While visual arts, food and musical performances were spread across the Fairgrounds over the seven days of Jazz Fest, they came together in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion each day, where New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) student artists and alumni performed and demonstrated their work.
Brandan "Bmike" Odums, the NOCCA alum responsible for the explosive graffiti project ExhibitBe in Algiers last fall, designed the backdrop for the stage in the pavilion, which changes each year to reflect a different culture. This year the pavilion was dedicated to NOCCA, and a photographic retrospective detailed the years-long relationship that's formed between the school and the festival.
A series of photographs of NOCCA students taken just after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 circled the audience overhead, part of photographer Robert Fogarty's portrait project "Dear World." Behind the stage this passed Sunday, NOCCA alum Julia Hill put finishing touches on a display of her giant puppets, which she had current theater students wear and perform in just outside the tent. "I've been to Jazz Fest before, but it's my first time performing here," she told Gambit
. "It's been great." Hill added that one of the best parts of taking the enormous puppets outside of the tent was seeing tired, sun-dazed visitors be reawakened by the unusual sight.
On stage, the NOCCA Jazz Quartet brought enough energy to the tent that people passing by stopped in to listen. Sidney Blanchard, a senior at NOCCA studying jazz piano, says she's played at Jazz Fest over the years but never in a tent specifically dedicated to NOCCA students. "It's nice to have a tent dedicated to NOCCA," she told Gambit
. "It's great that people can see the name and come see us regardless of who's performing. It's a way to group people together because everybody loves NOCCA just as much as the students do."
The NOCCA Jazz Quartet
As a senior, Blanchard doesn't expect this to be her last Jazz Fest. She's going on to pursue her musical career next year at the Berkelee School of Music.