NEWSBEAT: A green gallery blooms

A new gallery space in the St. Roch neighborhood opened this summer with an exhibit featuring a medium in no short supply on New Orleans’ post-Katrina streets: garbage and debris.
The exhibit, titled “Art is Garbage,” includes: sculptures made from various pieces of industrial gear, tools and building materials welded together in animal shapes; a mosaic of cigarette butts depicting a man from a distance; and a human-sized doghouse made from candidate yard signs harvested after the last mayoral election, to name just a few examples.
The new gallery is called the Green Room, and it is a program of the Green Project, a local nonprofit that sells donated and recycled building materials at low cost. The new gallery space, and the current exhibit, got their start when a group of students from the State University of New York’s Purchase College traveled to New Orleans in February as hurricane recovery volunteers. They became involved with the Green Project and were intrigued by the ways in which locals were crafting art from the abundant debris the storm left behind. After the spring semester, six of the students returned to New Orleans with the proposal to build a gallery and community events space on the second floor of the large industrial building the Green Project calls home.
“We started with the idea of all these different things, like workshops for artists, or a performance space for free shows, but then we just decided to make it one big project for all those things,” says Matthew Vanderlee, one of the Green Room planners.
Vanderlee is also the curator of the “Art is Garbage” show, which features young artists displaying for the first time in a gallery alongside some very well-known New Orleans artists, including the Bywater artist known as Dr. Bob. Future plans for the Green Room include music and theater productions by local performers and workshops aimed at showing children the creative potential of recycled materials, says program coordinator Adam Abdalla.
The gallery space itself is constructed using many salvaged materials, including one wall insulated with plastic beverage bottles and others made from the floorboards of a demolished Uptown house. The old building’s concrete floors are even “carpeted” in the gallery space with a mixture of recycled cardboard and paper.
More information about the Green Project is available online at www.thegreenproject.org. — I.M.

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