DOUGLAS REDD HOUSEThe trees are bare and the ground is white with snow – it’s January and the winter chill has settled on Boston. Most people are dressed in wool sweaters, hats, scarves, gloves, and thick coats to keep warm. There are a few students, however, who are staying warm in their kitchens, baking cookies, cupcakes, and other goodies while dreaming of spring in New Orleans. The baked goods will be sold at a bake sale to raise funds for their spring break trip to the Crescent City where they will roll up their sleeves to work hard and soak up a little southern sunshine.

For the third consecutive year, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in partnership with the New Orleans Women Artists Collective (NOWAC), will send a team of students to New Orleans to engage in a service project designed to tap into their creative potential and values as artists while contributing to the cultural and physical rebirth of the city. This year we are very excited to be involved with NOWAC and artist Wangechi Mutu on the Ms. Sarah House Project. We look forward to applying the finishing touches to Ms. Sarah’s home this spring and helping to bring her back to the wonderful neighborhood that she helped shape over the years.

Beyond the rewards of contributing to the rebuilding efforts, the wonderful thing about our partnership with NOWAC is the added opportunity for cultural exchange with local artists and community leaders. Faced with the overwhelming emotional impact of the devastation that lingers, students struggle to contextualize the experience. Through a series of events and excursions designed as an introduction to the city, participants gain a better understanding of the rich cultural heritage, the inequalities, and the unflagging resolve of many to return and rebuild despite the hurdles.

During our previous spring break initiatives, students benefited from engaging with artists through the L9 Center for the Arts, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, and the Ashé Cultural Center, to name a few. We met photographers, painters, musicians, poets, teachers, writers, and enthusiasts – all welcomed us with warmth into their homes and hearts. Our interactions and exchanges created a deep connection to the city and reinforced the bonds in our own community. Students returned to Boston with an enriched sense of their own ability to make a positive and healing mark in the world through their work as artists.

To read more about the 2009 SMFA in NOLA spring break project:

Christy Cornett
Assistant Director of Student Life
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston