NEW ORLEANS — The murder rate in New Orleans last year skyrocketed compared to recent years, but to hear the number is one thing. Seeing it may hit you differently.
One artist hopes to signify the murder rate through his sculpture.
For more than six hours in front of New Orleans City Hall Wednesday, Mitchell Gaudet stood by his eight foot tall sculpture.
“I started it in 2015 because as any citizen in New Orleans, we hear the numbers, the daily numbers and as a visual artist, I wanted to do something to make it a little more tangible,” Gaudet said.
Every year, he makes a sculpture with different pieces to reflect the lives lost to violence in Orleans Parish. Previous years, the pieces have been crying heads, broken columns, and drops of blood. For 2020, he used a glass blue bird, something to symbolize hope instead.
“To reflect on the murder victim’s life maybe a little more positively,” Gaudet said. “I chose a healing color and a bird is uplifting, but on the background is sheet lead because I didn’t want to get away from the fact that this is a tally of something awful.”
In 2019, there were about 120 murders in New Orleans. That’s why when building this piece, Gaudet made 200 glass birds, enough for some to inevitably brake. He didn’t think he’d be shorthanded, but in 2020, the murder rate jumped to 202. Gaudet will have to make a few more birds.
“We’re back up to 2011 or pre-Katrina numbers,” he said.
He includes the names of the victims.
“In 2016 when I was out here, a woman walked by and pointed to how her son was 160 because I used to just number and not put names. It affected me so much, the following year I started putting names and ages,” Gaudet said.
This year, the names and ages are written in a leather book that’s held up on the sculpture.
“Here’s the three-year-old that was murdered in May,” he pointed to the pages.
When installing the piece Wednesday morning in front of City Hall, one bird fell. Gaudet felt it fitting to leave it shattered on the ground.