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Young Leadership Council: Streetcars

A guide to the New Orleans' painted streetcars

When Mike Atwater returned to New Orleans after his Hurricane Katrina evacuation, he noticed the fractured city was, among other things, in desperate need of positivity. 

“Things (in New Orleans) were so dreary and down, as we all know. We needed something on the street that’s just fun, something good for the city,” he said.

A member of the Young Leadership Council, a non-profit group consisting of young New Orleans volunteers, Atwater recalled the organization’s history of executing many large-scale projects in New Orleans, including the lighting of the Crescent City Connection bridge after a second span was added, creating the ubiquitous  “New Orleans: Proud to Call it Home” civic pride campaign, and the Festival of Fins public art project responsible for the artist-painted fish around town.

“When I came back from my Hurricane Katrina evacuation, I knew that it was time for the YLC to do one of their big projects that they are known for to tell the city, the country and the world, that we would come back and be the New Orleans that everyone knows and loves,” he said.
“I proposed a public art festival – first with miniature shotgun houses, but then the idea of the streetcar came about and really caught on. So, we went with it.”

A Streetcar Named Inspire was born. The project sent 75 streetcar-shaped creations – all custom-designed by local artists and sponsored by New Orleans businesses – around the city in an effort to inject some must-needed positivity into post-Katrina New Orleans.

With the restoration of the city’s streetcars after the storm, Atwater believed these New Orleans icons had become synonymous with the rebirth of the city.

“For us (the project’s) about fun and hope and inspiration – that’s why we called it Streetcar Named Inspire,” he said.

The streetcars – measuring at about 6-feet-by-2-feet and made of fiberglass – provided a blank canvas completely at the whim of the artists. The only requirement was that designs answer the question: “What inspires you about New Orleans?” Artists submitted their ideas in the form of sketches in December of 2007. Atwater said that the submissions called to mind some of the most inspiring things about the city.

“The designs were all what New Orleans is all about and what we all love about it – pretty much all about music and food,” he said.

By June of 2008, streetcars started hitting the streets to a positive response from the city.

“I’ve been involved in every single installation (of the street cars) and it has been really fun,” he said. “The first streetcar we installed was in front of Capital One (on Carondelet Street). When the (real) streetcar passed by, the conductor stopped and everyone applauded. The project
has been well received, and I think people are enjoying it.”

After being on display for almost a year, some of the streetcars will be auctioned to the general public at an event Saturday, May 16 at the Hilton Riverside Hotel.

“The sponsors of the streetcars had the opportunity to keep their art sculptures after the official display period, or they were invited to donate them back to the YLC to go up on the auction block,” said Amy Boyle, executive director of the YLC.

There will be almost two-dozen of the full-sized sculptures up for auction, plus 40 custom-painted smaller streetcars never seen before. Streetcar merchandise will be on sale: a coffee table book, two different poster designs, T-shirts and miniature streetcar replicas of some of the favorite designs.

When it came time to decide where proceeds from the project would end up, Atwater said it was a tough decision. 

“We had a hard time selecting one beneficiary, and just one,” he said. “When we were evaluating, we really struggled.”

Ultimately, they decided that in the spirit of rebirth that the streetcars symbolize, that proceeds would go to the Downtown Development District’s efforts to revitalize Canal Street. Atwater envisions turning the neutral ground at Canal and Basin Streets – the largest in the city – into a hub of action, complete with a retired streetcar converted into a coffee shop, a tourist center and other things to make it “an extension of the French Quarter, welcoming tourists to Canal Street.”

Like other public art seen around the city, Atwater thinks that the Streetcar Named Inspire project contributes to the city’s morale and continued recovery by highlighting an important aspect of the its culture.

“This is a city full of artists, and this project is really exposing that element of the city. Everyone talks about the great music, but there’s so much talent here in terms of art,” he said. “For the regular citizen, especially in blighted areas, it adds energy, vibrancy, color and whimsical expression … it puts a smile on someone’s face.”

