Bead Town

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Bead Town is a compendium of artworks, classes, and exhibits that has grown from the collective endeavors of schools and volunteers from across Louisiana. The exhibit features over 100 huge mosaics composed mostly of recycled Mardi Gras beads. The month-long, interactive exhibition can be hosted by any town that would like to take part.

Founding artist Stephan Wanger began creating large, intricate mosaics from precisely cut and sorted Mardi Gras beads in an attempt to stem the tide of waste dumped into landfills every year following the Mardi Gras celebration. What resulted were beautiful images of Louisiana's iconic landmarks and landscapes, housed in his New Orleans art gallery, Galeria Alegria. The pieces attracted such media attention that the idea of bringing this sustainable art form to schools and the wider community was born. This became Bead Town.

In March 2011 Stephan Wanger's artwork "The Titillations of New Orleans" was chosen as a cover of WHERE Magazine New Orleans. The Bead Town name was coined by Douglas Brantley, Editor of WHERE Magazine New Orleans.

The classes do not only focus on teaching the art of assembling bead mosaics. A theme is selected that represents the area from which the students or community members originate. The idea is explored and images selected that embody important historical events or display landmarks that define the region. In the process, those who take part gain a greater appreciation for the history and landscape of Louisiana. And in doing so through a medium that uses recycled and sustainable materials, they learn about the impact that the wanton discarding of plastics has on the environment and what they can do to rescue their areas from destruction. Additionally, the meticulous process of creating the mosaic itself creates a sense of teamwork and collective identity.

Bead Town travels from city to city with Stephan's pieces and some that resulted from school projects. Those that remain in their host cities are represented in reproduction material. Whenever a city hosts Bead Town, the works are displayed in their local businesses and historical sites and classes are offered to their schools and community members. The tremendous scale of the project and the media attention attracted results in increased tourism to the cities that have and currently are participating. These cities draw larger streams of revenue and national and international attention is increasingly given to the problem of pollution in this region of the country. Participating schools receive profits made from sales of reproduction material based on their works, which can be used for further projects or whatever needs they might have.

Bead Town is touring Louisiana through 2013 and 2014 and will continue its efforts with a tour of Europe beginning in 2015.

Background[edit]

German transplant Stephan Wanger of Galeria Alegria has made his living creating Mardi Gras bead mosaics in an effort to promote and teach the manufacture of environmentally friendly pieces of high art. He made New Orleans, Louisiana his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His choice of subject matter was inspired by the unique culture of the area, but it was the havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the BP Horizon oil spill, and the yearly disposal of over 10,000 tons of Mardi Gras beads into US landfills that drove him to his medium.

Bead Town was born in an effort to spread a message about the sustainable use of resources through the display of beautiful Louisiana places. The effect has been dramatic. Participating towns and schools have seen increased visitation.

Bead Town Classes[edit]

In the Community[edit]

Bead Town includes mosaic making classes that are open to the public. They can create commemorative beaded items, such as glasses, masks, and framed mini-mosaics in designs of their choice. The participants learn the art of making bead mosaics while indulging in the reverie and camaraderie that are very much a part of Southern culture.

In Schools[edit]

The most important aspect of Bead Town is the participation of area schools. Stephan teaches students ages 6 and older to create original mosaics from recycled Mardi Gras beads. He brings all of the necessary supplies. The classes result in a collection of pieces or one large, collectively created artwork (a selected iconic image of the town or region) that can remain in the host city. The effect of these classes is astounding. The students gain a much greater appreciation for the history of their region and an understanding of the effects of rampant pollution on its environment, while learning to work together as a team.

Under Stephan's direction the students and community members worked collaboratively to create 12 masterpieces. Throughout the year, the students gained not only an increased appreciation of art and local history, but also invaluable life skills and lessons such as teamwork, the value of community involvement, and the importance of recycling. While some neighborhoods are taking art and music out of their schools, Stephan has found a way to integrate his art form into something educational, rewarding, and often therapeutic.

