Mar 27, 2011 11:29 AM by Chris Welty
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Getting the word out to about 30,000 of New
Orleans' most vulnerable residents on how and where to catch a free
ride out of town when a hurricane approaches already involves
radio, television and newspapers.
Soon, it may involve art too.
Evacuteer.org, a volunteer group that aids the city in
evacuations, is working with the nonprofit Arts Council of New
Orleans to raise money for 17 works of art to serve as iconic
landmarks to distinguish an evacuation pickup point from a bus stop
or no-parking zone. The project is expected to cost $500,000.
The Arts Council has invited dozens of artists into a juried
selection process. Organizers hope to have the installations up by
the 2012 hurricane season, and perhaps even before the end of the
"We don't know what they'll look like yet," said Robert
Fogarty, director of Evacuteer.org. "All we want is, that when
people see that, they know exactly where they need to be."
The Arts Council, which is putting up $100,000 of the money,
recently sent out more than 50 invitations to artists to take part
in the selection process.
Scattered works of art with a unified theme are not unusual in
big cities. Wildly decorated fiberglass cattle popped up in Zurich
in 1998, and spread in 1999 to Cows on Parade in Chicago. In New
Orleans, such projects have involved giant, brightly painted fish
or miniature streetcars.
"Hopefully, it will be something that iconic," said Mary Len
Costa, interim director and CEO of the Arts Council.
While those art displays added to the ambience of the
streetscape, the new project hopes to combine form with function.
Whatever shape they take, the installations are meant to be an
eye-catching and permanent part of the landscape: something that
frequent walkers and users of public transportation will notice
daily and even remember in an emergency. That group of people may
be more likely than others to need the city's assistance in leaving
Hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30, with peak activity in
August through October.
Col. Jerry Sneed, head of New Orleans' Office of Emergency
Preparedness, embraces the project as part of a multifaceted effort
to make the public aware of the city's evacuation system. Flaws
with the existing system were laid bare in 2005 when tens of
thousands found themselves trapped in the flooding that followed
Katrina created the greatest devastation ever to hit New
Orleans, rivaled in modern times only by Hurricane Betsy in 1965
and an unnamed hurricane in 1947. Hurricane Camille in 1969 brushed
eastern, less populated areas before hammering the Mississippi Gulf
In the revamped evacuation efforts, roughly 20,000 people have
registered with the city for help in getting themselves, and in
many cases their pets, out of town when an evacuation is called.
That system was put to the test during Hurricane Gustav in 2008 and
continues to be refined.
"Evacuteer.org came to us and, of course, we said that's a
great idea," said Sneed. "Instead of just a sign, make it art."