I went to the Freret Street Festival on Saturday. It was a beautiful spring day in New Orleans and the giddy feeling that comes over me as festival season approaches was palpable. I got to the Festival before it really filled up but still there were a lot of people out and about. Many of my friends had booths and I stopped to visit as I looked at the crafts, jewelry, smelled the food and listened to the music. Then I got to my friend Darrin Butler’s tent where his 3-D metal work of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King, and Albert Einstein hung drawing crowds in to talk about the process, the colors, the art of the work.
As I sat in the guest director’s chair, I observed how most people made eye contact with me and asked me about the art even while Darrin was standing next to me. I would point to Darrin, and say, “He’s the artist, not me.”
After enough of these exchanges, I said something to Darrin and he said that even people of color do not take him to be the artist on first visit. He said, “People just don’t expect that a Black man could produce this art.”
And yet there they came, people of all color coming and stopping by to look at Darrin’s work because they were interested, drawn to it, and wanted to learn more about it. The art kept jumping out at the crowd, which grew thicker as the day progressed and I kept sitting there observing the same phenomenon over and over again.