Heart of Louisiana: Poydras Street sculptures

Heart of Louisiana: Poydras Street sculptures
The sculptures are rotated. Most stay about two years and are replaced by up to a half dozen new pieces a year. (Source: WVUE Fox 8)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - It’s an art show that provides a pleasant distraction from traffic on a busy New Orleans Street. The Poydras Street sculpture initiative began 7 years ago and has displayed nearly three dozen sculptures during that time.

The sculptures are rotated. Most stay about two years and are replaced by up to a half dozen new pieces a year.

Ashley Pridmore is one of nearly 20 artists who have their sculptures featured along Poydras Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District. Her work is a mythical-looking, bronze seahorse she calls Saint Kampos.

“It's pretty thrilling to have work in such a prominent place,” Pridmore said. “But I also like the idea of having a patron saint personally or for a city and I know the city deals with water a lot so thought maybe we need to seahorse to help us out.”

Pridmore explained what her inspiration was behind Saint Kampos.

“Well, I think as an artist you kind of follow threads generally and all of my work is about environment and the beauty of nature,” Pridmore said.

The ongoing exhibition is a partnership between the city, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Helis Foundation. Some of the sculptures were commission, especially for Poydras Street.

“Which is really exciting because then when you’re looking at the landscape there is something intentionally designed for that very space,” Jessie Haynes, Managing Director of the Helis Foundation, said.

The 20 artworks fill the median for a mile with a plaque near each piece that tells its story.

“But of course, the point of public art is to create dialogue and so there's always pieces that provide questions, comments, negative, positive, a lot of discussion within the community for sure,” Haynes said.

After dark, the lighted sculptures take on a completely different look, adding to the scene of office lights, streetlights and vehicles along Poydras Street.

And for the piece by Lynda Benglis called ‘Power Tower’, there is more to see in an exhibition at the Ogden Museum a few blocks away.

“It seems to be probably one of the most popular pieces on the corridor right now because it's big and beautiful and gold. it's very noticeable,” Haynes said.

This public street art is viewed by an estimated 100,000 people a day either passing in cars or walking the sidewalks and occasionally taking time to take it all in.

“It shows the values of this community, which we are a culturally rich, diverse, interesting culture here that values artists,” Haynes said.

Even an artist can get a thrill of seeing her work in such a prominent location.

“Actually, I ride my bike pass a lot and generally blow her a kiss or wave, which I’m sure people think I’m a bit mad for doing. doing that but I do it anyway,” Pridmore said.

And maybe we all should take a moment to notice the art, see what meaning we find in it and just appreciate what it does for a busy city street.

For mor information on the Poydras Street sculptures visit the Helis Foundation and the Ogden Museum website.

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