Having recently returned from conducting research in New Orleans, our first case study city for the Performing City Resilience project, we reflect here on key elements of that research and point to follow-up work.
In preparation for this field research trip and our broader Performing City Resilience project, we met with
Bristol City Council:
Chief Resilience Officer
Head of Culture
Head of Civil Protection Unit
Belfast City Council:
Senior Consultant (Smart Cities Team)
100 Resilient Cities
Programme Manager: Europe and the Middle East
City Solutions Manager
In each instance, there was great support for the project and recognition that it had the potential to fill a gap in current thinking and practice internationally.
As a city that has now ‘bounced back’ from disaster (a ‘shock’), New Orleans (NOLA) is now a thriving, diverse, and culturally expansive city but one that faces significant and ongoing social, political and environmental challenges (‘stresses’) – as such, it is a key city in understanding how cultural practices contribute to performing city resilience. It is, of course, impossible to capture the complexity of resilience, both as it relates to arts practices and more broadly to the particular geo-politics of NOLA. Thus, in visiting the city, our intention was not to try to flatten this complexity, nor to suggest a ubiquitous approach to performance as productive to discourses and policies of resilience. Rather, we sought to experience and reflect on some of the city’s complex arts scene(s) to see if and how they might contribute positively to a re-articulation of resilience that includes arts practices as well as infrastructure and disaster recovery narratives.
Over the course of the research trip we met with members of the city’s arts, city planning and government, and commercial communities to begin to develop a network of practitioners working in resilience in the context of future proofing NOLA to environmental and socio-political ‘stresses and shocks’. We also carried out a survey of arts activity taking place in NOLA at the time of the visit.
Meetings and Interviews
- Neil Barclay, Director and CEO, Contemporary Arts Centre
- David Hurlbert, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Marigny Opera House and Director of The Marigny Opera Ballet
- Laura Paul, Executive Director, lowernine.org
- Nick Slie, performer, producer, cultural organiser, and co-director of Mondo Bizarro.
- Maxwell Williams, Artistic Director, and James Lanius, Production Manager, Le Petit Theatre.
- Shannon Flaherty and Chris Kaminstein, Co-Artistic Directors, Goat in the Road Productions
- Aimee Hayes, Producing Artistic Director, Southern Rep.
- Arts Council New Orleans:
- Heidi Schmalbach, President and CEO,
- Jocelyn Reynolds, Director of Artist Services
- Alphonse Smith, Director of Place and Civic Design
- Lindsey Glatz, Director of Marketing and Communications, and Director of Luna Fête
- Laura Dean-Shapiro, Strategic Development Officer
- Doug MacCash, Arts Correspondent, Times –Picayune/ NOLA.com
- Ryan Mast, Director of Resilience and Sustainability and Hazard Mitigation Administrator, Mayor’s Office, New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
- Andrew Larimer, Co-founder of NOLA Project, independent director, and Chief Creative Officer at Fat Happy Media.
- Delaney Martin, Co-founder and Artistic Director, New Orleans Airlift
- Glauco Adorno, local freelance curator.
- Justin Maxwell, playwright and Assistant Professor, University of New Orleans.
- Victor Holtcamp, Associate Professor, Tulane University
- Members of Mardi Gras krewes
- Tommye Myrick, writer, producer, director and restaurant-owner
- Denise Frazier, Assistant Director of the New Orleans Centre for the Gulf South (Tulane University), performer and musician.
We also have invitations to correspond with a number of people who attended the event at CAC, and will be following these up shortly.
Site-visits and Performances
- Le Petit Theatre (French Quarter)
- Crescent Park
- Marigny Opera House (Marigny Bywater)
- Southern Rep Theatre (Seventh Ward, venue under construction)
- Fritzel’s (French Quarter, music venue)
- Lower Ninth Ward (lowernine.org tour)
- Second Line viewing (Frenchman Street)
- Easter Parade (Jackson Square)
- The Stranger Disease, Madame John’s Legacy (site-specific, immersive performance, Louisiana State Museum)
- From These Roots, Music Box Village (site-specific music and dance, Marigny Bywater)
- Emergency Operations Centre, NOLA Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
- Why Is Everything A Rag, Jockum Nordström, CAC
- Lee Circle (CBD, site of monument removal, 2017, General Robert E Lee)
- Industrial Canal (site of major levee breach during Katrina)
- Congo Square, Louis Armstrong Park (Treme-Lafitte)
- Markets: Auction House (Warehouse), St. Roch (South 7thWard), French Quarter Market.
