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Four years later, Katrina revisited in art and fund raising

This month, the "Katrina, Katrina Project" commemorates the four years since Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast. The month-long series of events, exhibitions and musical performances will culminate with a fundraiser complete with musical performance and a champagne reception.

Kathleen Nelson, student affairs coordinator in the department of music, is the driving force behind the project. After volunteering several times in the post-Katrina rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, Nelson said she realized, "The city gave so much to me, there's got to be more that I could do."

The project's goal is twofold: It aims to acknowledge Brown students' response and highlight the rebuilding  that still remains. Nelson was notably appreciative of Brown students' volunteer work and their willingness to provide "everything from financial support to sweat."

"We want people to keep remembering" Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Nelson said.

Many facets of the project occur within the Brown Music Department. The Orwig Music Library currently displays various pieces of sheet music as well as photographs of the extensive damage to New Orleans' libraries. Another display at Orwig includes photos and descriptions of New Orleans Musicians' Village, a branch of Habitat for Humanity's Operation Home Delivery rebuilding program. The aim of the project is to rebuild 300 houses in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans for residents — particularly musicians — who lost their homes.

The music department will also host several performances. The Literary Arts Department will stage a reading in Grant Recital Hall of Gregory Moss' play "The Argument (a lowercase resurrection)." Moss, a recent graduate of Brown's Graduate Playwriting Program, was eager to assist in the commemorative efforts.

He wrote the piece in a workshop in which he was given 48 hours to write a play directly in response to Hurricane Katrina. He describes the play as "abstracted and a little fairy tale-ish" as well as "very much about personal loss."

The play revolves around twin sisters, one of whom dies in the hurricane. The remaining sister struggles with rebuilding and trying to "find a compensation for her sister's death," Moss said. He hopes the reading is "something that will stick with (the audience) and they can process a little bit." He also aims to depict those directly affected by Hurricane Katrina as "part of our national community."

Related exhibits will be on display throughout the month across campus. Both the Rockefeller Library and Brown Bookstore will showcase literature related to Katrina. The public can also view sheet music and poetry at the John Hay Library.

The Hillel Gallery and Rockefeller Library are housing a series of photographs called "6 Months After," which were taken by Ian Sims '10.5 while he volunteered in New Orleans in March 2006. His work depicts the immense damage inflicted upon libraries, elementary schools and houses.

Additional remembrance events will be hosted by the Brown Film Society. Later this month, the society will hold a screening of "Easy Rider," a classic New Orleans film. There will also be a screening of Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts."

New Orleans native Louis Maistros, an author and musician, will read from his novel, "The Sound of Building Coffins," at the Brown Bookstore. He will also host an informal discussion about song writing, Hurricane Katrina, jazz music and New Orleans culture in Grant Recital Hall.

Nelson stresses that "every person that walks through there is helping build somebody's home" and even "the smallest donation helps."

Nelson and student volunteers will hand out Mardi Gras beads on Main Green throughout this week. The beads are free, but donations are encouraged. Nelson hopes the beads will serve as a visual reminder of the ongoing efforts to rebuild.

Thanks to a grant from Brown University's Creative Arts Council, along with other funding, all money donated will go directly to Habitat for Humanity in the Gulf.


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