In the Community + Hiding in Plain Sight: Must-See murals in the Treme

We’ve scouted New Orleans to bring you a few must-see murals in the Treme neighborhood. While scouting art, we wondered what the difference was between graffiti & street art. So, we asked New Orleans street artist, Jeremy Paten for his two cents.

“If I had to describe the two, I would say that graffiti rejects established standards, encourages experimentation, and draws from popular culture and advertising. Another difference can be found in authorial intent, intended audience, and form e.g. the artist’s “tag.” The intention behind a tag is the rebellious proliferation of the artist’s signature, akin to brand name advertising. Whereas street art is drawn with a pictorial focus rather than textual, and it is rebellious but not purposefully destructive as there is intent to beautify the urban environment.”

Allen Toussaint by Brendon Palmer-Angell

Location: 1441 N. Claiborne Avenue

Allen Toussaint (January 14, 1938-November 10, 2015) has been on repeat all day today. It has been a long three years since the world lost the man who helped shape the sound of R&B, soul, and funk as we know it today. Thankfully New Orleans has a larger than life way to remember our local legend and we have the Nola Mural Project and Brendon Palmer-Angell to thank for it. Read more in our interview below!

How did you get connected with Nola Mural Project? I met Brent from the NMP while he was tabling in front of a mural in progress. I had been interested in creating more public art in Nola, and it sounded like a great cause for artists and the city. I shared my work, and they invited me to contribute soon thereafter.

How long did the piece take you and what materials did you use? It took about 5 days at around 10 hours a day, and a good bit of planning before. I always hunt for good photo reference to work from, and when I saw Glade Bilby’s gorgeous photo of Allen Toussaint, I knew that was the one! I reached out to ask permission, and he was so kind to let me use it, it really made the piece. It’s almost entirely artist-grade spray paint, with a touch of latex-acrylic in the eyes so I could use a brush for smaller detail.

Who chose Allen Toussaint and why? For some time now, I have wanted to do a series of murals of Nobel Peace Prize winners, and Neal from NMP suggested Barack Obama as someone from that group. I would still love to do a portrait of him, but I sat with the idea for a little while, and it didn’t feel right for this project, wall and time. I told Neal it seemed like a local legend of the city would be good, and he immediately suggested Allen Toussaint, one of his favorites. I loved the idea, and we set out to make it happen!

What’s your favorite song by Allen? Southern Nights is definitely my favorite, but You Will Not Lose is also up there.

What did you enjoy most about this project? The most fulfilling part of this experience was meeting people who knew and loved Allen Toussaint, and getting to see them remember and reconnect with him through the mural.  Everyone said how sweet he was, and how much he enjoyed talking with folks around town.

What was most challenging about this project? The heat index was around 112 degrees multiple days while I was working, and I had to be really careful to stay hydrated and protected from the sun. Artistically, I really wanted to capture the kindness and wisdom that Allen Toussaint seemed to exude. It took me a while to get that right, but it was all in the eyes and that slight smile.

When did you start painting? When was your first mural? I started painting in 2002, and my first attempt at painting a mural was in the spring of 2018. I didn’t become interested in public art until 2015, when an artist named James Bullough let me work as his assistant on a mural in Richmond. We became friends, and I ended up playing a supporting role on 3 different projects of his, and learned his craft while watching him paint for hours on end.

Do you have other murals in the city? Will you be completing more? There is a row of portraits on a wall across from Studio Be on Royal St; I painted a Buddhist Monk named Garchen Rinpoche in the middle of that wall. This was actually my first mural ever, and it was only possible because of the kindness of Bmike, who offered to let me paint on that wall. (A huge shout-out to the awesome people of Studio Be!!) I’m hoping to create more murals in New Orleans, and I’m looking for good walls. Please get in touch if you know of a good wall owned by good people!

Where else can we find your work? I’m currently looking for places to show my work in New Orleans, but you can find me on Instagram @brendonart, and on my website www.brendonart.com.

Photos by: Brendon Palmer-Angell, David Greenfield for Nola.com & Times Picayune