In many ways, coastal erosion is hard to understand. We resort to graphs, animated projections and imperfect analogies — for some reason, football fields always come up — to try and grasp the deterioration of the land surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.
With her End of the Road community art project, local artist Dawn DeDeaux hopes to make an often-abstract problem more emotionally urgent for New Orleanians.
“We’ve seen a lot of the aerial pictures [of coastal erosion] which are very disturbing. … To stand [participants] within this landscape will be a more visceral experience, and convey that this isn’t just about loss of wetlands, it’s about loss of homes,” she says.
For the installation, DeDeaux is asking New Orleans metro citizens to join representatives from the United Houma Nation and Terrebonne parish on Island Road between Pointe-aux-Chenes and Isle de Jean Charles on June 25 at 1 p.m. It's an area many (including the federal government, which recently started resettlement programs) consider ground zero for the vanishing coast. Participants will stand in formations that spell the word “home” from overhead; planes and drone cameras will capture the image.
A party that follows at the Isle de Jean Charles marina encourages meetings between people whose lives, livelihoods and culture are affected by the loss of the coast.
“Instead of just a work of art, I wanted to do an event that would bring people together … and get [city residents] to come here and see what’s really happening and be more supportive of efforts to restore the wetlands,” she says.
DeDeaux, a Prospect New Orleans alumnus, is working on this project as part of Prospect New Orleans' Bridge Years Programs. She’ll also be making an art installation, half on land and half in the water, to leave on the island.
Above all, she's calling attention to the human toll of coastal erosion, and says it’s still too early for the fatalism which can pervade discussions of this issue.
“This is a problem of our own making,” she stresses. “We don’t have to throw in the towel yet. There are things we can do to buffer this area a little longer.”
It’s free to participate in the installation, but participants should register at Eventbrite. Free buses from the Contemporary Arts Center will transport participants to and from the Isle de Jean Charles (it’s about an hour ride). To inquire about the project or to offer sponsorship, contact DeDeaux directly or visit www.prospectneworleans.org.