In the 1960s, the counterculture fell in love with posters. By the 1970s, posters were an indispensable part of promoting live music — and the new New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival had to have one.

The first unofficial Jazz Fest poster was designed by Bruce Brice. It’s a black-and-white bird's-eye view of the festival, set in Armstrong Park, its location at the time. The poster was used for promotion, given out for free and posted in public spots around the city. Brice went on to become one of the festival’s longest-standing artists. He sold his paintings and prints at the festival for 45 years, until his death in 2014.

In 1975, Tulane law student Bud Brimberg produced the first numbered, limited-edition silk-screen poster. It was a hit and launched the era of collectible Jazz Fest posters. That first limited-edition poster has been widely hailed as the most collected poster in the world.

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The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival poster in 2008 was by Douglas Bourgeois. It portrayed Irma Thomas.

The festival introduced signed, numbered posters in 1976. And later, two more versions upped the collector’s ante even further, with remarqued editions (that is, when an artist creates an original drawing on an existing work) and canvas ones.

In 1991, Jim Scheurich launched the Congo Square poster, and even ran a series of “Celebrity Edition” posters with artists such as Earl King and Irma Thomas. By 1994, the Congo Square poster was brought fully under the Jazz Fest umbrella. This effectively meant there were two highly sought-after posters each year. And in 2018, the Congo Square poster featured its first hip-hop musician, Big Freedia. 

Every year, the iconic Jazz Fest poster honors Louisiana musical luminaries. Louis Armstrong, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Mahalia Jackson, The Meters, Trombone Shorty, Buddy Bolden and Louis Prima are among the musicians who have been featured. Fats Domino holds the record for the most posters, appearing four different times through the years.

The poster usually features a single musician or group, but for the festival’s 50th anniversary, artist Scott Guion highlighted 55 artists with strong ties to Jazz Fest.

Among Jazz Fest’s dedicated attendees, everyone has a favorite poster, and they are common sights in New Orleans homes.

To see an archive of Jazz Fest posters, go to jazzandheritage.org/archive.

The 2019 poster is available at the Jazz Fest or art4now.com.

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The Jazz Fest at 50 series, celebrating the half-century anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, is a partnership between The New Orleans Advocate and WWOZ 90.7 FM.