a windowpane, Post-Katrina it became clear that a torrent of water was more appropriate. In this projection piece, light makes water ephemeral. Water, the source of such destruction in the storm, is also a source of spirituality and nourishment. Luminosity reinforces this spirituality- the repetition of the flow becoming mesmerizing and meditative. And as the water begins to flow upwards, it resists both gravity and the notion of what is real, thereby imbuing the ordinary with mystery. See more about "Waterfall"

September 6, 2006, in the Contemporary Arts Center's Freeport McMoran Theatre
"Before & After with Andrei Codrescu",
Andrei Codrescu, award-winning poet, National Public Radio commentator, and MacCurdy Professor of English Literature at Louisiana State University. Reading and book-signing of New Orleans, Mon Amour, a collection of twenty years of essays about the city. Visit Andrei's website.

October 10, 2006, in the Contemporary Arts Center's Freeport McMoran Theatre
"Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour",

Reading by Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour featuring: Gillian Conoley, Tonya Foster, Dara Wier, Joshua Beckman, Matthew Zapruder, Bob Hicock, and Carrie St. George Comer.

March 2007
"A Conversation with Yusef Komunyakaa",

Bogalusa, Louisiana, native and Pulitzer prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa will tour the devastated neighborhoods of New Orleans and join us in a reading of his works and conversation during the Tennessee Williams Festival.

Spring 2007

HOME, New Orleans? is a community-based, art focused network of organizations, universities, schools, artists, and neighborhoods that brings diverse constituencies together to create positive change in New Orleans. We have initiated projects in four neighborhoods, each with university, artist, and neighborhood participants. These neighborhoods include the 7th Ward, the 9th Ward, Central City and Lakeview. Our focus is "home" in its many manifestations: individual dwellings, neighborhoods, and the city itself. Our process emphasizes sustainable ways to contribute to ongoing neighborhood life. Home: New Orleans? responds to local priorities through neighborhood and community arts projects, memorials, youth theater workshops, performance and installation art - any art-making that enhances life and creates new opportunities to rebuild community for New Orleans and its residents.

Beginning in 2009, Home, New Orleans? participants took a breath to reflect on the work thus far and produced a booklet that is a selective retrospective about Home, New Orleans?, including the principles embodied by the projects, some challenges encountered in the work, and some lessons learned from the partners' experiences. This document is intended to serve as a resource for artists, educators, and community leaders seeking a model for employing art as a strategy to build community; and/or for those networking community-based organizations across oft-aligned divides of geography, race, age, and/or class. (

June 2007
"Lakeviews Bus Tour"

The Lakeview core team of Home, New Orleans? consists of Lakeview born and/or based artists: visual artist Jan Gilbert of The VESTIGES Project ; theater artists Kathy Randels of ArtSpot Productions; Andrew Larimer of The NOLA Project; and writer Jan Villarrubia. They have partnered with many individuals and organizations from the area and surrounding areas: Reverend and Mrs Dick Randels and Lakeview Baptist Church Congregation; the Contemporary Arts Center; Tulane students Marikit Bankston, Jessica Seedyke, Melissa Stein, and Xavier students Danisha McCall, Takako Uemura; dancer Maritza Mercado-Narcisse; and AARP group meeting in Lakeview; composers William Gilbert and Christopher Trapani, Beacons of Hope Graffeo Recovery Center, and more. The Lakeview group has focussed its efforts on preserving the oral history; energizing and fortifying existing neighborhood efforts; and taking steps to enliven the neighborhood and honor representatives of the area.

February 16 - May 25, 2008
"Workspace: In Katrina's Wake"

How do artists respond to calamity? In New Orleans, many resident artists and a number of those observing from outside have been moved by the need for community relief, healing, and support and have directed their work to address these immediate social and spiritual concerns. Whether through the commissioning of new cultural experiences that provide public forums for discussion and reflection, the inauguration of creativity workshops to provide encouragement for young people, or simply the creation of works that attempt to define and document the experience of catastrophe, artists can be a valiant force in the recovery of community-wide health and the forging of a future vision. This will be a group exhibition, the result of a year's research by curator Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, a former resident of the city, and will feature proposals, drawings, photographs, and mixed media works by artists including Paul Chan (New York), Jana Napoli (New Orleans), The VESTIGES Project (a collective of writers and artists based in New Orleans), and others.

Curated by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, Curator of American & Contemporary Art and Director of Curatorial Affairs, The Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin.

August 29, 2008 thru October, 2008
"Flood Lines"
Unless I remind myself to look, I don't see the black flood lines anymore and it may be that we have to keep such marks visible and in tension with our daily lives in order to connect our histories to our possible futures and try to fix things.
Katrina's third anniversary marks remembering and representing Flood Lines, a lightwork installation with photographs by Debra Howell, Krista Jurisich and Jan Gilbert, and text by Michele White, in the St Joseph Street windows of the Contemporary Arts Center. (funded by Ridgway's, Inc). View images from Flood Lines

November 1, 2008 - February 28, 2009, at Newcomb College Center for Research on Women
"LOSS. RITUAL. RELIC. Residue: the Archive"

The archive is a "portal" into the artists' methodology, presenting representative works of artists whose lives and artmaking-their tools and rituals-merge to ruminate, to dig, to recognize, to collect, to re-collect, to highlight, to honor. Here are idiosyncratic, playful, yet serious displays of obsessive observing and compulsive producing of offerings to the public domain. These artists, while displaying quite distinctive modes of practice, possess common veins of mining "loss."

