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Blake Pontchartrain: Albert Polite Jr. and New Orleans utility box art

The Mardi Gras Indian spy boy appears in Linda LeBoeuf's work

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Hey Blake,

On St. Bernard Avenue and North Galvez Street is one of those painted utility boxes with a Mardi Gras Indian in a bright pink suit. Who is the person depicted?

Katherine

Dear Katherine,

  That painted utility box is one of 140 around town that are part of the public art project coordinated by Community Visions Unlimited (CVU). Painted in July 2016, it depicts Albert Polite Jr., spy boy for the Fi-Yi-Yi Mardi Gras Indian tribe. The story of his pink suit is as colorful as the artwork.

  Polite created the suit in honor of his wife, who died of breast cancer in November 2015. Though pink is the suit's predominant color (since it is associated with the fight against breast cancer), Polite also incorporated colors from other cancer awareness campaigns. He even featured an elephant, to remind people to never forget the importance of early detection.

  The utility box is the work of artist Linda LeBoeuf. Her 12 other painted boxes include ones showcasing singer Oliver "Who Shot the La La" Morgan at Basin and North Villere streets and Buddy Bolden at Perdido and S. Rampart streets. She also painted the box at Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Clearview Parkway in Metairie. Ten boxes

have been completed recently in Jefferson Parish.

  The utility box art project was created by Jeannie Paddison Tidy in 2006 to eliminate blight and graffiti. Volunteers help clean the boxes, then artists are encouraged to submit proposed designs. Those who are selected receive paint as well as a cash stipend. CVU depends on donations to keep the project going. For more information, visit www.cvunola.org. The boxes have become so popular that the group is working on a book highlighting them and the artists who paint them.

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