Sophie Vorhoff, Executive Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2020
Friends of Lafitte Greenway, NORD, Arts Council New Orleans Celebrate Opening of Greenway Plaza and Iris of Memory Installation
NEW ORLEANS, LA -- Friends of Lafitte Greenway (Friends), the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORD), and Arts Council New Orleans are celebrating the grand opening of a new pedestrian Plaza on the Lafitte Greenway, and the reveal of the Iris of Memory art installation by William Nemitoff. Responding to the key need for more outdoor public spaces in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, this rapid-build $100,000 project has transformed the driveway of the former Brake Tag Station where the Greenway meets the Bayou St. John into a vibrant and welcoming pedestrian plaza--a new space in the heart of Mid-City for picnics, farmers markets, art, music, plantings, and play. The space will be home to the Mid-City Crescent City Farmers Market, and a luminary art exhibit, Greenway Supernova, beginning next week.
“Since the Greenway’s opening 5 years ago, we’ve dreamed with neighbors and City leaders of breathing new life into this site where the Greenway greets the Bayou,” says Friends of Lafitte Greenway Executive Director Sophie Vorhoff. “The Greenway Plaza and Iris of Memory create a new space in the heart of Mid-City for community and culture. In the midst of COVID, the Plaza--bursting with color, art, and plantings--is an important new place to connect outdoors. In the years to come, we dream of endless possibilities for markets, music, play, and dance. This project has deep personal meaning for me and my family; this work began with a gift from my husband’s extraordinary grandma for an art installation in his mom, Debbie’s, honor. That gift was paired with a wish: to create a space filled with love, laughter, creativity, and the blossoms of new memories. I am immensely grateful to the many people and partners who came together, building upon that initial gift, and bringing this transformative space to life.”
“NORD is pleased to partner with the Friends of Lafitte Greenway, Project for Public Spaces, and Claritin® to create this new pedestrian Plaza on the Greenway," says NORD CEO, Larry Barabino, Jr. "We have seen an increase in outdoor parks and trails usage over the last several months confirming, what we have already known, our parks and outdoor spaces are critical to community development, and overall health and wellness. This rapid-build project is one of many NORD looks to complete in our efforts to expand services and programming to residents across the Greenway."
Major support for this transformative project comes from The Clarity Parks Project™, Elaine Ravich and the Greg Vorhoff family, and the City of New Orleans Percent for Arts Program. The makers of Claritin®, through their Clarity Parks Project ™, have provided a donation to the Project for Public Spaces to use to improve public spaces in three communities across the U.S. that have been impacted by natural disasters. The Lafitte Greenway is one of three national Clarity Parks grantees in 2020 along with Republic Square in Austin, Texas and H.A. Chapman Centennial Green in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"We are so excited to help support the creation of Greenway Plaza, a joyful new community destination on the Lafitte Greenway," said Elena Madison, Director of Projects at Project for Public Spaces. "While we can't gather in person yet, we have been so impressed by the creative and safe programming that the Friends of Lafitte Greenway have already implemented to bring this plaza to life."
“At Claritin®, we understand the importance of spending time outside. As Americans, we spend on average 95% of our time indoors. Studies suggest spending time outdoors may provide benefits for physical and mental health such as perceived stress relief, positive moods, and energy. In fact, a survey commissioned by the makers of Claritin® found that spending just 20 minutes outside in nature can help you feel happy,” said Catherine Vennat, Vice President Marketing, Claritin® at Bayer. “Whether it’s walking along a trail or simply sitting on a park bench, we want everyone to discover the joy of being outside. In recent times, this has become even more important. Having public green spaces available for everyone to enjoy helps make time outside that much more enjoyable.”
An iconic 17-foot tall metal sculptural work by artist William Nemitoff, Iris of Memory, anchors the newly transformed site. The signature installation, made possible by a gift from Elaine Ravich, the Greg Vorhoff family, and The City of New Orleans Percent for Arts Program, is a commemorative work recognizing the life and contributions of local artist, volunteer, mother, and teacher Debbie Ravich Vorhoff. As you move closer to the Iris of Memory the light within glows brighter, representing the power of a memory to connect us to life, even when someone is no longer physically with us. The glowing bouquet represents our urban greenscape and the need to protect our local and global environment. The piece will be a feature of Friends’ and NORD’s luminary art exhibit, SUPERNOVA, on display in the Plaza December 9th-20th as part of LUNA Fête.
"William Nemitoff's beautiful sculpture serves as a beacon to connect community members to each other and to the natural beauty that surrounds them in this newly revitalized public greenspace," Arts Council Interim Director Joycelyn Reynolds said. "We are proud to feature Iris of Memory during LUNA Fête in partnership with Friends of the Lafitte Greenway as the newest permanent installation in New Orleans growing number of lighted artworks, which inspire wonder and joy across our city."
“Memory is the tool by which we connect with a loved one,” said Debbie Ravich Vorhoff’s mom, Elaine Ravich. “I hope that all that visit the Iris of Memory pause and reflect on a precious moment with one who loved you and one who you loved.”