Other streetcar designs up for grabs:
•  An Absolut Vodka-inspired streetcar retrofitted as a bar. Absolut is a supporting sponsor of the YLC Streetcar Soiree auction party and will serve complimentary martinis all night long!
• A surprise design by Luis Colmenares. Colmenares was the most commissioned of any artist during the project, completing nine pieces of artwork – many with full metal structure extensions coming out of the top of the streetcar.
• Children’s artwork from Louisiana Children’s Museum, the result of a “Come Paint the Streetcar Day” at the museum.  Children’s Museum artists painted this car with inspiration from a number of children who participated in the day.
• A blank streetcar – artists, beginner and advanced, can get a blank canvas to take home and paint it however they’d like.
• Non-artists who want a streetcar of their own with a design of their choice can bid on two other blank streetcars that come with a fully commissioned artist to paint the design of choice.


Sponsor: 925 Common Luxury Apartments
Streetcar Name: A Streetcar
Named New Orleans
Location: 925 Common St.
Artist: Laura Cotoya

Sponsor: Accenture
Streetcar Name: Carnival Time
Location: 639 Loyola Ave.
Artist: Jordan Ivanov

Sponsor: Al Petrie Investor +
Media Relations
Streetcar Name: Lakeview Special
Location: 775 Harrison Ave.
Artist: Luis Colmenares

Sponsor: Allen Square
Streetcar Name: Café du Monde Beignets
Location: Jackson Square
Artist: Steve Mickle

Sponsor: Ammari of Louisiana
Streetcar Name: Southern Comfort
Location: 208 Bourbon St.
Artist: John Lamouranne

Sponsor: Angela King Gallery
Streetcar Name: Lest We Forget – Girls First Hearts
Location: Jackson Square
Artist: Makenzie Thorpe

Sponsor: Angelo Farrell
Streetcar Name: Vieux Carré
Location: 601 Chartres St.
Artist: Luis Colmenares

Sponsor: Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel
Streetcar Name: Mardi Gras Time
Location: 739 Canal St.
Artist: Luis Colmenares

Sponsor: AT&T
Streetcar Name: Perley’s Barnyard Party
Location: One Canal Place
Artist: Paulette Lizano

Sponsor: Capital One
Streetcar Name: Birth of Jazz
Location: 313 Carondelet St.
Artist: Susan Scott

Sponsor: Carrollton Technology Partners
Streetcar Name: RideTheStreetcar.com
Location: 643 Magazine St.
Artist: Jason Chaffin

Sponsor: Deveney Communication
Streetcar Name: Good News Express
Location: 2406 Chartres St.
Artist: Chris Kaiser

Sponsor: Downtown Development District
Streetcar Name: Downtown In Motion
Location: Basin Street at Canal Street
Artist: Lori Gomez

Sponsor: Entergy
Streetcar Name: The New Orleans School Bus
Location: 639 Loyola Ave.
Artist: Jason Chaffin

Sponsor: Ericksen Krentel &
LaPorte LLP
Streetcar Name: Le Vie Abondante de Louisiane
Location: 4226 Canal St.
Artist: Lita Ducote

Sponsor: Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation
Streetcar Name: TBD
Location: 835 Union St.
Artist: Tina Mosley

Sponsor: Fat Harry’s
Streetcar Name: St. Charles
& Napoleon
Location: 4330 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Jean-Paul Martin

Sponsor: French Market Corporation
Streetcar Name: French Market Greetings
Location: The French Market
Artist: Will Smith

Sponsor: Gibbs Construction LLC
Streetcar Name: Metamorphosis: A Journey of a Lifetime
Location: Riverfront/Aquarium
Artist: Kim Griffin
Sponsor: Hard Rock Construction
Streetcar Name: Southern Charm
Location: Audubon Park, city side by St. Charles Avenue
Artist: Lori Gomez

