Sculpture for New Orleans is a Monumental Masterpiece

Public art project takes sculpture to the streets

By Beth D'Addono,

This pink bunny sculpture now greets fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — Photo courtesy of Bill Sasser / Sculpture for New Orleans

Saints fans may think they’ve had one too many glasses of Dome foam. But that is indeed a giant pink rabbit on the loose outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

Sheila, The Pink Bunny, by Trisha Kyner and David Friedheim, is one of 65 eye-popping monumental sculptures brought to the city by Sculpture for New Orleans, an art project that has dramatically changed the face of the city.   

Curated by visionary sculptor Michael Manjarris, a native New Orleanian now based in Texas, Sculpture for New Orleans is an inventive partnership between private and public sectors that is seen by an estimated 10 million visitors and locals every year.

Its most concentrated group of installations is along the Poydras Corridor that runs from the Convention Center up to the Superdome in the Central Business District – there are 30 pieces in the CBD in total.

Works by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Mark di Suvero and Alexander Calder also captivate outside of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, Audubon Park, Xavier University and University of New Orleans.  Sculpture for New Orleans is also working in Kenner in Jefferson Parish.

Manjarris takes an inclusive approach to his sculptural cityscaping, collaborating with up-and-coming young artists as well as local arts groups including Lower 9 Projects, Ashe Cultural Arts Center, Educare and Artist Spaces. 

“We keep the bar high as far as the level of art, but we welcome artist submissions,” he says.

Manjarris, who sees the entire city of New Orleans as one giant art project, wishes for visitors to be as enthused about the Big Easy art scene as they are about the city’s legendary food and music.

 “Initially it was about bringing artists back after Katrina by building a collector’s base,” he says.   “There’s also the educational spoke in the wheel, to reach out to kids and have them participate in public art projects.  And our goal is to make New Orleans a world-class arts and cultural tourism destination. And we’re not that far from it.”

FLAG, a collaborative project from Sculpture for New Orleans in Mid-City — Photo courtesy of Britney Penouilh

Manjarris recently installed FLAG, a series of 52 seven-foot banners painted for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by local artists and school children.  Located at the intersection of Jeff Davis and Canal Street, FLAG uses “the iconography of the area and changes it into something new,” says Manjarris.  

“It’s 10 shades of remarkable what Michael Manjarris has done for this city,” says Dorian Bennett, a passionate art collector and real estate broker who provided some of the seed money to get Sculpture for New Orleans off the ground. “Because he’s not a part of the local arts community, we had to get really creative. And we did.”

“This is my way of giving back to New Orleans, a city I love,” says Manjarris. “Art brings people together. New Orleans is an artistic place, and this project lets visitors from all over the world connect to the visual arts in a very big way.”

"At Rest" by Jason Kimes is just one of the many pieces that's part of the Sculpture for New Orleans project — Photo courtesy of Bill Sasser / Sculpture for New Orleans

Want to see Sculpture for New Orleans for yourself? Then walk down Poydras Street in the CBD, and you’ll find plenty of art among the office buildings, including:

- Reawakening by Wesley Wofford (at Penn St.) is an arresting red fiberglass torso contorting and struggling on the traffic median.

- Man Defeats Chair by Louisiana artist Russell Whiting (at Convention Center Blvd.) is a scrawny anti-hero rising triumphantly – and comically – out of a carved steel chair.

- At Rest by Mississippi artist Jason Kimes (near Magazine St.) is a pair of arresting figures covered with silver dollar-sized disks of steel, each so human in their posture you expect them to stand up and walk away.