Public Art Partnership Supported by National Endowment for the Arts,
Arts Council of New Orleans and Broad Community Connections
The Iconic Signage Project, a collaboration between the Arts Council of New Orleans and Broad Community Connections, created four new neon signs for businesses on Broad Street. Supported by a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the project revitalizes New Orleans’ Broad Street Main Street corridor by celebrating some of the many businesses that make Broad Street a vibrant commercial district. The Iconic Signage Project is an arts-based economic development project that employed local artists to promote small businesses, tell their story, and create a glowing visual identity for Broad Street.
One of Broad Street’s defining features is the eclectic nature of its architecture. Broad Street buildings range in style and age, from 19th century warehouses and brickyards, to early 20th century commercial storefronts and double shotgun residences, to larger contemporary commercial structures. The Iconic Signage Project creates a cohesive element among the buildings on Broad Street without imposing an artificial sense of unity on the corridor. Using neon lighting, the signs evoke some of the jazz-age and automobile-era heyday Broad Street enjoyed in the first half of the 20th century, and also visually depict the nature of the goods or services that each business provides.
Participating businesses and artists were selected through an open call and application process. Businesses that participated in the project include: The GodBarber, a barber shop at 219 South Broad Street, owned by Ardell Toney; F&F Botanica, a candle, incense, and spiritual supply shop at 801 North Broad Street, owned by Felix Figueroa; Calamari Trim Shop, an automobile, boat, and vehicle upholstery shop at 339 North Broad, owned by Joseph Calamari; and the Crescent School of Gaming and Bartending, located at 209 North Broad, and owned by Ricky Richard. The businesses were paired with artists and graphic designers—respectively—Jerry Therio, Candy Chang, Christian Stock, and Michael Cain, who met with the business owners to ensure that the signs were both creative as well as functional.
“We learned a lot about what it takes to make a great sign”, says Morgana King, Director of Public Art for the Arts Council of New Orleans. “To share that information and make it easier to produce unique signage throughout New Orleans, we also created the DIY Guide to Iconic Signs as little project lagniappe. The guide is a resource for other neighborhood groups and businesses interested in creating their own iconic signs.” It is available online at www.artscouncilofneworleans.org and through the City’s Office of Safety and Permits.
Broad Community Connections, http://broadcommunityconnections.org/, plans to continue the project this fall. Says BCC’s Executive Director, Jeff Schwartz, “Broad Street and Bayou Road are filled with great small businesses and business owners, and the Iconic Signage Project is one way that our organization—in partnership with the Arts Council of New Orleans—is working to celebrate and support them as a part of fulfilling our mission to revitalize Broad Street and the surrounding communities. Small businesses are one of the cornerstones not just of the corridor, but of the culture of the city, and these signs and the artists who participated in the project helped to tell their story.”