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DC Briefing on New Orleans' Cultural Recovery - February 12, 2008

Experts and leaders from community groups driving the effort to preserve the distinctive architecture, arts, music and cuisine of Louisiana shared their perspectives on the state of the region's cultural recovery in a Washington, DC briefing organized by FONO on February 12, 2008. The briefing took place one week after Mardi Gras, after visitors from all over the world traveled to New Orleans to take part in the celebration, and enjoy the traditional food, music and art found only in this region.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast and threatened the livelihood of the residents, citizen groups and nonprofit organizations stepped forward to drive the rebuilding of the area. Several organizations have focused their efforts on ensuring that the unique culture and historic traditions of New Orleans and its surrounding parishes are preserved for generations to come. FONO organized this panel discussion to highlight the work of these organizations, as well as offer a participants a chance to enjoy king cake, a special New Orleans Mardi Gras treat.

Pamela Bryan (Preservation Resource Center) opened the discussion with a presentation about the unique architecture of the area, and Operation Comeback, a project by her organization to rebuild and maintain the historic homes in the Holy Cross Neighborhood of the 9th Ward.

Bill Taylor of the Tipitina’s Foundation talked about the traditional music that arose from the neighborhoods of New Orleans and influenced artists around the world. He discussed how the Foundation is supporting musicians through its programs, and is helping to keep the musical heritage of the city alive.

Brian Privor, a Board Member of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts Institute, updated the audience on the exciting programs that NOCCA is undertaking to encourage students in music and the arts. The school has many nationally-recognized graduates, including musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, and is now undertaking a new culinary program.

Chef Jeff Tunks of Acadiana Resturant, and Board Member with the Southern Food and Beverage Museum to be located in New Orleans later this year, talked about the rich local cuisine which restaurants all over the world attempt to duplicate.

David Freedman (WWOZ-FM) and Gene DeAnna (The Library of Congress) closed the discussion with a presentation about a joint preservation project undertaken by the radio station and the Library of Congress to digitize rare WWOZ music collections, and ensure that these irreplaceable recordings are not threatened by future.

In addition to the briefing, congressional staff and others were able to enjoy a photo display that ran all day in the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer. The exhibit included artwork by NOCCA students, before and after shots of homes renovated by the Preservation Resource Center, and photographs of the city by photojournalist Lee Celano.

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