Participants: Jackie Brenner, Charlie Bishop, Peggy Bishop, Angela Driscoll, Jan Gilbert, Danella Primeaux Hero, Debra Howell, Sharon Jacques, Jennifer Odem, Kristen Struebing-Beazley, Susan Tucker, Michel Varisco, Michele White.

Additionally, pieces and parts of collective projects including works of writers Carolyn Maisel, Andrei Codrescu, Yusef Komunyakaa, painter Margaret Witherspoon, and many more, come together to form Residue: the Archive. Read more about the installations.

Curator: Jan Gilbert; Assistant Curator: Melissa Stein.

March 12-28, 2009 at Convergence Center for the Arts, 6100 Canal Blvd in Lakeview
"Turning of the Bones"

Turning of the Bones, a "quirky comedy with music", addresses the subtle racism that permeates Southern, white, middle and upper class homes employing black domestics. Kate is a white woman overwhelmed with thoughts about an elderly, black man who lived in the basement and worked for her Jewish-Catholic family when she was a little girl in 1950s New Orleans. Haunted by flawed memories, fantasies and guilt, she searches for the essence of this man, but learns more about racism, human nature and herself. Villarrubia weaves into her play the ukulele songs created in the 1950s by her recently deceased mother Audrey L.Villarrubia.

The award-winning Turning of the Bones will be performed at 8PM each Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and each performance will be followed by a community discussion. Ashley Sparks directs the play, and the cast includes Lisa Shattuck, Don Lewis, Michael Zarou, Angela Papale, Jen Pagan, Maritza Mercado-Narcisse, Claudia Baumgarten and Aja Becker. The production staff includes Pamela Roberts, Jeff Becker, Selena Poznack, Diane Baas, Ellen Macomber and musicians Mark Darnell and Aurora Nealand. Admission is $15 for the general public, and $10 for students, seniors, artists and CAC members.

A co-founder of DramaRama Inc., Villarrubia is an award-winning, published poet and playwright. Her new poetry collection Return to Bayou Lacombe has just been released by Cinnamon Press in Wales. She has been invited to read this spring at London's Troubadour and the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, Wales.

Turning of the Bones is a joint project of the National Performance Network and HOME, New Orleans? with funding provided by The Ford Foundation, and is presented by ArtSpot Productions, The VESTIGES Project and the Contemporary Arts Center and is supported by grants from the Princess Grace Foundation and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans and is supported in part by a Community Arts Grant made possible by the City of New Orleans as administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans. This project is made possible by the support of the Sojourn Lakeview Church community. For more information, please visit ArtSpot Productions

April 17-July 12, 2009
"Previously on Piety"

The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) presents an exhibition of recent work by five New Orleans artists. Each of the artists will be represented by a single large-scale installation, originally shown together as a Satellite Exhibition for Prospect.1. The five participating artists are Gerard Caliste, Rondell Crier, Jan Gilbert, Jana Napoli, and Rontherin Ratliff.

Previously on Piety derives its name from 617 Piety Street, the Bywater address where the original exhibition took place. A raw warehouse space temporarily converted into a makeshift exhibition site, 617 Piety's impressive length and ceiling height made it possible for the artists involved to develop highly ambitious works that, while not site-specific, would have been extremely difficult to realize in a more conventional gallery setting.

August 1-December 31, 2009

A three-window lightwork installation at the Contemporary Arts Center by Kristen Struebing-Beazley, incorporating backlit text from the poem REQUIEM by Yusef Komunyakaa set into outlines of double shotgun houses. The work is embellished with motifs relevant to REQUIEM and the black and white tragedy of the South. Symbolic elements include floating specters and rib cages, unhinged shutters, a galloping surge, classical Bacchus and native Zulu icons and a geometric representation of death in the attic.

The installation is the fourth and final in a series claiming these large shadow-boxed spaces as VESTIGES: THINK TANKS, part of a post-Katrina umbrella project presenting multidisciplinary actions and installations in dialogue with a viewing audience.

October 2009-April 2010
"VESTIGES of New Orleans: Ritual and Relic at Atlanta's Buckhead Library"

The VESTIGES Project is celebrating its 25th anniversary year and traveling artworks by several native Orleanians working in photography and video to Atlanta's Buckhead Library. The exhibition VESTIGES of New Orleans: Ritual and Relic is the second part of a pair of offerings presented by VESTIGES and Atlanta's Opal Gallery, and is part of "Atlanta Celebrates Photography", a series of exhibitions, programs and festivities focusing on photography across the city.

