Marie Laveau: the name evokes visions of magic, mystery and intrigue in 1800s New Orleans. She is said to have influenced judges in legal decisions, sold charms and spells to the rich and powerful of New Orleans, and to have been the ‘real mayor’ of the city. Her tomb in St Louis Cemetery I is recovering from vandalism, and visiting hours have been dramatically reduced. In response, the New Orleans Healing Center is establishing a public art installation which will serve as a shrine to Marie Laveau.
What are we doing?
While the legend and myth of the Vodou Queen is impressive, Marie Laveau the woman was even more remarkable than the stories that surround her. The undisputed Vodou Queen of New Orleans in the first half of the 1800s, she was also a devout Catholic, an advocate for women and African American families, and a figure of extraordinary social authority, in a time when women of color had no power at all. Marie used her sharp wit to find loopholes in the legal system of the day, to ensure a future for her children and others like them, and to help free slaves. She fostered an incredible sense of community among slaves and free people of color that continued for decades.
Following vandalism at the famous Laveau Tomb in St Louis Cemetery I, in which the tomb was painted bright pink with a highly damaging latex paint, visiting hours to the tomb have been reduced. Visitors will soon be able to enter the cemetery only with a licensed tour guide. As the second most-visited tomb in the country, this will have a significant impact on Marie’s followers and visitors.
The statue of Marie Laveau in the New Orleans Healing Center (a gift from talented local artist Ricardo Pustanio) very quickly became something of a replacement, with visitors spontaneously leaving flowers and gift, and lighting candles. In order to build upon this start, the New Orleans Healing Center is establishing a public shrine to Marie Laveau, which will be open to tourists and locals alike, so that they may leave offerings, ask for blessings and leave the traditional ‘X’ markings on the shrine.
To make this happen, we aim to bring together a team of local artists to build a shine that will truly live and grow as a collaborative art installation, with a mosaic base, hand crafted candelabras, and a replica tomb that visitors can mark. The shrine will undoubtedly grow over time as visitors leave gifts, works of art, tile and glass to add to the mosaic, and more.
Our vision of an evolving, collaborative and truly community-based art installation will not only create a visually stunning and engaging centerpiece in the New Orleans Healing Center; it will bring together everyone who has felt the allure of the great Marie Laveau, whether they be locals or visitors to the great city of New Orleans, to a shrine worthy of such a remarkable and inspirational woman.
What's the Plan?
New Orleans is home to some incredible artists and artisans. Our first step will be to build a base for the shrine, which will be tiled around the edge, and covered on top with a mosaic. The mosaic will comprise tiles, glass, beads etc that we are asking people from the community to bring in and contribute. This allows energy and personal memories from all over the city to become a part of the installation.
Please bring or send your mosaic contributions to the New Orleans Healing Center, 2372 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117, by the 16th February so that the mosaic can commence right after Mardi Gras!
The beautiful statue will stand on the center of the base, and custom-made candelabras will be placed beside her. On one side will stand a replica of her tomb, which can be marked by visitors. The tradition of placing three X’s on the tomb indicates a request, a prayer, a communication of some kind, and for many people enhances the feeling of connection that they have with Marie. Our replica tomb will be made of Styrofoam and finished with cement to look like the old stone tomb, but will be more resilient than the original! Since the tomb in St Louis Cemetery I was vandalized with latex paint, which damages the old stone, a great deal of money has been spent on restoring it, and in order to protect it, the City has had to restrict access. Our tomb on the shrine will be available during all business hours of the Center (6am to 10pm), and all painted and chalked X’s can be touched up every few months. A plaque will be placed on the wall behind the shrine, telling visitors who Marie was, and what she meant to the city of New Orleans, and the broader community.
What will we do with your money?
We are asking for money to pay for the materials used in the shrine, and to pay the artists (because we don’t believe artists should have to be “poor and starving” in order to express their talent!) and to assist in the opening and dedication of the Shrine, which will take place at 8pm on March 14, 2015. This marks the closing of our annual Sacred Music Festival, the perfect opportunity to honor a woman like Marie Laveau, who has influenced the spiritual lives of so many.
At the dedication ceremony, two leading experts on Marie Laveau (Dr Martha Ward, and Carolyn Morrow-Long) will be signing their books and saying a few words about the historical and mythical figure they know so well. A Vodou priestess, Manbo Sallie Ann Glassman, will lead the ceremony and summon the spirit of Marie Laveau to preside over the dedication of her shrine.
Every bit of money you donate will be used to bring our vision to life. And you can earn some great perks along the way! We have a whole collection of gifts ready, many of them with a Marie Laveau theme, so that you can truly be a part of this experience. We have hand-painted candles, custom tiles, books and CDs, miniature statuettes based on the Marie Laveau statue, and more! If you get in quickly, you can even have your name embedded in the mosaic shrine, as a permanent commemoration of the part you played in bringing this art installation to fruition.
So please get involved, give anything you can, and help us spread the word by sharing this campaign on facebook, twitter, email and any other methods you can think of! If you can, join us March 14, 2015 for the New Orleans Sacred Music Festival (www.neworleanssacredmusicfestival.org) where we will launch this amazing art installation and dedicate it to the remarkable woman, legend and spirit: Marie Laveau.