- Lafayette Cemetery (Faubourg)
- See also ‘Walking’ for discussion of the city as site (31-3-18 blog entry, https://performingcityresilience.wordpress.com/blog/)
From the beginning of this project, we have been convinced by the value and importance of engaging with key city stakeholders as a core activity within the research process. During this fieldwork, we hosted a public conversation about our project and about the city and its arts and culture. Leading up to this, we published a number of blog entries that reflected our emerging understandings of city, and our work in it.
The Arts and City Resilience, public workshop-discussion, Contemporary Arts Centre (CAC)
In this workshop-discussion, we presented initial findings from interviews, performance attendance, site visits and observations of the city, before opening up to a wider discussion of those findings with the audience.
At the end of the meeting, we invited participants to offer reflections on the following points, in writing:
- What one thing will you take away from this event?
- What one action will you take as a result of the event?
- What would you like to tell us?
Responses to these questions, together with an audio recording of the event, will inform our analysis and resulting publications, they will also form part of an impact exhibition we are designing (see below). Information on attendees and feedback from the event is listed below.
Blog Entries (https://performingcityresilience.wordpress.com/blog)
We developed a strategy for blog entries that arose from initial observations in the city, which embeds various kinds of practice as key drivers of each blog entry. We created six blog entries (‘Landing’, ‘Listening’, ‘Eating’, ‘Walking’, ‘Noticing’, ‘Asking’; c.3200 words, performative reflections, academic writing, photo essay). The next two blog entries will be ‘Reporting’ and ‘Gathering’.
We are beginning to chart the impact of this project on arts and city professionals in and beyond New Orleans. Recently,
- We were invited to do a podcast with Parksify (https://soundcloud.com/parksify/patrick-duggan-and-stuart-andrews-on-art-and-city-resilience). We will be doing a follow-up interview in the coming weeks.
- Performing City Resilience and, in particular, the work in New Orleans, was featured on the On TAP podcast (and website), hosted by Sarah Bay-Cheng, Pannill Camp, and Harvey Young. Camp described the work as
‘a really fascinating project designed to understand how arts practice contributes to resilience of cities… it sounds like a great project’ (Pannill Camp, On TAP022, April 2018).
- 32 people signed up for the CAC event, including artists, directors of arts organisations, city government officials, curators, and commercial stakeholders – and included residents of and visitors to the city.
Participants to this event noted the following key things:
- There is no shared language with which to have conversations in and about the arts in the city; relatedly, there had been, until this event, no identified space or opportunity for open, non-instrumentalised meetings on arts and culture in the city.
- We were the first people to facilitate a meeting that raised questions about the cultural and socio-political function of the arts in New Orleans, as they relate to resilience challenges – and that this was identified in the meeting as a needed and welcome intervention.
- Our perspective as international outsiders was welcome and useful in helping local stakeholders identify what ‘work’ their practice or institution was doing.
- There were people in the room who had not met each other and that there was a commitment to continue the conversation after we had left.
- Conference paper reflecting on our time in New Orleans, needs identified by city stakeholders, and findings from the field research: http://healthycitydesign2018.salus.global/conference-show/healthy-city-design-2018.
- A joint-authored, interdisciplinary article contextualising our research in relation to extant resilience theory, performance studies and our work in New Orleans. This will directly respond to requests by interviewees and members of the CAC event audience for meaningful ways to bridge the gaps between arts practices and city resilience planning.
- Drawing specifically on our time in New Orleans, we intend to publish a joint-authored article explicating research practices for understanding and engaging with with a specific city, using performance analysis, interview material, resilience theory, and observations of places and practices of the city.
If you attended the event at CAC, if you’re interested in this project, or its emerging activities and findings, do please contact us for more information.