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Beloved Mid-City signs are returning to neutral grounds

Madeline Faust touches up a sign in 2013. (MCNO photo)

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Mid-City Messenger

The familiar red heart in a yellow crescent will soon return to three Mid-City neutral grounds.

New Mid-City signs will replace the three signs blown down in Hurricane Ida. The colorful, whimsical signs on the neutral ground at South Broad and Tulane Avenue, South Carrolton Avenue and Ulloa Street, and City Park Avenue and Bienville Avenue were destroyed. 

The signs sponsored by the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization represent the neighborhood at the heart of the city. And the wave images below reminds us that we live in a city with a high water table. 

They have been damaged over time due to a number of factors. The most unrelenting is the weather and other forces of nature. Rain, hurricane winds, heat, cold, sun, temperature fluctuations — and even insects — have all taken their toll.

And then there is manmade damage due to vandalism or more innocent activities, such as climbing on the signs. 

The Mid-City Neighborhood Organization board members noticed that the signs had wear-and-tear and had long wanted to do something about the problem. Then the pandemic hit. Then Hurricane Ida hit.

According to the MCNO President Thomas Ecker, “This has been on our radar to resolve for a long while, and we have now finally been able to focus on it and secure the funding to refurbish [or replace] these three signs.”

MCNO Board Chair Claire Byun is taking the lead on the sign project. “These handmade signs serve as the entree into this beautiful, diverse neighborhood,” Byun said.

As the organization representing Mid-City, we felt it was important to not only replace what last year’s hurricanes tore down, but re-establish some color around Mid-City. And, of course, employ a local artist to remake her original designs.” 

A Mid-City neutral ground sign in progress. (Madeleine Faust photo)

Mid-City artist Madeleine Faust, the creator of the MCNO logo, has refurbished the signs over the years.

There is no specific MCNO fund for sign maintenance, Byun said, and any work needs to be approved by a board vote. When problems arise, the board has  stepped in and rectified it.

The MCNO board approved $3,750 to replaced the signs destroyed in Hurricane Ida. The city’s Parks and Parkways Department assists with the installation of our signs, Byun noted.

Faust is also the artist behind the signs’ inspiration, the Mid-City Totem, sporting its own weather vane, at the corner of South Carrollton and Canal near Juan’s Flying Burrito. It was created to commemorate the new Canal Street streetcar line in 2004. 

Following the 2005 disaster after Hurricane Karina, the MCNO received an anonymous donation of $10,000 to beautify the neighborhood. The board decided to ask Faust to create artwork for the Mid-City neutral grounds. The six Mid-City signs are the result.

This isn’t the first time a sign had to be replaced. Carpenter ants destroyed the sign at Lafitte Avenue and Norman C. Francis Parkway, so Faust got to work and re-did that sign. After then, Faust said, “I made a template, so I now have a pattern to re-create any sign that needs replacing.” 

Artist Madeleine Faust created a template for sign replacement. (Madeleine Faust photo)

But it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. The original sign company has gone out of business. The medium density overlay plywood that is needed to get that smooth finish is very difficult to source, so Faust has pivoted to marine grade plywood. After priming the wood, Faust uses direct-to-metal paint, which is an ultra spec acrylic that is not as subject to fading as other exterior paints. 

And the direction the sign faces makes a difference too. “I have touched up the sign at the intersection of South Norman C. Francis Parkway and Banks Street that faces the afternoon sun,” Faust said. “I noticed the red heart was beginning to fade.” The red and yellow paints are more likely to fade than the greens or blues, she said. 

And then there is the foundation work. The posts on either sign, made of pressure-treated wood, have to “cure” for four months before Faust can paint them. Then once they are primed and painted and dried, the sign can be attached.

The three signs are scheduled to be replaced this month.

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