Nine Wall in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood. (Photo: Joshua Brasted)
For world famous muralist Brandan Odums, art can’t be contained by four walls. “New Orleans is definitely one of those destinations where artists find ways to turn blight into triumph,” he explains proudly. “There’s a lot of spaces we’ve found ways to repurpose and transform. If they search hard enough, people find what they’re looking for.”
Odums, a self-proclaimed “Street Artist,” garnered national attention in 2013 by painting inspiring portraits of activists in the city’s dilapidated Florida Projects. Soon, dozens of other artists added their own pieces. Dubbed Project Be, the collaboration was technically illegal — but art would not be stopped. After local officials boarded it up, Odums fought back with the largest street art exhibition in the South, Exhibit Be, which took over an entire vacant apartment complex. (BuzzFeed and Fast Company covered the epic artistic feat in early 2015.)
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in New Orlean’s vibrant underground art scene without crawling into dilapidated buildings and risking trespassing charges,Odums says you’re in luck. Street art and other forms of graffiti can be found throughout the city.
Where to Go
The first exhibition calendar you should check belongs to Ogden Museum of Southern Art, recently home to the interactive Candy Chang installation ‘Before I Die.” Viewers were invited to become part of the exhibit by filling in the blanks with chalk on the black wall.
If you want to see graffiti in its natural habitat, Odums suggests touring the Bywater. “There’s tons of graffiti there, some legal, some not so legal, but the culture’s always there,” he says.
The Bywater also offers a hip gallery scene unafraid to court counterculture. On St. Claude, you can find galleries that attract artists who straddle both worlds.
Who to Follow
Artists to follow include Meek-1. “He’s often doing gallery shows. Reader has been having his work displayed at galleries. James Connor and Brent Houzenga often have work on display and Fat Kids from Outer Space — they’re popular around town too.”
As for Odums, recent successes haven’t given him cause to relax.
I’ll be making some announcements involving the original walls of Project Be,” he says thoughtfully. We were able to save a lot of them, and we’re planning a show to put those on display. For now, my website, BrandanOdums.com, is a good way to keep up on any of those developments.”