Reporting: New Orleans 2019

In June 2019, we returned to New Orleans for the second phase of our work with the city for the Performing City Resilience project. In Phase One (2018, including a visit in March/April of that year), we had surveyed arts and hazard mitigation strategy and practices through interviews, site-visits and by attending events. We report on that work here and published initial findings in an open access article here. That article theorises the significance of ‘Situation Rooms’ in New Orleans, and considers how we might rethink the form, practice and designation of these places in New Orleans and in cities internationally.

Our objectives for Phase Two were to:

  • Disseminate ideas from the survey phase, principally those published in the article, to inform arts, resilience and hazard mitigation policy development in New Orleans.
  • Further develop our thinking on the ways in which performance can be useful to the creation of new and more critically nuanced understandings of city resilience, leading to new publications.


1. Changes to Emergency Preparedness and Hazard Mitigation strategies

As a direct result of our work, the City of New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (NOHSEP) is engaged on ‘a long-term path of embedding arts and cultural practices in our strategic planning’. This is being enacted through fundamental changes to NOHSEP’s long term strategic planning and policy-making processes. Steps taken to achieve this include recognising that:

  • Art and culture ‘should be appropriately represented in critical planning and policy’ 
  • Emergency ‘preparedness and resilience work can benefit from greater [engagement with] the arts’
  • ‘[E]mergency management … can also be understood through art and culture’ [1]

Other initiatives emerging from our research and work with stakeholders:

  • NOHSEP invited the Arts Council of New Orleans to review proposals for its Comprehensive Recovery Plan.
    • Successful urban development projects will now need to explicitly address arts and culture.
  • NOHSEP partnered with a local arts organization on a successful NEA grant application.

2. Innovations in city-wide arts planning

As a direct result of our work with the Arts Council of New Orleans, a cross-arts/culture committee has been established to allow city-wide planning of cultural strategy (particularly in relation to Mardi Gras). As the first formal city-wide arts and culture planning committee, this is a significant change in local practices and a major opportunity to establish structures for collaboration across and between arts stakeholders in the city.


To acknowledge Duggan and Andrews’ “significant contribution” to hazard mitigation in the City of New Orleans, NOHSEP made the award of Challenge Coins at a gathering of key City Hall stakeholders (2019).

The Arts Council have noted how they “valued the opportunity to think about new ways of working and new areas of practice with established and emerging partners in New Orleans” and that “the international perspective of the [PCR team] created a particular sense of opportunity, urgency and a new call to action.”

Meanwhile, the Southern Rep Theatre report that our work has “expanded [the] scope for our vision … represent[ing] a fundamental shift in our own understanding of the role of the arts in our city’s fabric”. And the Marigny Opera House commented that we “have done a remarkable job… manag[ing] to initiate dialogue among the performing arts community about identifying, developing and maintaining areas of resilience for the cultural community…. caus[ing] us to consider and reconsider our strategies.” [2]

Performing City Resilience: Workshop Programme 2019

In seeking to contribute to strategic development in the city, we offered a series of workshops with organisations and institutions in New Orleans, particularly those who would be able to cascade ideas to organisations/departments with which they worked. Workshops were developed to address specific findings from our 2018 survey about organisations, their aims and objectives, and pressing concerns.

City Hall

We developed this workshop in dialogue with the Hazard Mitigation Administrator (NOHSEP). Specifically, this enabled us to situate the workshop in the existing NOHSEP-led process of developing the City’s new five-year Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Workshop participants included:

  • Hazard Mitigation Administrator (NOHSEP)
  • Senior Hazard Mitigation Specialist (NOHSEP)
  • Programme Co-ordinator (NOHSEP)
  • Chief Landscape Architect (Parkways)
  • Deputy Director of City Planning
  • Commander of New Orleans Police Department
  • Principal Planner (City Planning)
  • Planning Co-ordinator (New Orleans Fire Department)
  • Assistant Planning Administrator (City Planning)
  • City Planner
  • Senior Advisor (Mayor’s Office)
  • Coastal Resilience Manager (Resilience Office)
  • Web Manager (Chief Administrative Office – IT)
  • Chief of Staff (Chief Administrative Office – Land Use)

Arts Council of New Orleans

In this workshop, we worked with Arts Council staff to identify the ways in which their existing practices might speak to and advance resilience strategy in New Orleans. In addressing challenges to arts practices in the city, we proposed a series of interventions that the Arts Council could make in their working practices. We facilitated the development of these ideas as they relate specifically to the urgent concerns and strategic aims and objects of the Arts Council. Our priority was to develop innovations that could implemented quickly and easily.


  • Executive Director
  • Deputy Director / Director of Place and Civic Design
  • Director Artist Services
  • Creative Director
  • Strategic Development Director

Site Visits 

Working with senior hazard mitigation officials and executive directors from the Arts Council, the Southern Rep Theatre and the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, we facilitated a site-visit workshop at arts and cultural venues in the city (The Historic New Orleans Collection, Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina and Music Box Village). This was designed to situate and place into conversation the ways in which arts and city stakeholders understand, articulate and contribute to city resilience. Through a series of facilitated exercises, we revealed and invited reflection on common challenges, and discussed the ways in which cross-sector working might be deployed to address those challenges.

Community Engagement Events

In a series of gatherings, we shared our research on arts and resilience with arts and cultural stakeholders and community-members across the City, hosted at the Arts Council of New Orleans, the Southern Rep Theatre, and Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum. Through these events, we generated a body of comments and reflections on the challenges facing the city, and the ways that arts cultural practices and organisations are already in engaged in addressing these – in ways that might go unnoticed but that are, potentially, vital to the City’s future. This body of work was fed back to decision makers within City Hall and will be informing our forthcoming publications.


[1] Citations from Ryan Mast, Hazard Mitigation Administrator (NOHSEP) (2019), letter to directors (full correspondence available on request).

[2] Citations from Aimee Hayes (Southern Rep Theatre), Alphonse Smith (Arts Council New Orleans) and Dave Hurlbert (Marigny Opera House), letters/emails to directors (full correspondences available on request)