Sponsor: Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel
Streetcar Name: Big Money
Location: 228 Poydras St.
Artist: Chris Kaiser

Sponsor: HCA Delta Division
Streetcar Name: The Heartbeat of New Orleans
Location: 1415 Tulane Ave.
Artist: Karen Stakelum

Sponsor: Hertz Investment
Group, Inc
Streetcar Name: “We the People”
in New Orleans
Location: 909 Poydras St.
Artist: Laxman Kewalramani

Sponsor: Hertz Investment
Group, Inc
Streetcar Name: New Orleans Sportscar
Location: 1450 Poydras St.
Artist: John Lamouranne

Sponsor: Hertz Investment
Group, Inc
Streetcar Name: Meals on Wheels
Location: 650 Poydras St.
Artist: Linda Lesperance

Sponsor: Hertz Investment
Group, Inc
Streetcar Name: New Orleans Musician’s Express
Location: 400 Poydras St.
Artist: Linda Lesperance

Sponsor: Hilton New Orleans Riverside
Streetcar Name: Reflections of
the City
Location: 2 Poydras St.
Artist: Reggie Ford

Sponsor: Historic New Orleans Collection
Streetcar Name: Louisiana History Comes Alive
Location: 533 Royal St.
Artist: Anna Hilderbrandt

Sponsor: HRI Properties
Streetcar Name: Hands Across
the Water
Location: 909 Poydras St.
Artist: Dennis Procopio

Sponsor: Jewish Community Center
Streetcar Name: Strength and Beauty of Community
Location: 5342 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Leslie Fischman

Sponsor: John & Gayle Gish
Streetcar Name: Desire
Location: 5339 Prytania St.
Artist: Will Smith

Sponsor: Jones Walker
Streetcar Name: Erster Po-Boy
Location: 201 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Robert Shaffer

Sponsor: KFK Group
Streetcar Name: Streetcar Full
of Jazz
Location: Basin Street at Canal Street
Artist: Sandra Bolen

Sponsor: Lakeside Shopping Center
Streetcar Name: Lakeside Express
Location: Not Exhibiting
Artist: Vincent Guidroz

Sponsor: Lee Laporte
Streetcar Name: All That Jazz
Location: 622 Canal St.
Artist: Luis Colmenares

Sponsor: Lifestyle Revolution Group
Streetcar Name: Untitled
Location: 523 Gravier St.
Artist: WMSJR (Will Smith)

Sponsor: Little Miss Muffin
Streetcar Name: There’s No Place Like Home
Location: 766 Harrison Ave.
Artist: The Magnolia School

Sponsor: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Streetcar Name: Raven
Location: 900 Airline Drive
Artist: Monica Tyran (YA/YA)

Sponsor: Louise S. McGeehee School
Streetcar Name: Through the Gate
Location: St. Charles Avenue between First and Phillip streets
Artist: Gretchen Howard

Sponsor: Loyola University New Orleans 2008 Senior Class
Streetcar Name: Class of 2008
Location: 6363 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Shelly Jenkins

Sponsor: Lupo Family
Streetcar Name: The Lakeview Special
Location: Harrison Avenue
Artist: Linda Lesperance

Sponsor: McIlhenny Company
Streetcar Name: Hot Pepper Express
Location: 601 Poydras St.
Artist: Ann Strub
Sponsor: MWH
Streetcar Name: Untitled
Location: 1250 Poydras St.
Artist: Tracey Jackson

Sponsor: New Orleans Hornets
Streetcar Name: Hear the Buzz
Location: 1250 Poydras St.
Artist: David Wargo

Sponsor: New Orleans Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau
Streetcar Name: Fleur de Lis
Location: 2020 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Luis Colmenares

Sponsor: New Orleans Morial Convention Center and ARAMARK
Streetcar Name: D’autres mangent pour vivre; nous vivons pour manger
Location: 900 Convention
Center Blvd.
Artist: Lori Gomez

