Earlier this week, CBD denizens and workers noticed a colorful addition to an otherwise uninspired tract of high-rises and parking garages. Overlaid with a gridlike interplay of primary colors, the portrait focuses so tightly on Louis Armstrong’s expressive face that it feels almost abstract.
But there’s nothing amorphous about its meaning. Read on to get the scoop from Dr. Eric George of ERG Enterprises, a developer on the project along with Kupperman Companies.
1. The mural of Louis Armstrong was unveiled on the 118th anniversary of the musician’s birth.
The street art was created to commemorate Armstrong in the neighborhood where he came up and jazz flourished. “We decided since we have historic facades on S. Rampart and Gravier (streets), but only a CMU (concrete masonry unit) facade facing O’Keefe, it was our responsibility to the neighborhood that we do something better than what was present,” George said.
2. Eduardo Kobra created the street art.
A native of Brazil, Kobra has painted similar murals in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Moscow, and Sao Paulo. “We reached out to Kobra ... because we thought his kaleidoscope design and powerful color schemes would be the perfect piece to elevate the corner,” George said.
3. Painting Louis Armstrong was Kobra’s idea.
“We decided to literally offer (Kobra) an open canvas instead of requesting a specific subject or rendering,” George said. “His response was essentially, ‘If I’m coming to New Orleans to do a mural, I have to do Louis Armstrong.’
“Obviously, we loved the idea. So when we told Kobra that the building sits in the neighborhood that birthed both jazz and Armstrong, and that if we timed his visit correctly, we could complete the mural on the August 4 weekend—Armstrong’s birthday—Kobra was sold.”
4. The mural took a week to complete.
Kobra and his team started the mural on Friday, July 27 and finished Friday, August 2—kicking off Satchmo Summerfest and Armstrong’s birthday weekend.
5. The mural is on a once-blighted former medical office at 300 Rampart Street, which will become a boutique hotel.
“We are fully gutted the building and are near completing our renovation of it as an all-suite licensed hotel,” George said. “IberiaBank provided the financing, and we utilized both state and federal historic tax credits.”
ERG Enterprises owns Windsor Court Hotel, Pontchartrain Hotel, Royal Orleans Hotel, Westin Canal Place, Hyatt Regency, and The Frenchmen Hotel, to name a few. They also own and developed the Orpheum Theater and the Pythian.