Building a ‘Paper Boat’ of Hurricane Katrina Memories

paperBoatToday marks the 10th (TENTH!!!) anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana. Katrina was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. The storm is currently ranked as the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. The massive storm left a giant mess in its wake, with a completely flooded city and years of rebuilding dams and levees and neighborhoods and houses.

The funny – not so funny – part of the Katrina story is that people with boats became heroes.  Not the mega yachters either, guys with little fishing skiffs and dinghies circled the city plucking desperate people and pets off roof tops and saving them. Water world, as we suspected, is well suited for boats and boaters. Kudos to those brave enough to venture out in the face of danger. But to be honest – zipping down your street in a skiff sounds like an adventure. We all know this was nothing of the sort.

Enter this amazing NoLa artist and this cool story about his effort to connect with his community and continue to express the emotions that came with a damaged city.

Chris Staudinger and his father have built the skeleton of a 16-foot canoe. The boat is big enough, Staudinger hopes, to carry the memories of the post-Katrina community. 

Beginning with a reception at Byrdie’s Gallery, 2242 St. Claude Ave., on Saturday (Aug. 29) from 6 to 10 p.m., Staudinger will coat the hull of the boat with 2005 storm and flood stories he has gathered from contributors. He hopes that eight layers of paper, brushed with polyurethane, will make the vessel watertight. Though he’s not sure when or where he’ll take the canoe to water, he plans to make it “fully functional.”

Staudinger calls the project “Paper Boat.”

“Paper Boat” will be Staudinger’s first conceptual artwork. In the past, he confined his artistic expression to the written word. 

“I’m actually more of a writer or poet,” he said. “I’ve never really considered myself a visual artist. I just want to do something different.” 

Staudinger said that he used to lead canoe trips in Mississippi and once helped build a 34-foot canoe to ply the Mississippi River. Memory of that was the spark of the “Paper Boat” project. Read more of this story here.


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