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Nataila Portman – Blogger/Designer

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New Orleans has a culture like no other. People fly all over the world just to get a taste of the city’s unique soul. From music to art, New Orleans has served as a muse to many artists. It is no wonder people from all walks of life travel here to experience it. 

Banksy, one of Time’s 100 most influential people and arguably the most controversial street artist in the world made a visit to the Crescent City in 2008 and painted 14 original stencils. Towards the end of the year, while New Orleans was trying to close the freshly open wounds from 2005 Hurricane Katrina sliced onto the people of the city- Banksy arrived to paint a strong, beautiful story and reminder on the eve of the Katrina’s anniversary. This was a time where the city was recovering both physically and mentally from one of the worst disasters in US history. Banksy's message was brilliant, heartfelt and strong.

So, who is Banksy? Well, nobody knows. First, Banksy is a pseudonym for the anonymous artist. How did the unknown artist become a “known” unknown artist? Let us take it back a few years, however. We all must start somewhere.

Banksy got his start in the early 90's as a street graffiti artist with a local crew in Bristol, United Kingdom. It was not until the late 90's where he switched to stenciled work which allowed him to  get work done quicker and avoid the law enforcement. The more he painted, the more prominent he became in Bristol and London. His art normally has a controversial political theme, bound to spark a debate. His art manages to capture the hearts and minds of viewers, art lovers, activists, and the general public. Banksy manages to put current issues that plauge us around the world, right in front of our eyes. He makes political matters, thought provoking to viewers. Subjects like rats, apes, policemen, members of the royal family, and children are usually used in his works. It is whimsical. It is bold. You could not avoid his message, even if you wanted to, because he paints it on the street, in your community. It helps us all to stop and think- something that is, ironically, a dying art. His work in 2005 on the West Bank Barrier, otherwise known as the largest protest graffiti wall, gained significant attention with the media.

Like his piece in 2002, “Balloon”, he comes in the night to remind us that there is always hope. As the years progressed, his art started selling for upwards of 500,000 dollars. This created the “The Banksy Effect” which referred to the idea of street art changing from vandalism into expensive art pieces.                                                     

His identity remains unknown. Banksy said, “If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to live a lie.” Nowadays, it is dangerous to speak your truth. To stand up for something. His piece in 2013 New York, “Better Out Than In ”- has gotten be through some tough times. It is a simple message, one that we should all follow- Express yourself. Like Banksy, Like New Orleans- be unapologetic. Create, Live and Inspire- boldly. 

Monique Johnson 

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