Embracing Local Art at New Orleans Jazz Fest

April 18, 2023

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2023

It’s that special time of the year for New Orleanians and travelers alike when acts such as Wu-Tang Clan, Ed Sheeran, and Lizzo head to the New Orleans Fairgrounds for Jazz Fest. It’s not just headliners that get the jazz dads and moms excited. There will also be local and regional favorites such as TBC Brass Band, Treme Brass Band, and New Birth Brass Band. Along with music, art vendors will be selling everything from paintings to clothes.

Music plays a big role in Jazz Fest, but it’s also about art and this festival gives artists the spotlight.

Mardi Gras Indians at New Orleans Jazz Fest

Mardi Gras Indians at New Orleans Jazz Fest. Nicolas Henderson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jazz Fest Artists That Shouldn’t Go Unnoticed

Jazz Fest Week 1: Edward Wycliff – Bow Shoeshoe

Edward’s story is similar to most heroes, where he has devoted his life and art to helping the people from the community within Bathoso. How did he do this? Bowties.  A concept that seems like it would make little impact in most of America’s ideas on entrepreneurialism has made a huge difference and created countless jobs, along with bow tie-making skillset to improve the lives of many people who live in isolated communities. Edward Wycliff designs and sells bow ties and neckties which are crafted by the people of Lesotho. By working in seven underserved communities, they provide residents of the communities with a stable source of well-paid labor, bringing employment opportunities to areas struck by extreme poverty. Pronounced “shway-shway”, shoeshoe is the traditional cotton textile of South Africa, which became an iconic symbol of Lesotho. Wycliff’s work is beyond the beauty and craftsmanship of the bowties that will be sold the first week of Jazz Fest at Tent D at Congo Square African Marketplace. It is symbolic of when art and community meet to create something magical. As Wycliff said, “It truly does take a village to produce each Bow Shoeshoe product.”

Jazz Fest Week 1: Oscar Donahue – Oscar Of New Orleans

Oscar Donahue grew up in the inner city of Kansas City, Missouri, with limited resources but surrounded by a lot of love from family members. His journey with art started when he was drawing at the age of 5 and he drew a dolphin that surprised everyone, his talents were revealed. His story didn’t exactly end there. Oscar had many lives before finding his place in art. He got a scholarship to Baker University where he became engaged in theater while also working with March of Dimes, which helps give healthcare to people experiencing pregnancy so they can have healthy babies. After moving to New Orleans in 1984, he spent his weekends drawing portraits at the French Market before starting to design whimsical colorful jewelry to increase his income and support his family. His work is both playful and unique that you have to go and see Oscar on weekend one of Jazz Fest at Tent D at Congo Square African Marketplace to experience it!

Jazz Fest Week 1: Marie Jose Poux

This woman is not only a talented artist but a powerful force within both New Orleans and the Haitian community. Marie was born in Haiti and found her forever home in New Orleans, she founded the Hope for Haitian Children Foundation, where she gives aid and support to abandoned or orphaned children in Haiti, as well as supports parents and families in need. Marie Jose Poux’s dedication and hard work have kept the Haitian orphanage fully functional. Ms. Poux’s Haitian artwork and straw hats are surely a great hit and we cannot wait to see her during weekend one at Tent S over at Congo Square African Marketplace.

Jazz Fest Week 1: Darrin Butler – Color In Wood

Darrin is a New Orleanian through and through, as a child he grew up across the street from St. Thomas Housing Projects where he struggled in academics but found his place within the warmth of the artist community here in New Orleans. At 30, Darrin was diagnosed with dyslexia, which he credits to his unique perspective on the way the world and his work presents itself to him. Darren uses wood and metal as his preferred mediums, creating an added layer of texture in his work. Living in New Orleans allowed him to be well immersed in music and art, whether it’s art museums or the people of New Orleans who dress in visually stunning and creative attire. His mixed media pieces and wood-metal wall sculptures reveal the heart of New Orleans and all the things it embodies. He will be selling during the first weekend of Jazz Fest at Tent D at Congo Square African Marketplace, make sure not to pass this man up.

Jazz Fest Week 1: Epaul Julien

Epaul grew up in the Louisiana heat within a small town dreaming of big things. It was on the plantation where he was raised that his father taught him how to use a Nikon FT2 and so the dreamy wheels started a track to reality. He taught himself the ways of artistry and started his career in 1995 as a fine arts photographer. After having to abandon his oversized photo gear to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he salvaged his work from the storm and combined it with his artistic vision, he created mixed media art by working with what he had. His art is influenced by New Orleans history, abstract expressionist art, and a constant supply of leftover home renovation materials overflowing in city dumpsters. Epaul is known to be resourceful, environmentally conscious, and has a passion for representing his city through art. Epaul Julien will be selling gold and silver leaf photography during the first weekend of Jazz Fest at Tent Q over at Congo Square African Marketplace and we’re keeping an eye out for his work, you should too!

Jazz Fest Week 1: Teaty Pawoo

Teaty began their journey in the 90s where they showcased both artistry and metalwork. Pawoo’s work starts from inspiration and then onto sketching and finally, you’re left with the beautiful pieces of jewelry recognized today. The true thing that separates the jewelry created by Teaty from other jewelers is the way the jewelry closely resembles sculptures, creating shapes that resemble something familiar. You can find Teaty Pawoo at Tent T during the first weekend of Jazz Fest at Congo Square African Marketplace.

Jazz Fest Week 2: Chester Allen

This artist is where music meets medals. Chester Allen is an award-winning, nationally renowned, sterling silver jewelry genius. For 30 years, Chester has been creating carefully crafted metal pieces. Some of his work is inspired by his training as a classical pianist. Chester also incorporated work inspired by sacred geometry. He truly has a piece for everyone, Chester’s pieces range from casual everyday jewelry to fine jewelry using premium material. Chester even has a signature series that embodies what he refers to as “neutral ground is higher ground,” where the neutral ground is where people come together.  You can find him at Tent M over at Congo Square African Marketplace on weekend two of Jazz Fest.

Jazz Fest Week 2: Lamine Sene – Sunugal La Classe

Many people may not place the association between Senegal and New Orleans, but if there are Anthony Bourdain fans present, you’ll know that  he had an entire episode dedicated to the connections. What does that have to do with this artist? Lamine Sene is from the beautiful country of Senegal and began nourishing their gifts at the early age of 15, sewing there, they developed their passion for fashion and started designing their clothing. Sene traveled to Europe to do fashion shows and eventually landed in the United States for the first time in 1989. They came to New Orleans in 1995 to sell at Jazz Fest and as many others do, they fell in love with the city, resulting in a move to New Orleans. They still have their shop in Senegal but set up every day at the French Market in New Orleans. Lamine Sene will sell Senegalese clothing during the second weekend of Jazz Fest in Tent W at Congo Square African Marketplace and their work will give you a little insight into the significance of Senegalese culture.

Jazz Fest Week 2: Jessica Strahan

Award-winning and self-taught, Jessica Strahan is a painter and muralist who draws her inspiration from vibrant New Orleans and the African diaspora. Her portraits magnify the African influence on New Orleans culture, with a focus on cultural practices, residential architecture, culinary traditions, and the features and styles of New Orleans residents. Jessica Strahan will sell her acrylic paintings during the second weekend at Tent X of Jazz Fest in the Congo Square African Marketplace and we cannot wait to see what she has in store for the fest.

There’s a reason Jazz Fest brings 100s of talented artists and their fans every year, it’s the kind of event you have to see to really understand its allure.

While you’re in town don’t forget to check out the swamps on an airboat adventure tour! Nothing pairs better with Jazz than a gator sighting.

See you there!