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Art Spill: Disaster, Art, Activism, and Recovery

October 15, 2010

Written by Maria Brodine 

November is usually a vibrant time for the arts in New Orleans, but this year brings together some particularly exciting events and collaborations.  From the 17th through the 21st, at the same time as the Annual Fringe Theater Festival ( and the St. Claude Arts Biennial (, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) will be holding its 109th Annual Meeting ( in downtown New Orleans. 

This confluence of events has inspired a number of exhibitions, panels, and other projects that bring together anthropology and art, exploring and challenging interdisciplinary boundaries and, in part, revealing the roles the arts have played in dealing with and recovering from disaster.  One exhibition in particular brings together scholars and artists to critically explore how the arts – including public performance, professional and consumer, and “guerilla art” – have played a role in therapy, economic recovery, and the exposition of local political and personal experiences of disaster.  Art Spill: Disaster, Art, Activism, and Recovery will feature two of Artfully AWARE Director, Hilary Wallis’ paintings on the Gulf Oil Disaster, commenting on the local relationship with ecology and the national relationship with oil. These works will be displayed alongside a variety of local works produced during the aftermath of Katrina and the levee breaches and in response to the recent oil disaster.

Art Spill will also feature a AAA-sponsored panel of artists and scholars, a Krewe of Dead Pelicans parade and exhibit, and a juried art show organized by Collective World Art Community ( and directly benefitting local grassroots watchdog groups working in the Gulf of Mexico.  Art Spill: Disaster, Art, Activism, and Recovery is also working in collaboration with a number of other related events and exhibitions, including but not limited to the ones listed below:

Ethnographic Terminalia (ET)

ET is produced by a professional team of curators who work as anthropologists and artists.  The ET panel, held at the AAA meeting, will feature a range of international scholars who are engaged in interdisciplinary work.  ET’s flagship exhibition of art-based research and research-based art will take place at Du Mois Gallery in the Freret Corridor, a historical and recently revitalizing neighborhood in New Orleans.  Ethnographic Terminalia will also feature works at Barrister’s Gallery and at the Art Spill location in the St. Claude Arts District in New Orleans.

Multispecies Salon 3: SWARM

SWARM will feature a number of panels, exhibitions, and other events taking place November 13-20 in the St. Claude Arts District.  SWARM’s work enlists art, machinery, and organisms to explore “blasted landscapes” and the complex, interrelated relationships between “natural” and “cultural” worlds.  SWARM asks the question, “In the aftermath of disaster–in a blasted landscape that has been transformed by multiple catastrophes–what are the possibilities of biocultural hope?”


For more information about Art Spill and related events, please visit and join “Ethnographic Terminalia” on Facebook.

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