The Iris of Memory art installation has been unveiled in the new pedestrian Plaza on the Lafitte Greenway. The permanent installation will be part of a luminary art exhibit, Greenway Supernova, beginning Wednesday.
A project of the Friends of Lafitte Greenway, the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission and the Arts Council New Orleans, the rapid-build $100,000 Plaza project has transformed the driveway of the former brake tag station. The new space will soon be home to the Mid-City Crescent City Farmers Market, Greenway officials said.
“Since the Greenway’s opening five years ago, we’ve dreamed with neighbors and city leaders of breathing new life into this site where the Greenway greets the Bayou,” said Friends of Lafitte Greenway Executive Director Sophie Vorhoff in a press release. “The Greenway Plaza and Iris of Memory create a new space in the heart of Mid-City for community and culture.”
The Plaza project was put on a fast track in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “We have seen an increase in outdoor parks and trails usage over the last several months confirming, what we have already known, our parks and outdoor spaces are critical to community development, and overall health and wellness,” said NORD CEO Larry Barabino Jr. “This rapid-build project is one of many NORD looks to complete in our efforts to expand services and programming to residents across the Greenway.”
Iris of Memory, a 17-foot tall metal sculptural work by New Orleans artist William Nemitoff, anchors the newly transformed site. The signature installation, made possible by a gift from Elaine Ravich, the Greg Vorhoff family, and the city of New Orleans Percent for Arts Program, is a commemorative work recognizing the life and contributions of local artist, volunteer, mother and teacher Debbie Ravich Vorhoff.
As you move closer to the Iris of Memory, the light within glows brighter, representing the power of a memory to connect us to life, even when someone is no longer physically with us. The glowing bouquet represents the urban greenscape and the need to protect our local and global environment, the Friends’ Vorhoff said.
“This project has deep personal meaning for me and my family; this work began with a gift from my husband’s extraordinary grandma for an art installation in his mom, Debbie’s, honor,” Vorhoff said. “That gift was paired with a wish: to create a space filled with love, laughter, creativity, and the blossoms of new memories.”
The Greenway Plaza design also features a bold ground mural by artist Brandon Surtain, benches and flexible-use furniture, a stage for musical performances and workshops, native water-loving plantings, and a strengthened bike connection to the Greenway trail. Over 500 community members contributed their vision for the space through a public input process.
The project complements recent investments at this key intersection of the Lafitte Greenway, including the city’s $1.5 million renovation of the former brake tag station on the Greenway at North Lopez Street into a community pavilion and the January opening of a new accessible playground. City officials, NORD and Friends cut the ribbon on the Pavilion in March of this year. The Plaza complements these developments, continuing the transformation of the site from a place for cars to a place for people.
This space has long been envisioned by community members and city leaders as a community gathering space, appearing as a plaza and contemplative space in the City of New Orleans’ 2013 Greenway Master Plan. “This transformation brings that vision to life, and creates a flexible space for community programming and events including markets, performances and fitness classes,” the Friends state in a press release.
The area is already home to programming by Friends of Lafitte Greenway, NORD and their partners. The Fence, a 1,200-foot long photography exhibit championed by the New Orleans Photo Alliance in partnership with Brooklyn-based Photoville, spans the Greenway trail from Norman C. Francis Parkway toward Broad Street and will be on exhibition until late February.
Greenway Supernova, Friends’ annual fundraiser transformed into an outdoor luminary art exhibit in partnership with NORD and Arts Council New Orleans’ Luna Fete, will light up the Plaza and Brake Tag Pavilion from Dec. 9 to Dec. 20, Wednesday to Sunday from 5-9 pm.
The exhibit is free and open to the community. Individuals and businesses can show their support and find more information at lafittegreenway.org/supernova.
The Greenway Plaza will be the new home of the Mid-City Crescent City Farmers Market. Operated by Market Umbrella, the market will move to the site from nearby American Can Company, enabling a growth in the number of vendors and greater bike and pedestrian access. The market will operate Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. beginning on Dec. 10.
To learn more about the project, and to participate in the public input process, visit lafittegreenway.org.