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Forget The Wreckage: Museums' Katrina Shows Look At How City Has Moved On

August 13, 2015


Willie Birch's Crawfish Dwelling is made from one of the many crawfish homes that Birch found in his backyard after Katrina.

Courtesy of Willie Birch and Arthur Roger Gallery





Anniversaries call for exhibitions, and art museums across New Orleans felt compelled to remember Hurricane Katrina as the 10th anniversary of its landfall approaches. But the anniversary shows at some of the city's most high-profile museums seem surprisingly understated, at least to outsiders' eyes. In fact, they barely seem to be about Katrina at all.


"I didn't know that's what it was," says one baffled tourist when he's informed he's in the middle of a Katrina-related show called "The Rising" at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Evan Smith of Birmingham, Ala., looks around at photographs of gay teenagers, Latino migrant workers and oil refineries. "I didn't know that, no," he says.


Curator Richard McCabe knows his showcase of the city's up-and-coming photographers doesn't exactly scream Katrina. He tells a group of students, "I was a little worried about doing this because I wanted to do something about the 10-year anniversary but there was no way I could go back and relive it through photographs because they were just too painful."


McCabe, who moved to New Orleans just before Katrina, ruled out