Jan Gilbert, artist/co-founder of The VESTIGES Project and project director of VESTIGES of New Orleans notes: "In the past the group has investigated sites that are unknown, overlooked or historically camouflaged, in order to question traditional and commonly accepted ideas of the spectacular. The Opal Gallery summer exhibition VESTIGES: LAND MARKS and artists' panel/exchange at Eyedrum provided opportunities to connect this group to the Atlanta arts community.  Longtime senior art editor of ARTPAPERS, Jerry Cullum joined the effort. He steered us to secure this historically-charged venue for VESTIGES to produce experimental, interactive, site specific, public art installations at the Buckhead Library."

This modernist architectural gem designed by Scogin, Elam and Bray recently was threatened by a developer's plan for the wrecking ball and saved by public outcry. The work created in this exhibition is different from a traditional gallery showing as the artists respond conceptually to the site in varied ways but from the unique perspective of a New Orleans vantage point-a culture where ritual and relic are deeply ingrained and hallowed.

Participating Artists: Jackie Brenner, Angela Driscoll, Courtney Egan, Ellen E. Ellis, Jan Gilbert, Debra Howell, Kristen Struebing-Beazley, Michel Varisco

September 1-October 7, 2011, at the Rebecca Bryan Gallery at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina; February 25-April 7, 2012, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, as part of "NOLA NOW Part II"; October 18, 2012-January 25, 2017, installed at US/IS, 441 Gravier St, New Orleans; June 1, 2017-October 1, 2018, installed in Pieterburen and Kloosterburen, NL

The Rebecca Bryan Gallery at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina invited The VESTIGES Project to mark the 6th Anniversary of the Katrina floods with an exhibition entitled VESTIGES/TRINITAS. Along with other works by New Orleans artists, the exhibition marks the premiere of the installation VESTIGES/trinitas, conceived and constructed by Jan Gilbert and Debra Howell of The VESTIGES Project. Read more about Trinitas

VESTIGES/trinitas is about coming to terms with what's been lost, on both a personal and regional scale, possibly forever. The double whammy of Katrina and the BP spill made it impossible to ignore the fact that New Orleans and South Louisiana would never be the way they were pre-Katrina, and the people who live here would never have the same lives they once had.

VESTIGES/trinitas is both a repository and an investigation: of our collective memory and identity; of the influence of our culture on our memories; of the relationship between our memories and our history. We'd like this work to act as a container within which we attach our photos, our memorabilia, our hodgepodge of disparate items we want to mark, to remember, to keep close.

VESTIGES/trinitas is a large format wall installation (approximately 9 feet x 18 feet) comprised of a multitude of reclosable (ziplock) clear plastic bags, containing images, objects and texts submitted by invited artists and writers. The bags are attached to the wall in three sections with a fish scale format, enabling the pieces to be seen both individually and as an integrated part of a larger "image". As visual reference for the installation, VESTIGES/trinitas uses the sky/earth/water trinity of our vanishing wetlands as a metaphor for what's been lost on an individual human scale as well.

Artists were invited to submit (recycle) what they miss, has been lost, or has been damaged, (physical, emotional, representational, in words, objects, images), to be "preserved" into these sealed 9"x6" ziplock bags. Contents could include pieces of damaged or lost art, books, or other items, and would be hung contiguously if necessary. We asked that whenever possible, their contributions would include clinical documentation: sealed into the bag along with each contribution should be identifying info such as time, place, manner of loss, either written/attached on the flip side or visible from the front. We encouraged as many submissions as they would like, and the results far exceeded our expectations.

Participating Artists and Writers: Monica Koechli Arpin - Jacques Arpin - Alex Baker - Dave Baker - Jacqueline Bishop - Barbara Brainard - Pearl Clark - Andrei Codrescu - Dylan Cruz - Luis Cruz-Azaceta - Lee Diegaard - Karen Oser Edmunds - Michael Fedor - Alan Gerson - Jan Gilbert - Brandon Graving - Maggie Hadleigh-West - Shawn Hall - Rachel Harris-Beck - Debra Howell - Elizabeth Howie - Sharon Jacques - Krista Jurisich - Lori A. Kent - Elizabeth Kleinveld - Mari Kornhauser - Crystal Kile - Frahn Koerner - Susan Loeb - Kevin J. McCaffrey - Page Moran - Darlene Olivo - Mary Jane Parker - Mary Perrin - Francine Prevost - Kathy Randels - Rontherin Ratliff - Laura Richens - Ama Rogan - Ben Schenk - Cynthia Scott - Caroline Senter - Mary Sherman - Maxx Sizeler - Jamuna Yvette Sirker - Susan Svendsen - Jan Villarrubia - Michele White - Nancy E. Wyllie - Alexis Wreden

Think Tank Curator: Jan Gilbert

Partners: Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts,  Marriott Residence Inn, East Coast Artists, New York University/Tisch School of the Arts, Xavier and Dillard Universities, Tulane University, Transforma Projects, National Performance Network, Metairie Park Country Day School.

Funded By: Transforma/National Performance Network; American Center Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; National Endowment for the Arts; The Nathan Cummings Foundation.


©  2006-2011 The Vestiges Project.