NEW ORLEANS — The Tchoupitoulas Street floodwall is being drenched in colorful history thanks to local artist Jamar Pierre, who’s making history himself as the first person in modern times to be granted permission to paint such a structure.
The name Tchoupitoulas is believed to be a Native American name meaning “those who live at the river.”
Jamar is one of the founders of New Orleans International Muralists, a group that’s adding beauty all around the city. Getting the permit from the Flood Protection Authority and the Army Corps of Engineers was a three-year process that he started in 2015.
When finished, The Great Wall of New Orleans will tell the story of the city, from its creation to current day. The images are inspired by the original painting, “Resilience,” which was created by Jamar and commissioned by the New Orleans Tricentennial Committee.
“I want to show diversity and resilience throughout this whole wall,” says Jamar, who has painted around the world, but always returns to his roots in New Orleans.
Eventually, there will be organized small-group history tours, but in the meantime anyone can park and carefully take a DIY tour. Iconic landmarks and history lessons on display include the fire that destroyed the original St. Louis Cathedral, and the arch at the French Market, showcased as it existed in the 1700s: as a Native American trading post.
Walmart was the project’s first major sponsor, and the first completed block starts across the street from the supercenter.
“As an art educator and muralist they [Walmart grant organizers] were interested in what I did for the tricentennial. They see that the wall is a good addition for the beautification of the Tchoupitoulas corridor,” says Jamar.
He’s counting on other companies and individuals who love New Orleans to make the rest of the wall happen.
“We have our ‘Adopt a Block’ program; they can donate a block, or they can just donate a small section like we have here,” he explained to WGNO Reporter Stephanie Oswald during a tour of the mural that depicts the year 2020.
The 2020 section is about a mile away from the first section, painted in cheerful pastel shades.
“We purposely used those bright, happy pastel colors because we wanted to give people hope and something joyful to look at during these rough times,” Jamar says, noting that he’s collaborated with young artists from the YAYA organization, and other professionals such as Max Bernardi, whose signature is next to Jamar’s on the 2020 mural.
“At first I wanted to just go from the 1700s and work my way down slowly to current times, but I had to capture this moment because it’s so historical,” said Jamar.
One notable image in the 2020 mural is a healthcare worker painted in a unique way.
“We have healthcare workers from all different races and backgrounds and cultures that are helping our community right now with COVID, so if you look closely, you’ll see that the nurse is different shades of different colors, representing different backgrounds,” explains Jamar.
Diversity, inclusion and compassion are on-going themes. Future scenes will include the Saints, Mardi Gras, the Port of New Orleans and many other historic elements from the city’s 300-year history.
Anyone who wants to contribute should contact Jamar directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.