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DeSaix Circle Project: Spirit House

John T. Scott and Martin Payton

Spirit House is the latest addition to New Orleans public art collection funded through the Percent For Art program. John Scott and Martin Payton's Spirit House sculpture is a work that celebrates the contributions of unnamed African Americans to the building and culture of New Orleans. By incorporating various symbols and drawings by the artists and schoolchildren in the surrounding area, Scott and Payton have built a work that creates a "non-literal narrative," and provides the community with a sense of ownership.

The artists met several times with the community and students from Medard H. Nelson and St. Leo The Great schools to inform them about this project, the African-American heritage of the community and the history of art elements that are integrated into the design. With this background, the students created their own imagery that is incorporated into the final artwork. Students' designs are included on the end walls of the Spirit House and reflect their interpretations of who and what are African-Americans and how they contribute to the community.

The design of the structure itself was created to represent the influences of both African and European styles. Artist's narratives on eight panels, found on the inside legs of the house's elevating pylons, explain the imagery used in Spirit House. Click here to read panels.

On a fieldtrip to the artist's studio in March 2002, these young artists/students had the opportunity to view their drawings on a much larger scale! The images below show St. Leo The Great and Menard Nelson students on a field trip to the artists' studio. They are standing with Mr. Scott before the walls they helped design.

Spirit House was dedicated April 14, 2002 with great celebration. Mayor Marc Morial, Mardi Gras Indian Darrel Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas Tribe, the Treme Brass Band, Luther Grays Bamboula 2000 Drummers and Dancers, and more all welcomed Spirit House to the neighborhood!



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