Upcycled Art at the Home and Garden Show

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The NOAHH ReStore partnered with local artists this year to feature works created from materials at the ReStore in an art auction during the 2015 New Orleans Home and Garden Show. Called Upcycle, Recycle, New Cycle, the auction featured everything from repurposed television sets to chairs turned into paintings, from lamps built from PVC to re-imagined furniture. The artists came from around Southeast Louisiana, and their work exemplified one of the many benefits of the ReStore: finding new life for old materials.

In its 60th year in New Orleans, the Home and Garden Show is a Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans (HBAGNO) event that features the most innovative techniques and products in home improvement and lifestyle. Their mission to promote quality, affordable housing and responsible citizenship through active community involvement matched the ReStore’s mission to fight poverty housing in New Orleans, and the ReStore has been a longtime member of the Remodelers Council and the Advanced Building Practices Council. The businesses and contractors on these councils have been some of the best contributors to the ReStore over the years, a testament to the principles of HBAGNO. Because of their partnership with the ReStore and the popularity of DIY and repurposing, HBAGNO provided the ReStore with space for the auction, making this great event possible.

The ReStore’s mission, ultimately, is to support the mission of NOAHH, to eliminate poverty housing in the New Orleans area. But the ReStore’s function is not simply a matter of fundraising; by selling materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill, the ReStore has an impact on the local environment as well. By selling material at low prices, it helps people repair and furnish their homes while saving money for other important parts of their lives, assisting in blight reduction by providing resources to those who might not be able to afford them. And when the right customer finds these items, they bring new life to used materials in creative and innovative ways.

The builders, designers, and artists who contributed to the auction are all local supporters of the ReStore and NOAHH who are passionate about seeing the artistic value in secondhand items.

Some, like Alex Geriner, were inspired by the storms of 2005. Geriner was born and raised in south Louisiana. He founded Doorman Designs four years ago, after deciding to furnish his apartment with affordable, home-made furniture that “embodied the charm and grit of the Crescent City.” He began then to use architectural salvage from Katrina-damaged homes, emphasizing the history and detail found in New Orleans’ architecture.

“After Katrina, my heart broke seeing the city’s soul, flooded and ruined, and being torn down,” he said. “I believe that each door, each window frame, and each piece of wood is a piece of the South that should never be lost, but saved. I like to think that I’m keeping their stories alive through my designs and furniture.”

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Among those who have made renewing old materials a major part of their life is Mike Hoff, a commercial carpenter at Tulane University, who moved to New Orleans with his family in 2008. Restoring and repurposing items has been a passion of his his entire life, and he and his wife started creating furniture pieces based on their needs, style, and budget when they couldn’t find affordable and functional quality furniture. Using new and recycled materials, they began working on commissioned pieces for fundraisers, friends, and family. He contributed the most items for the auction, including an old television turned into a bar, a garden tool holder made from PVC, and several end tables made of lamp bases and ceramic tile.

Other artists reinvented not just old materials but their own methods. Mary Pappas has over a decade of experience in mixed media. She began as a digital photographer, and her work expanded from there to working with computer effects. Her piece was not a digital photography installation, but re-imagined lamps and heaters that focused on light and presentation.

“Each photo resonates with its own desire to emerge as something more,” she said. “The image and the imager work together with the tools of the electronic world to produce a statement–one that I hope demands the viewer to stop, look, and imagine.”

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Every contributor turned ReStore materials into one-of-a-kind treasures. Listed below is just a selection of the contributors and some of the work they created:

  • Tracy Wisehart-Plaisance is a self-taught, award-winning artist who has lived in Cut Off, LA, for 24 years. When not expressing herself through her plein-air paintings, she teaches workshops for special occasions. Among her most popular contributions were a set of chairs with scenes of local culture painted into fabric.
  • Maria Barcelona, who has been a Certified Interior Decorator for over 15 years. She is known for her decorative paint finishes and eclectic style. She has been published in local and national media and featured in local establishments. She repurposed a hutch from the ReStore’s furniture selection.
  • Rocky Rudov and Emily Swietlik, who are “professional hoarders” who create upcycled art through GRANOLA (Grass Roots Artists of New Orleans), a local organization that helps artists collaborate with space, materials, and ideas. They created a cityscape out of cabinet doors and various hardware found at the ReStore.
  • Chris Dunfee, who is a third generation carpenter who began recycling and repurposing old homes five years ago. He has since expanded into building cabinets from demolition debris and custom pieces for clients, and he contributed a unique wine cabinet for the event.
  • Michelle Berman, who moved to New Orleans five years ago from Boston, where she ran an upcycling business. Now she runs Nadeau Furniture on Magazine Street and helps the ReStore by being a regular donor and shopper. She designed a bedside table with a chalk board for the auction.
  • Patricia Low, who is a local artist who focuses on folk art, crafted metal jewelry, recycled and upcycled art boxes and paintings, and more. Her painted mirrors proved quite popular.

The partnership between the ReStore, HBAGNO, and these local creatives brought new audiences for each. Over 26,000 people attended the Home and Garden Show, meaning the ReStore and artists both gained wider exposure (and articles in the New Orleans Advocate and on WWL), while the attractions of the ReStore-born art work brought in those who might not have thought to find unique collectibles at the show. The support generated for the ReStore would not have been possible without the generosity and dedication of all of the contributors and everyone at HBAGNO and the Home and Garden Show.