The Art of Life

Folk art and musical traditions make for a free, rich weekend.

After the whirlwind of Halloween activities and big festivals like Voodoo Fest, there is one brief weekend of respite before the holiday season is in full-attack mode. Since you aren’t tethered to the calendar quite yet, I suggest you use this weekend to learn about the folk art and musical legacy of New Orleans.

On Saturday, Nov. 3 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Algiers Folk Art Festival will feature talented contemporary folk artists and some of our best musicians as well. The Algiers Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum began the small neighborhood festival seven years ago, and they organize it on a scale that makes it vibrant but not overcrowded. The outdoor event is located on the grounds of the Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum at 207 Leboeuf St. in Algiers, on the WestBank of the Mississippi River.

The free event is a showcase for regional artists, who will also be selling their work. Painting, sculpture, collage, mixed media, pottery and jewelry will be represented. The artists will also be in attendance themselves, providing the opportunity to ask questions about their methods and inspirations, and even inquire about commission work. The list of artists includes: Charles Gillam Sr., Jean-Marcel St. Jaques, NOLA Nate Scott, Chris Grisaffe, Cely Pedescleaux, Steve Seneca, Paul Jawbone Douroux, Maggie McEleney and more.

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Gillam, a self-taught artist, founded the Algiers Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum in 2000 to pay tribute to Louisiana’s musical heritage and serve as a living folk art environment. The festival is a fundraiser to support the Folk Art Zone.

Live music throughout the day features some of New Orleans’ favorites, including Little Freddie King, Bruce Sunpie Barnes and Dave & Bob Acoustic. There will also be a performance by a neighborhood kids group, the Confetti Park Players. Food trucks and liquid refreshments of soda, beer and wine will also be available.  

On Sunday, Nov. 4 at 3 p.m., a truly exceptional free concert is planned at Xavier University Center’s McCaffrey Ballroom. Tricentennial Soul: 300 Years of Black Music in New Orleans will explore the musical roots and contributions of Black New Orleans, beginning with slavery and moving through history to today’s sounds.

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Dr. Michael White, clarinetist, Xavier professor and music historian, will host the event. In addition to the music performances, it will also consist of a discussion to contextualize the development of the genres and their impact on New Orleans and world cultures. Scheduled performers are White, Deacon John Moore, Opera Creole, the Hot 8 Brass Band, Don Vappie, Wendell Brunious, Luther Gray and Cynthia Girtley.

The discussion (and hopefully demonstrations) will include antebellum slave drumming and singing at Congo Square, street vendors’ songs, nineteenth-century Creole classical music, early jazz, jazz funerals, modern brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, rhythm & blues, gospel, funk and rap.

The Xavier University Center is located at 4980 Dixon St. Because seating is limited and there are no advance reservations, I recommend you arrive early.

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