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Biography

Welcome to the online gallery for

the NOLA Project
The reason behind this work
Artist Statement-Suzanne Campbell Anderson

In October 2007 I made a trip to New Orleans. Not as a tourist, as on a previous trip, but as an artist. My strong personal involvement came through my daughter Zeraph who was in New Orleans (July 2006, and April 2007-March 2008) working as a volunteer with Common Ground Relief in the lower 9th ward. Through her I learned of many things, both disturbing and enlightening.

As the 3rd anniversary of the flooding of New Orleans passes, I have heard pleas from those still trying to rebuild and put their lives back together to “Please don’t forget New Orleans” and “Keep New Orleans in the news” 

Brief History

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Katrina formed on August 23 during the 2005 and caused devastation along much of the north-central Gulf Coast of the United States. The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New Orleans, which flooded as the levee system failed catastrophically, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland. The hurricane caused severe destruction across the entire Mississippi coast and into Alabama, as far as 100 miles from the storm’s center.
In Louisiana, the flood protection system in New Orleans failed in 53 different places. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans breached as Hurricane Katrina passed east of the city, subsequently flooding 80% of the city and many areas of neighboring parishes for weeks.
At least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. The storm is estimated to have been responsible for $81.2 billion (2005 U.S. dollars) in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Criticism of the federal, state and local governments’ reaction to the storm was widespread and resulted in an investigation by the United States Congress and the resignation of FEMA director Michael Brown. The storm also prompted Congressional review of the US Army Corps of Engineers and the failure of the levee protection system.

Humanity

The hurricane has showed us things about race and inhumanity in this country we never would have believed possible. We saw the scenes of extreme suffering among the people caught in the Superdome and the Convention Center. Many who remained in their homes had to swim for their lives, wade through deep water, or remain trapped in their attics or on their rooftops.  Incidents were also reported such as the refusal of the safe passage (exhausted, dehydrated survivors turned away at gunpoint) over the bridge to nearby Gretna, the disbursement of minority families across the country, the difficulties of procuring the correct documents and paperwork to stop the demolition of one’s home, FEMA trailers deemed unsafe for any length of time, lack of basic necessities (clean water, police stations, schools) for 3 years, the demolition of public housing with no provision to those in need of such housing. The list goes on and on and continues through the present.

The Environment

Louisiana and the area off its coastline produce or transport 30 percent of the nation’s domestic crude oil and 34 percent of its natural gas; it also refines 16 percent of our petroleum.
For geological reasons, southern Louisiana has been slowly sinking for millennia. In the past, the Mississippi River offset this natural decline by periodically flooding the delta, depositing huge amounts of silt. Kept in an unsteady equilibrium, the wetlands acted as a buffer, protecting the land from the full fury of hurricanes. Today, flood-protection levees channel the river and its silt deep into the Gulf of Mexico, so the land is no longer being built up.

The petrochemical industry pumps petroleum and chemicals from Louisiana through approximately 35,000 miles of pipeline. Some 14,800 miles of it slice through the coastal wetlands in addition to 3,000 miles of navigation channels.

Many of these cuts into the swamp bring salt water inland, killing the grass and trees that prevent the wetlands from eroding. Boat wakes in the channels erode the edges. In only a few years a healthy bog can float away into the Gulf of Mexico.

As a result, the wetlands form an ever-smaller protective buffer, both for the city of New Orleans and the complex of refineries, ports, wells, and platforms around it.



---Suzanne Anderson

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