In New Orleans, An Artist Pushes for Regenerative Relations in Place
Artist Kevin Beasley was invited to create an artwork in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. "Instead, he bought land, cleared it, and began to plant a garden," writes Siddhartha Mitter in the New York Times. "By now, many local faces were familiar to him; others were not, and he listened intently to their suggestions, and also to their doubts and cautions."
Beasley’s project is both utilitarian - the garden is a resource that will provide free internet, a place to relax, and eventually fruits and vegetables - and generative. On this balance, Beasley remarks, “I could argue that it’s a sculpture, the entire thing...but that debate is less significant than what the thing is actually doing.” As a new arrival to New Orleans, Beasley centered relation rather than installation:
Until the triennial invited him to visit and start imagining a special project for its 2020 edition, he had never set foot in New Orleans. That was three years ago. By the time the triennial, postponed one year by the pandemic, opened last October, Beasley had gone completely off-script. He had taken the commission fee, more than doubled it with his own money, and invested in this land. Visiting monthly to immerse himself in the city’s culture, he had landed on a realization: To contribute anything at all would require raising the stakes. The key difference, said Calhoun, was that Beasley had invested. “He’s not making art that’s going to come for three months,” Calhoun said. “It’s important that he owns it.”