The winner of the first local arts-oriented pitch contest was announced this morning at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. New Orleans native and fine arts photographer Michel Varisco was named winner of the Living With Water Civic Arts Design Pitch for her project Turning.
The $25,000 prize was decided by an audience text-in vote at The Chicory, following commentary from a critical feedback panel consisting of Sophie Harris, Executive Director of Friends of Lafitte Corridor; David Waggonner, principal of Waggonner & Ball Architects; Councilmember Susan Guidry; and Bill Gilchrist, Director of Place-Based Planning for the City of New Orleans.
Varisco’s project is a sculpture that features a trio of large cylinders that viewers will be able to spin. Varisco says of her project:
I envision a sculpture that will contain a series of large cylinders that will move in place through spinning. The viewer can spin the cylinders which will be located on ball bearings and will turn as smoothly as a large praxinoscope but only taller and more akin to a Tibetan prayer wheel. We are here by a prayer, so perhaps these spinning barrels would carry with them the prayers of the New Orleanians who devotedly pray for a hurricane free year…or who pray for a sunny day to go fishing, or that the saints will win and save us from our monotony, or that the land would stop melting into the Gulf of Mexico. But obvious to even the most devout among the residents, prayer alone won’t save us. It didn’t save us from the levees breaking in over 50 or so spots in the city, and it won’t save us from coastal erosion, low geologic status and rising sea levels from global warming without clear action behind those prayers.
One stainless steel cylinder will reveal a lazer cut pattern of a snake-like Mississippi River. At night, blue electroluminescent panels will show through, offering a spectacular haunting show reminiscent of the bio-phosphorous found in the Gulf and bays. At the base of all these cylinders will be a mosaic pattern inspired by the Fisk maps from 1944, describing the sediment-distributing river.
The Civic Design Arts Pitch award will be used to implement Varisco’s interactive design in the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans. The event was part of today’s 5th annual Water Challenge, which is being sponsored by local incubator Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation.
The two other semi-finalists were Jennifer Blanchard with Contraflow and Amy Stelly and Darryl Reeves for Drop in the Bowl.