Why do you call New Orleans home?

Paper Monuments Re:Present Installation

Paper Monuments is a public art and public history project which has worked over the past couple of years to tell the stories of people, places, events, and movements missing from New Orleans mainstream histories. In late 2018, L. Jeffrey Andrews was selected by a jury to participate in the Paper Monuments Re:Present Installation Series.

For Jeffrey’s piece, she interviewed and painted people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the location of the installation. Each watercolor portrait is paired with the subject’s answer to the question: Why do you call New Orleans home?

The purpose of this piece is to elevate the everyday people who make our neighborhoods what they are, and it touches on themes of community and belonging. The piece is dedicated to Sharree Rose Walls, may she rest in piece.

The installation is on display at Bayou St John and Toulouse St through the end of April 2019.

New Orleans is called home to me because of its Spirit. The people. The energy. The togetherness. You can be awoken by the smell of one of our finest gumbos brewing from a neighbor’s house. You can hear the sounds of a marching band or second line while doing chores, a feeling like no where else in the world. In New Orleans we “Do What Dey Don’t” an that’s what makes New Orleans home to me.
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I call New Orleans home because there is no other place in the world as wholesome and beautiful and warm as New Orleans.
Like many New Orleanians, I was born in Charity Hospital. Then I lived in Gentilly, and Algiers. But the storm blew my family away to Birmingham for the remainder of my childhood. I loved it there. I’ve made great friends and great memories, but I came back as soon as I got the chance. Graduating high school, I was living in my city again in less than three months. I’m proud to live here. Proud to be graduating from UNO next spring. Proud of the heat, the jazz, and the potholes. I’m proud to call New Orleans home.
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I call New Orleans home because this is the place that I feel most myself. I feel like I can have real relationships with people, that I am continually inspired creatively. I just really appreciate the way that people here prioritize other people, and connecting with other people. It’s really special. It makes me feel more human. I call New Orleans home also because it’s the opportunity to become friends with a lot of folks that in other cities you’re not able to make friendships with as easily. I feel like here it’s easier to be in communities where there’s intergenerational friendships, where there’s friendships across race and culture. It’s very segregated in those ways in every other place I’ve lived, and here people prioritize each other, and they prioritize joy and loving life.
Prior to the day I alighted the City of New Orleans Amtrak train I had never seen the place I call home. I had the usual honeymoon period of enchantment any of her suitors might feign to display for a time until she proves too tough to stick it out. And she was tough on me. She pulled the truth out of me and dangled it before me until I could wear it like a summer dress. Never has anyone loved me as intimately as the City of New Orleans. Turns out she can see in the dark. As with any great love, she filled me with fear and broke me open in ways no reasonable person could’ve planned for. In my first month living here, I shared a stoop with an elderly woman for two straight afternoons and at one point she turned to me and said, “I can tell you feel like singing” and I said “I do.” to which she replied, “you’re gonna have to start in the middle cuz you already missed the beginning”. I think about that a lot - because we can’t go back and start over in the rhythm of life, you just gotta pick up where you are and keep going without holding back. I’ve heard it said that home isn’t the place where you are from, Home is the place where all your plans to escape cease to exist. No matter where I go in the world, I’m spiritually tethered to her.

Special thanks to AJ/Precious Durant, Stephanie Quiette-Addison Martin, Dinero Meyers, Liz Burpee, Saluda Trepagnier, Veena, Ian Monroe, Adrian Brenneman, Felix Rainey, Jimmy G., Sterling Armour, Kimberly, Anya, Pleshet Ball, Renee Cutno, Khayriyyah Cutno, Christopher Hughes, and Justin Nunnink for his construction know-how.