Eight Page Spread in "Visit Jefferson Parish" Magazine
by Ashlea Kelly
Art around Jefferson Parish, Louisiana: Enjoy the Vieux.
Jefferson Parish spans a bit over 665 square miles of Louisiana landscape. It is home to multiple cities & towns that fill the parish with art; encompassing murals, monuments, museums & Artscapes… along with natural backdrops that lend any artistic imagination to want to pick up a pen, or a camera or at minimum embrace a moment of raw beauty.
The first step is knowing where to find art in Jefferson Parish, but the most important part is to make sure you (& your krewe) keep your eyes open to it because it’s up, & down & all around us here. Phones & excessive technology give us the ability to find whatever we want on the internet, thru what someone else has discovered or written about, but the ability to see art IN the moment, IN wherever you are, whatever you are doing or whatever places you go is the true treasure. That is the beauty of art…finding it, seeing it, sharing it, and experiencing tingly moments of wonder when you know you’ve found something truly astounding, educational, inspirational, or just dang pretty.
Art makes us think; makes us pause. & In the spirit of Louisiana exploration and adventure when you span the artistic canvas available to you within Jefferson Parish there’s no doubt, you’ll discover what feeds your artistic soul. Oh, but where to start: It makes sense to begin in Kenner, Louisiana (Jefferson Parish’s largest incorporated city) since it’s home to the majestic & brand-spanking-new Louis Armstrong International Airport. The moment you enter the airport terminal or come down the stairs after you’ve flown in, you’ll see the massive glass-sealed Treewall image that is part of a “Trees in the Fog” collection by local Louisiana photographer: Lana Gramlich. This peek into a moment of foggy trees in the Louisiana landscape demonstrates the beauty of what is there to be discovered. The drippy trees seem to embrace us here in their foggy allure, welcoming all the travelers to Southeast Louisiana.
Outside of the airport, as you’re driving thru Kenner, you’ll also find gigantic Artscapes lining major thoroughfares & around many public spaces and spanning into Kenner’s next-door neighbors: Metairie, the Westbank & even all the way to the entrance of Grand Isle (Jefferson Parish’s ‘island’, located at the mouth of the Barataria Bay where it meets the Gulf of Mexico).
Artscapes are huge sculptures created & inspired by a public art program so that everyone has an opportunity to appreciate art in a natural setting. Day or night (many Artscapes light up after-dark) drive down Power Boulevard or all the way to Lakeside Shopping Center & beyond to indulge in the collection of larger-than-life art just waiting to be admired. Local favorite: ‘Apple Pi’, by artist Paul Leaman, is a witty way to bring up all those Pi lessons with the kids! The dual dogs keeping watch out in Kenner conveniently point towards an adorable dog park (created for pooches of all sizes) located right here in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.
If you adore checking out artwork on a grand scale, murals are another way to get your artistic craving in & around Jefferson Parish. Revolutionizing walls, buildings & neighborhoods around the state, these massive ‘paintings’ tell stories of communities & artists of all ages, like this lovely long-winded mural in Fat City (another little ‘neighborhood’ in Jefferson Parish). These murals were painted by young artists in local Grace King High School when 16 students were given the chance to spruce up their community with painted murals depicting the vibrant culture of Fat City. Walk the entire span of this creative beauty to see the way every single individual painting intertwines with the scene in the next one…it’s brilliant & one can only imagine the conversations that led to how each would so naturally feed into the next. A beautiful interlacing of not only art, but young communicators brainstorming their soon-to-be masterpiece together.
Drive down the road a few moments to see “Legs in the Air” by Kyle Bravo or “In Fat City” by artist Robert Dafford; providing a tall & scenic selfie-opportunity. The sheer size of the many murals throughout Jefferson Parish, interlaced with their placement, nurture the landscape with Louisiana culture & soul.
Jefferson Parish is steeped in history like the mural displayed atop the German American Cultural Center of the historic city of Gretna, one of the cities in Jefferson Parish that you might hear locals refer to as part of ‘The West bank’. Check out the external mural on the museum then step thru the doors to explore the historical photographs & educational visuals inside…celebrating & honoring the German immigrants who founded Gretna in 1836.
