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New Orleans Art Exhibition Aims to Help City Heal

A new contemporary art exhibit in New Orleans that's billed as the largest of its kind to ever be held in the U.S. seeks to help bring about the healing and rebirth of the vibrant city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina three years ago. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Through layers of slime, a trumpet is raised, a trombone pokes out, and you can almost hear the sounds of New Orleans. These photographs once documented the vibrant life of this city. Now they capture something else: the destruction wrought by Katrina.

  • KEITH CALHOUN, photographer:

    They're not photos anymore. They're objects now. The water took it to another level.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick are married and professional photographers who've been documenting their city for 30 years. When Katrina came, their Lower Ninth Ward home and much of their work was destroyed.

  • CHANDRA MCCORMICK, L9 Art Center:

    We had to pressure wash that several times and treated.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And the couple and their children left for Texas. Now, they're back as part of an effort to restore their neighborhood and city through art.

    L9, their new home base, is part-art gallery, part-community center.

  • KEITH CALHOUN:

    We see this space as a light for the community. What we're doing here in L9, as artists, we take in our space. We have art. We've got painters coming in. We have photographers, filmmakers, people who just want to come and help. So we're going to make sure that we have a space that's vibrant in the community.

  • CHANDRA MCCORMICK:

    We needed a space for ourselves to stay visible, because what we do makes us whole. It just seems right that art can help rebuild, art can heal.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In the area where the couple once again lives and works, there are some signs of life and rebuilding. But drive down almost any street here and it's clear that, more than three years later, this is a community mostly gone or in exile.

    Citywide, the population is some 25 percent to 30 percent lower than before Katrina.

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