ExhibitBe closed with a bang January 19, hosting longstanding R&B artist Erykah Badu and rappers dead prez and David Banner alongside hometown hero Trombone Shorty in a closing celebration dubbed "#BlockPower". According to NOLA.com, the exhibit's frontman, Brandan Odums, purposely planned the star-studded closing concert and party to occur on Martin Luther King Day because "of everything he represents." Indeed, the exhibit echoed a theme found in King's speeches – that of joyful resistance to pain and exclusion – but through the contemporary medium of graffiti.
The sheer scale of the project, encompassing a city block and stretching five stories tall, invites the viewer to literally dwell among the many manifestations of street art represented in ExhibitBe. Badu captured the visceral nature of the project, confessing to the organizers, "I'm going to be honest with you, when I read the emails and saw the pictures I didn't fully get it, but when I walked out there on that day, I got it."
Alongside stirring, larger-than-life-size portraits of prominent Black thinkers from James Baldwin to Fannie Lou Hamer, the artists of ExhibitBe painted tributes, dreamscapes, and proclamations. On a sunny Saturday, the last weekend of the exhibit, visitors crowded the space, no doubt having heard of its imminent closing. To a casual observer, it could be any other street festival in the city. But to those who attended, the energy in the air — reverent, discomfiting, revolutionary — felt like a part of New Orleans' spirit that has been too often hidden.
· All Prospect.3 coverage [Curbed NOLA]