In Westwego, another on ‘The Westbank’ beauty, check out the Westwego Shrimp Lot (where there’s WAY MORE than shrimp) then go find this dapper green fellow relaxing in his swampy vieux. The epitome of this Louisiana life.
& Speaking of seafood…in Jefferson Parish, art is often linked to the mouthwatering array of fresh seafood available & oysters are often the muse. As the nation’s number one producer of oysters, Louisiana’s reputation for not only knowing how to cultivate & prepare oysters but turn them into art for the walls or for the tastebuds, is what makes oysters such a big deal around here. In late 2012, the Jefferson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. teamed up with the Louisiana Tourism Recovery Program to create Louisiana’s 1st Oyster Trail. Local artists were invited to paint life-sized resin oysters that embody restaurants throughout Jefferson Parish as part of a public art program. Follow the Louisiana Oyster trail to spot the 3-foot-tall oyster-art & experience the local flavor of over 20 participating restaurants & businesses that only serve Louisiana born & bred oysters.
With the abundance of history all throughout Jefferson Parish, you could spend days simply driving around to read & learn about the lifetimes of stories that have played out on these lands. Memorials & statues are the type of art that have a way of transporting us to another time & place in history. They lend our minds to wander & we find ourselves suddenly standing somewhere with the ability to fully take in what might’ve happened at that exact spot generations before us.
Wander out to La Salle’s Landing in Rivertown to stand where the first ever World Heavyweight Championship took place in 1870 & you’ll be greeted by the statues of the two immortalized boxers: “Gypsy” Jem Mace & Tom Allen.
Or take a daytrip out to Grand Isle to a take in a completely artistic different view. For the most part you can get from one side of Jefferson Parish to the other in about 20-30 minutes (without traffic) but getting out to Jefferson Parish’s most remote beauty: Grand Isle, takes a good bit longer since you actually end up leaving Jefferson Parish and traveling thru 2 other parishes to get back to it again. The drive is completely worth it though; here’s a shot of my jeep-view heading in:
Hurricane Ida’s horrific devastation to Grand Isle in 2021 is still clearly evident but the area was alive with locals & rebuilding intermittently everywhere on the recent August day I visited. There are endless views just asking to be captured, photographed & hung up on the wall, but the sight that took me off guard over and over again were the masses of sunflowers EVERYWHERE. Wild sunflowers lined the beaches and the sand, they lined the gas stations & quant restaurants. They grew by themselves & interwoven with other wild flowers. There were sunflowers bursting from everywhere, almost drowning out the sad bones of homes that used to be whole before the storm. The abundance of flowers took my breath away. Sunflowers are known to face toward the sun, but when the sun isn’t out, they face each other. Natural art reminding us what to do when we struggle to find our light alone.
There are multiple monuments in the area as well; but the structure that made me stop & catch my breath was of the soldier standing so focused among his other immortalized comrades at the Grand Isle American Legion Post 309. He seemed to be looking out toward the water that was right beyond the grass. It was beautiful that day, windy & slightly cool from the bit of rain that had come in earlier that morning. I could only hear the breeze & feel the quiet strength radiating from everything around me. The picture of resilience.
In Jefferson Parish art is everywhere. From our oyster filled bayous to our bustling historical hubs. Art is painted on canvases made to withstand the storms & created within every sizzling seafood dish one of our passionate chefs serves up. Our community embraces art: the preserving of it, the creating of it, the exploration of it throughout the generations. Art is a love language that connects us all here & it’s yours to discover, embrace & weave into your Louisiana adventure too.
& P.S. don’t forget to pack your rain boots.
Full Page Ad in Visit Jefferson Parish Magazine to promote tourism for Visit Kenner CVB.
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written by Ashlea Kelly
Visit Kenner Parish Magazine 2022-23
Social Media Content
for Annunciation Restaurant in New Orleans, LA
Social Media Content to promote Visit Kenner CVB