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Youth-driven mural on Greenway basketball court to be unveiled Saturday

“Shine Together” mural, installation in progress. (Photo by Sarah Kehoe, courtesy of Friends of Lafitte Greenway)

A new Greenway mural — “Shine Together” mural by the BElite youth artists — will be unveiled Saturday (Aug. 20) on the Lafitte Greenway basketball court.

The unveiling ceremony will include a community celebration with refreshments, games, bounce houses and DJ music and a youth basketball clinic with Jaxson Hayes of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Participants won’t look up to see this mural unveiled. Designed to make young players’ lives brighter as they dribble, it covers the Greenway’s basketball court.

The idea came from community member Jalen Gray, who has been leading the project. In early 2020, he approached the Friends of Lafitte Greenway and the New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission with an idea to paint a surface mural on the Lafitte Greenway basketball court.

A standout player on the Loyola University and Brother Martin basketball teams, Gray wanted use public art to promote the Greenway court. He spearheaded the project as a volunteer, bringing together resources and partners.

“Teamwork has been on full display from everyone involved in this project.” Gray said, “and we can’t wait to share it with the community.”

The Greenway youth recreation center before the mural was installed. (Adam Mejerson photo, courtesy of Friends of Lafitte Greenway)

The BElite youth artists spent their summer transforming the Greenway’s basketball court with the new on-court mural. These artists, ages 15-21, designed and installed the mural.

“It’s an honor to be able to bring a little light to the Lafitte Greenway through art,” said Astrid Sims, one of the BElite artists.

The BElite Collective is the youth-led arm of Eternal Seeds, a nonprofit organization founded by prominent local muralist Brandan “BMike” Odums. The young artists receive technical support, mentorship and professional development coaching from practicing artists at Eternal Seeds + StudioBE.

“BElite Collective is the type of youth-led programming, training, and mentorship opportunity the city of New Orleans needs more of,” said NORD CEO Larry Barabino Jr.

BElite artists and Jalen Gray during mural installation (Courtesy of Frineds of Lafitte Greenway)

This mural is located at the hub of the Greenway sports and youth recreation center. Nearby recreation facilities include NORD’s Greenway Clubhouse, a field for football and soccer clubs, a playground, baseball field, outdoor fitness gym and a public pool. This site includes concessions and bathrooms for the public — an all-around recreational space for the community.

The Shine Together mural youth artists include Camron Irvin, Astrid Sims, Carter Marberry, Miracle McKinnies, Miya Scaggs, Feyu Diallo, Anne-Marie Bossman, Haywood St. Cyr, Kerry Santa Cruze, Azure Muhammad and Ryan McCray-Smith.

The artists released this statement: “‘Shine Together’ explores the bold and rich spirit of New Orleans youth, with the bright colors representing their liveliness. The hands symbolize the togetherness we share as a community. BElite hopes this mural radiates the light and energy that connects our city, and helps us continue to Shine Together.”

The Greenway youth-led basketball court mural project was made possible with support from Sneaker Politics, United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Baptist Community Ministries, the Brees Dream Foundation and Neel Choudhury.

Saturday’s “Shine Together” unveiling and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held from 10 to 10:45 a.m.

The court will be put to use immediately. Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes will hold a youth basketball clinic from 10:45 a.m. to noon. Pre-registration is required for the clinic. To register a young player, contact NORD at robert.stanley@nola.gov or 504-236-2094. Neighborhood youth will have priority.

For those not attending the clinic, the community celebration will include bounce houses, sno-balls, giveaways, games, concessions, music by DJ Antwigadee, coffee by Hey! Coffee Co and beignets from Café De Monde.

The NORD-managed Lafitte Greenway is used by 325,000 people annually on foot and bicycle. It serves as a transportation route and a space for recreation, play, community events and environmental sustainability. The city and community have worked together to develop sports fields, basketball courts, fitness parks and playgrounds along the 2.6-mile long linear park connecting Mid-City and the French Quarter.

The nonprofit Friends of Lafitte Greenway is a community partner that formed in 2006 to build, program and promote the Lafitte Greenway as a safe and vibrant public space. For more information, visit www,LafitteGreenway.org.

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