The Greenway Plaza design features a bold ground mural by artist Brandon Surtain, benches and flexible use furniture, a stage for musical performances and workshops, and native water-loving plantings, and a strengthened bike connection to the Greenway trail. Over 500 community members contributed their vision for the space through a public input process.
The Greenway Plaza construction was a collaborative effort of diverse professionals and stakeholders. Urbanscapes Design + Build, a local collaborative of architects, design professionals, and landscape professionals led design and construction, in partnership with Mastodonte, a female- and black-owned construction company based in New Orleans. Nonprofit Sustaining Our Urban Landscape (SOUL) contributed 16 new trees, and SAGE New Orleans - NOAGE, Lafarge Concrete, and individual contributors made possible the vibrant rainbow pathway connecting the Plaza to the Greenway trail. The lighting was made possible by community leaders in Friends’ Greenway Ambassador Program in partnership with Home Depot, in response to community demand for evening activities in the new Plaza.
In progress: Greenway Plaza (evening view)
The project complements recent investments at this key intersection of the Lafitte Greenway, including the City of New Orleans’ $1.5 million renovation of the former Brake Tag Station on the Greenway at N Lopez Street into a community pavilion and the January opening of a new accessible playground. City officials, NORD, and Friends cut the ribbon on the Pavilion in March of this year. The Plaza complements these developments, continuing the transformation of the site from a place for cars to a place for people.
This space has long been envisioned by community members and City leaders as a community gathering space, appearing as a plaza and contemplative space in the City of New Orleans’ 2013 Greenway Master Plan. This transformation brings that vision to life, and creates a flexible space for community programming and events including markets, performances, fitness classes, and more.
Already, the area is home to programming by Friends of Lafitte Greenway, NORD and their partners. The FENCE, a 1,200-foot long photography exhibit championed by the New Orleans Photo Alliance in partnership with Brooklyn-based Photoville, spans the Greenway trail from Norman C Francis Pkwy toward Broad Street and will be on exhibition until late February. Greenway Supernova, Friends’ annual fundraiser transformed into an outdoor luminary art exhibit in partnership with NORD, and Arts Council New Orleans’ LUNA Fete, will light up the Plaza and Brake Tag Pavilion Building from December 9th-20th, Wednesday-Sunday from 5-9pm. The exhibit is free and open to the community. Individuals and businesses can show their support and find more information and give at lafittegreenway.org/supernova.
The Greenway Plaza will be the new home of the Mid-City Crescent City Farmers Market. Operated by Market Umbrella, the market will move to the site from nearby American Can Company, enabling a growth in the number of vendors and greater bike and pedestrian access. The market will operate Thursday from 3pm-7pm beginning on December 10th. The Plaza will be a place for families to enjoy, and neighbors to convene safely outdoors through and after the pandemic.
“The Greenway Plaza provides an unique opportunity to blend recreation, art, living with water, and food access in one location,” noted Robin A. Barnes, Interim Executive Director of Market Umbrella and the Crescent City Farmers Market. “Moreover, its central location means that residents from New Orleans East, Uptown and Downtown New Orleans, and Metairie will be able to visit the Thursday market and enjoy the Plaza’s other amenities, as well. We are delighted to partner with Friends of Lafitte Greenway and NORD on this endeavor.”
To learn more about the project, and to participate in the public input process, visit lafittegreenway.org.
About Friends of Lafitte Greenway
Friends of Lafitte Greenway is the non-profit community partner working to ensure that the Lafitte Greenway is a vibrant and healthy public space that connects people to nature, their destinations, and each other. Since 2006, Friends of Lafitte Greenway has worked to build, program, and promote the Lafitte Greenway as a great public space. Friends is the official private partner to the City of New Orleans in Greenway programming, and operations. For more information, visit LafitteGreenway.org.
About the Lafitte Greenway
The Lafitte Greenway is a public 2.6-mile multi-use trail and linear park connecting the French Quarter to Bayou St. John and Mid-City. Opened in the fall of 2015, the Lafitte Greenway was designed with extensive input from neighborhood and civic groups. Today, the Lafitte Greenway is used by 300,000 people annually. It serves as an active transportation route, and a space for recreation, play, community-building, and environmental sustainability. The New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORD) manages the Lafitte Greenway. The City and community have continued to invest in improvements to the Greenway since it’s opening, developing state-of-the-art sports fields, basketball courts, fitness parks, playgrounds, stormwater management features, and art installations, as well as public programming that engages the community and activates the space.
About The New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission
NORD provides safe, wholesome, educational, recreational and culturally engaging opportunities to the residents of New Orleans. For more information about NORD, visit www.nordc.org.
Arts Council New Orleans is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting arts and culture in the city and demonstrating how art transforms communities. The Arts Council serves as the City of New Orleans official arts agency, providing artist grants, workshops, and expanding public art efforts across the city. Learn more at www.artsneworleans.org.
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