- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Henry Lipkis, a 23-year-old Los Angeles-born artist, plans a 150-foot-long, 35-foot-tall mural on the side of the Frankie and Johnny’s furniture store at 2600 St. Claude Ave., near Franklin Avenue. The mural will depict a second-line crowd enjoying a passing parade.

Lipkis points out that three major social aid and pleasure clubs annually parade past the site: the Original Big Nine, Original C.T.C. Steppers, and Original Nine Times.

Lipkis said he has discussed the mural with officials of the clubs. He may feature portraits of the presidents in the enormous painting.

“I’ve been working with those presidents to co-create the imagery to make sure it’s as respectful and representative of the true culture as it can be,” Lipkis said.

“I discussed the designs with him and how he was going to do it, and I told him I liked the idea,” said Walter Sair, interim president of the Original C.T.C Steppers social aid and pleasure club, who added that he suggested that Lipkis include a portrait of his uncle Andrew Johnson, a founder of the C.T.C. Steppers.

“To express this great culture that we have in that mural - I don’t have any problem around that,” said Ronald W. Lewis, president of the Original Big Nine social aid and pleasure club.

Lipkis, who studied illustration at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, said he came to New Orleans in 2014, after having traveled across much of the United States and Europe, asking permission to paint murals at select sites as he went.

Claiborne Avenue commuters may have noticed his huge mural titled “Wild Thing” at the corner of First Street, which he painted in May 2014 with permission of the owner of the auto body shop where the mural is located.

Once he paints a conspicuous large-scale artwork in a city, word of mouth often leads to other opportunities, he said. In this case, he was put in contact with Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters Mardi Gras Indian group, who asked Lipkis to paint a mural on his home near the Musicians Village in the Upper Ninth Ward. That opportunity led to painting a party bus for the Black Seminole Mardi Gras Indian group as a tribute to late Chief Cyril “Iron Horse” Green.

Music lovers may remember his “Pianoman Playing” that was located above Decatur Street near Frenchmen Street for months.

He’d expected to leave New Orleans to explore the country further, but, as often happens, Lipkis said he became smitten with Crescent City culture and decided to stay. In particular, he said, he found second-line parades to be magnetic.

Lipkis has permission from the owners of Frankie and Johnny’s furniture to paint the mural. He said he will need two or three fellow artists and two lift trucks to complete the big project, not to mention gallons and gallons of paint. To raise the $15,000 he believes he’ll need to execute the mural, he has begun a crowd-sourced Kickstarter online fundraising campaign.

Lipkis also turned to WWOZ “Takin’ It To the Streets” disc jockey Action Jackson for advice on the mural’s contact and placement.

“Any positive acknowledgement of the second-lines is good,” Jackson said. “We don’t have anything like that down here.”

Lipkis’ plans to produce the mural began long before the Nov. 22 Nine Times parade. After the parade had concluded, an unauthorized music video recording at Bunny Friend Park ended in a shooting spree that wounded 17 people. The tragedy, though unrelated to the parade, has cast a shadow over New Orleans street celebrations.

“It’s unfortunate that (violence) becomes associated with the second-lines,” Lipkis said. He and friends “were all out there at that parade,” he said. “It was a beautiful gathering. If this (mural) references it in any way,” he said of the Nov. 22 shootings “it’s supposed to be about the opposite.”


Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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