Director Sylvester Francis, a.k.a. Hawk Mini Camera, shares his life’s work, The Backstreet Cultural Museum, with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The exhibit includes famous Jazz Funeral photography and memorabilia, Social Aid and Pleasure Club crafts, second-line mementos, and recorded film footage of New Orleans’ funerals, second-lines, Baby Dolls, Skull and Bone gangs and Mardi Gras Indians. The Backstreet Cultural Museum holds the world’s most comprehensive collection related to New Orleans’ African American community-based masking and processional traditions.
In honor of our 2017 Cuba spotlight at Jazz Fest, we will feature a multicultural triptych mural collaboration to be displayed in the Grandstand. The influence of Cuban culture is undeniable and deeply inserted in New Orleans life. Cuban artists, residing in New Orleans, will express their experience as their culture merges with the New Orleans art culture. Pedro “Piki” Mendizabal, Ramiro Diaz and Elizabeth Rodriguez will lead the painting of one side of the mural with their unique Cuban perspective, while New Orleans artists Lionel Milton, Brandon “B Mike” Odums and Rotherin Ratliff will lead the completion of the other side of the mural. Mario Padilla, Rotherin Ratliff and Pedro “Piki” Mendizabal will come together to work on the center piece as they merge their perspectives on the beauty of preservation, survival, and freedom of expression.
The quintessential New Orleanian, Pete Fountain embodied the values of his hometown. Surrounded by family and friends, he always exhibited an infectious joie de vivre. The virtuoso took his music seriously, but he never took himself too seriously. He became one of the most famous residents of New Orleans, but it never went to his head.
As a young clarinetist, Fountain quickly rose to the top by playing with the Dukes of Dixieland and Al Hirt. By 1957 he gained fame as a regular on The Lawrence Welk Show. Known for his 1959 recording of “Just A Closer Walk with Thee,” his prodigious recordings include everything from traditional New Orleans jazz to instrumental pop hits. Fountain became an even bigger celebrity after numerous appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. All the while, he maintained his attachment to his hometown, opening a club on Bourbon Street in 1960, which lasted until 2003 after a late 1970s move to the Hilton Riverside. Each Mardi Gras, Fountain and his Half-Fast Walking Club, would start at Commander’s Palace and wind its way to the French Quarter. Despite his renown, he remained a beloved and down-to-earth figure to the end.
The year 1895 marked the birth of two important American art forms in New Orleans: jazz and Newcomb pottery. Like jazz, Newcomb pottery developed from the city’s distinctive cultural milieu in the decades following the Civil War. But while the musical genre was taking root in New Orleans’ “Back O’ Town” neighborhoods, the ceramic wares were literally taking shape in the Garden District classrooms of the pioneering all-women’s Newcomb College. Lesser known than their musical counterpart, the ceramics nonetheless emerged as some of the finest expressions of American Arts and Crafts and today are found in museums the world over. The exhibit will examine both art forms’ embrace of standardization and improvisation, the influence of New Orleans’ distinct cultural and physical landscape, as well as the modest economic opportunities offered to their practitioners—two marginalized groups traditionally excluded from wage-earning enterprises. Images of pottery will be paired with period lyrics, underscoring the shared aesthetic foundation of these otherwise distinct creative expressions.
The Blues Center Pop-Up: Save the Blues Foundation (with help from a Jazz Fest Community Partnership Grant) presents The Blues Center Pop-Up. It is a first peak at an innovative future downtown New Orleans museum, treating fans to a curated smorgasbord of music familiar from yearly festivals. BC exhibits, radio and web productions will contextualize local and regional contributions to Blues, Jazz, Rock, Country and R&B helping fans gain a deeper understanding of the surrounding culture. The exhibit includes an interactive music map with video, audio, photos and text connecting fans with an array of deserving roots artists. Save the Blues Foundation is committed to growing the New Orleans cultural economy with jobs for musicians, writers, DJ’s, visual artists, etc. while lifting careers with promotion, performance venues and scholarship. The BC facilitates cross-cultural understanding including educating students and visitors while creating archives to preserve the sounds, sights and stories.