It certainly feels weird to write about this now, as the event happened about 2 months ago, but I suppose its better late than never since this effort was definitely a major blip on my personal timeline.
March 21 and 22nd 2014 marked the 3rd annual Buku Music and Art Project in New Orleans, and with that, the 3rd installment of the DPA Live Gallery graffiti installation. This ongoing project has been one of my favorite little side gigs, as it always represents a bit of a coming together of the New Orleans graffiti community. Participants and supporters congeal on the banks of the Mississippi River for a weekend of partying, spraying and sharing their greatest passion with thousands of festival goers. Each year the installation is a considerable undertaking, and this year’s chapter was set to be bigger and better than ever before. My partner Chris Berends (who handles the production design and build of the installation) and I had conceived a 3 tier set of 15 walls for this year’s gallery. There would be more artists and more paint than the years prior, and this year we planned to donate 40% of the proceeds from the auction of the walls to charity. This would be no easy venture and, as I usually do, I was fretting its success for a month leading up to the festival weekend. Eventually I calmed myself down by implementing the “Fail Forward” mentality, and convincing myself that even if the project was a disaster, there would be some golden nuggets of knowledge shimmering within its ruins.
I was mainly concerned about the structural integrity and safety of having 15 people moving around, climbing on and off a structure that was going to end up about 3 stories tall. Chris repeatedly assured me that he had it under control, and when the week before the festival rolled around, this claim was pleasantly confirmed. Chris had executed an amazing gallery edifice that was as much a piece of art as the aerosol works that would soon be dancing across its facade. I am lucky to work with talented individuals like Chris, (his business partner) Jensen, and their 2014 Buku Art Team.
The few days leading up to the festival was the usual chaotic onslaught of last minute emergencies and mini-projects that had to be completed before gates opened. One particular source of stress ended up being a really fun project that turned out awesome. Another one of Chris’s installations is a shipping container structure that houses a giant hammock that festival attendees can watch the main stage from. He asked that I gather some artists to completely cover the inside of one of the containers with graffiti, which is actually much harder and more time consuming than it sounds. For 3 energy-drink fueled days before the festival, I worked alongside EVAK and a host of other local graffiti artists to bang out a complete top-to-bottom, left-to-right, front-to-back mural inside the container. Although I was worried about its completion, It became a fun prelude to the action that was going to take place during the festival itself.
When the festival itself rolled around, the majority of the prep work had been done, so now it was time to paint, enjoy myself, and put out any fires that may have come along. Artists began arriving, and it was wonderful to see many of my New Orleans cohorts that I hadn’t seen in a while (having been away for school for almost 2 years at this point). The next 2 days were spent sipping drinks, making art, watching freighters roll down the Mississippi and reveling with friends. The install went off about as smooth as it possibly could, and everyone participating did an amazing job. A couple of notable things about this year’s live gallery: Zach (one half of Zed’s Dead) asked to participate in the gallery and we were happy to oblige. His participation represented a bit of a bridge in between the art and the music of the festival, and I was happy we were able to make that happen. Additionally, some local legends were able to make it out to paint as well. Both Harsh and Risk, New Orleans natives that have become big names in the graffiti scene, showed up to represent their home city with some awesome pieces. Dr. Daks, an OG from Atlanta was also able to make it out. All in all I was ecstatic with the success of the event. We ended up selling all of the pieces and raising about $3,000 for local charities, which paid off the whole process even more for me. When something I enjoy doing ends up helping someone else, that is about as rewarding of an experience as I have ever felt. Below you can check out a gallery of each individual piece, as well as a few videos about the installation.
Here is a little recap video I put together about the gallery. Special thanks to Alive Coverage for hooking me up with some extra footage to use.
Here is an additional piece that Blu Electronic Cigarettes (One of the sponsors of the festival) put together about the walls and graffiti art in general.