Sponsor: New Orleans Publishing Group
Streetcar Name: We Are All Colorful
Location: 228 Poydras St.
Artist: Barbara Shaw

Sponsor: New Orleans Saints
Streetcar Name: Who Dat Express
Location: 1500 Sugar Bowl Drive (Superdome)
Artist: Alex Beard

Sponsor: Northwestern Mutual Financial Network
Streetcar Name: My New Orleans
Location: 111 Veterans Blvd.
Artist: Frankie De Melo

Sponsor: Patrick F. Taylor Foundation
Streetcar Name: Untitled
Location: Lee Circle
Artist: Lori Gomez

Sponsor: Place St. Charles
Streetcar Name: A New Orleans Reflection
Location: 201 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Tina Mosley
Sponsor: Postlethwaite & Netterville
Streetcar Name: They All Ask
For You
Location: 201 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: John Lamouranne

Sponsor: Poydras Louisiana LLC
Streetcar Name: Jazz Peacock
Location: 1615 Poydras St.
Artist: Yvette Creel

Sponsor: Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers LLC
Streetcar Name: The Flavor of
New Orleans
Location: 601 South Maestri Place (Lafayette Square)
Artist: Lori Gomez

Sponsor: Renaissance Publishing
Streetcar Name: Throw Me Something Mister!
Location: Aquarium
Artist: Gerry Claude

Sponsor: RTA
Streetcar Name: Little Me
Location: Claiborne Avenue at Carrollton Avenue
Artist: The Artisans & Craftsmen
of RTA

Sponsor: Shell 
Streetcar Name: Creative Energy “on Track
Location: One Shell Square
Artist: YA/YA

Sponsor: Shell Pipeline Company LP
Streetcar Name: Laissez Le Bon Temps Roulez
Location: One Shell Square
Artist: Kathy Miller Stone

Sponsor: Sheraton New Orleans Hotel
Streetcar Name: Greetings from
New Orleans
Location: 500 Canal St.
Artist: Steve Ulness

Sponsor: Sizeler Thompson
Brown Architects
Streetcar Name: Lafayette
Seatcar Line
Location: 300 Lafayette Square
Artist: Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects

Sponsor: Stella Jones Gallery
Streetcar Name: The Agony &
The Ecstasy
Location: 201 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Ayo Scott

Sponsor: Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann L.L.C.
Streetcar Name: All Aboard
Location: 546 Carondelet St.
Artist: Shirley Rabe Masinter

Sponsor: Superior Grill
Streetcar Name: Superior Spirit
Location: 3636 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Victor Daniel Ortiz

Sponsor: The Ritz-Carlton,
New Orleans
Streetcar Name: A Streetcar
Named Maison Blanche
Location: 921 Canal St.
Artist: Mark Schroeder

Sponsor: The Ruth Foundation
Streetcar Name: Simply Devine
Location: 525 Fulton St.
Artist: Lori Gomez

Sponsor: Tulane University
Streetcar Name: Only at Tulane,
Only in New Orleans
Location: McAlister Drive
Artist: John Lamouranne

Sponsor: Tulane Medical Center
Streetcar Name: Ride the Wave
Location: 1415 Tulane Ave.
Artist: David Wargo

Sponsor: Uptowner Antiques
Streetcar Name: Jazzy Ride
Location: 3806 Magazine St.
Artist: Gerry Claude

Sponsor: Whitney National Bank
Streetcar Name: Fleur de Trolley
Location: 228 St. Charles Ave.
Artist: Jaques Soulas

Sponsor: Whole Foods Market
Streetcar Name: Bottlecaps
Location: 5600 Magazine St.
Artist: Robert Shaffer

Sponsor: WWL-TV
Streetcar Name: Eyewitness Cruise
Location: 1024 N. Rampart St.
Artist: John Carambat

Sponsor: WWL-TV
Streetcar Name: Proud to Call It Home and Ride the Streetcars
Once Again!
Location: Basin Street at Canal Street
Artist: Chris Kaiser F

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