This page was last modified on 07 April 2014, at 03:04
Photo Credit: Photograph taken by Yasmin Asare
My first trip down to Jackson Square, an artistic hub in the French Quarter, was on a chilly and gloomy St. Patrick’s Day. It was not much of a surprise that the usual creative workers were no where to be seen. The only people occupying the square, besides a few tarot card readers, were tourists, many of whom were decked out in St. Patrick’s day attire, while holding matching green hand grenades, an alcoholic beverage prevalent in the French Quarter. Locals also populated the area, casually hanging out, eating, and smoking cigarettes. Typical New Orleans.
A week later, I ventured back down to Jackson Square with the hopes of finding a creative worker to interview. It was a sunny, warm afternoon and the French Quarter looked more like the quarter that everyone in New Orleans knows and loves. It did not take me long to come across Art. He was an African American man in his 40’s, born and raised in New Orleans.
On this beautiful spring afternoon, with the sun shining as bright as a diamond, the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals left Art unfazed as he focused on his work in progress: a painting of the French Quarter, which he diligently copies from a scenic post card that can easily be found in one of the hundreds of gift shops downtown. We started off with basic questions pertaining to his life in the city of New Orleans, and how his artistic career began. Art grew up in a religious southern household, and from the very beginning of his life he knew that art was what he wanted to pursue, asserting that “there are some things that you’re born with and some things you develop. School is a good way to start, but to be superb you need god, because a book can only teach you so much.”  Regardless, he studied art at Tulane and Delgado, and even went on to tell me that he “can still name all of the dorms on campus,” and about how he did a lot of the landscaping at Tulane, a career he later went on to pursue because it was “like making art with plants.”
Faith and Career
Following his career as a landscape artist, Art packed up his tools and stationed himself in Jackson Square full time, a place that he had dreamed of working since he was a little boy. Midway through the interview, I asked, “Do you think your parents gave you your name because they thought you would be an artist?” A valid question, since Art isn’t necessarily a common name. His response, related to God again, was, “No, I think it was God. God has always wanted me to be an artist. That is why I quit my job as a landscape designer, because we all only have one life to live, so we should use our God given talents.” By this point, it was evident that Art was a man of faith, and utilizes his God given talents along with one of God’s greatest gifts to the world: the beautiful, intricate colors of our natural surrounding.
Although Art’s work is greatly intertwined with his faith, economics play a huge role in his career as well. I wondered if one could make a substantial living painting in Jackson Square, especially in today’s dire economy. I was amazed to discover how economically successful his career has been thus far, and he divulged, “Ya. I can pay for my house, furniture and everything I want. With art you don’t work by the hour and it’s based on what you produce.” And Art is eminently proud of his work and plans to continue painting in Jackson Square, as well as eventually opening his own gallery in the French Quarter. He repeatedly noted how fantastic it is that tourists from different parts of the world, such as Canada, Australia and Mexico get to see and purchase his products. He profoundly stated, “Your work speaks for yourself. You don’t have to make people like it, they automatically like it. It is an uplifting feeling when someone says they like your art. When tourists buy my work it’s a good sign, but I don’t want to brag. I let the people determine that.” And yes they do. As I walked away from Art on that beautiful spring day, I heard a little girl exclaim to her father, “Look daddy. He’s so good.”
- Art, interviewed by Yasmin Asare, Jackson Square, April 7, 2014.