On a brutally hot June day, two John McDonogh High School students and their art teacher took shelter under an open-air “shotgun temple” in a Bayou Road neutral ground near North Dorgenois Street.
On the walls, African scenes of mother and child abutted portraits of dreadlocked Rastafarians, brightly colored yin yangs and an extraterrestrial tableau featuring a green alien in a flying saucer. A tree stump, painted red, green and gold, doubled as a stool.
The structure, built in 1980 by artist and urban planner Robert Tannen, has for decades served the community as a clubhouse of sorts, a place where neighbors gathered for crawfish boils and where the local Rastafarian population worshipped.
It now has become an effort by Tannen and other educators and artists to democratize public art by encouraging students and community members to collaborate on structures within their communities.