(Mrs. Joelle Leali, Project Corrdinator for the Andrew Wilson Charter School Project)

The Exhibits of Bead Town[edit]

Taste of Louisiana[edit]

12 pieces 4'H x 4'W created by the students of Rudolph Matas Elementary School in Metarie, Louisiana, featuring highlights of the Louisiana culinary tradition

Louisiana: Pick Your Passion[edit]

12 pieces 4'H x 6'W created in 2012 by students of the Andrew Wilson Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana, featuring renowned Louisiana locations

A Million Greetings From New Orleans[edit]

20 pieces created between 2007 and 2012 by Bead Town founder Stephan Wanger of Galeria Alegria, including the Guinness World Record holder for largest mosaic made of Mardi Gras beads. The piece, entitled “Sanctuary of Alegria” is an 8'H x 30'W mural featuring the skyline of New Orleans

Reflections from Louisiana[edit]

12 pieces 4'H x 8'W to be created in the fall of 2012 by the students of the SCI-Academy of New Orleans East featuring “Concerns that Matter”

Louisiana Book Gardens[edit]

Little Free Library projects were created in the fall of 2012 by the students of the Audubon Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana. These large, birdhouse-shaped libraries invite people to “Take a Book, Leave a Book”, fostering a culture of learning in their communities

The Economic Impact of Bead Town[edit]

  • The new World Record artwork "Paragons of New Orleans" now touring with Bead Town raised $13,000 through the Super Service Challenge (Companies with a Mission) for the Andrew Wilson Charter School ($5,000), St. Michael Special School ($3,000), The Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy ($2,000), St. Paul's Homecoming Center ($2,000) and for The Arc of Greater New Orleans ($1,000)
  • LivingSocial's Mask and Frame making events were some of the highest (Category: Satisfaction) rated events in the nation
  • The attachment of the Little Libraries Project to Bead Town has drawn major attention to the company that founded it, and traveling, beaded libraries will continue to act as emissaries for their creators and communities as Bead Town goes abroad
  • Merchandise based on pieces created through the project has seen phenomenal sales, often selling out. The funds generated support projects in the schools that produced these works
  • The global media exposure generated helped to bring tourism not only to New Orleans and but to Louisiana as a whole
  • The University of Wisconsin is now considering making New Orleans their volunteer destination city 2013 based on their involvement with the A. Wilson Charter School Project
  • Participating organizations, galleries, and companies have seen increased customer traffic

Media Exposure[edit]

News coverage of the project has spread around the world from Canada, Germany, and Brazil to the United Arab Emirates and beyond.

Galeria Alegria, Stephan Wanger's art and the genesis of Bead Town have been featured in the LATimes, Chicago Tribune, Business Week, Times-Picayune, Fox News, and more.

Bead Town Events[edit]

Winnsboro, Louisiana Kickoff[edit]

The tour kicked off in Winnsboro, Louisiana on September 4, 2012 with exhibits and classes through Nov 4th, 2012. Four local schools will participate, creating four pieces that depict defining Winnsboro & Franklin Parish events and images. These will include the Catfish Festival, which attracts nearly 20,000 people a year, the cotton plant, which has shaped southern economics, the Princess Theater, which has substantially contributed to the intellectual life of the area, and a forth image that will encapsulate what it means to be a Winnsboro resident. Over 60 pieces of art will be displayed at businesses and landmarks throughout the city, including:

  • Citizens Progressive Bank
  • Franklin State Bank
  • Progressive Bank
  • Every Occasion
  • Farm Bureau Insurance
  • Winnsboro State Bank
  • Franklin Parish Library
  • Franklin Medical Center Library
  • Walter-Singer Chevrolet
  • White Ford

After just one week. "By sheer numbers alone, the Bead Town Winnsboro exhibit has been the most popular yet at the Old Post Office Museum. It's an unbelievable display that has to be seen to be appreciated. It will be on exhibit through November 4. Come see!! And there are more bead art pieces at 10 different locations in town...so come spend some time in Winnsboro and discover them all!!!"

(Kay LeFrance Knight, Winnsboro Main Street Manager and Curator of the Old Post Office Museum)

Full Schedule[edit]

Aug 30, 2012 – Nov 4, 2012:
Bead Town: Winnsboro, LA
Old Post Office Museum, 513 Prairie St., Winnsboro, LA
Nov 8, 2012 – Dec 16, 2012:
Bead Town: Ruston, LA
Lincoln Parish Library & Event Center, Ruston LA
Jan 3, 2013 – Jan 27, 2012:
New Orleans, LA
When all the pieces come together
Feb 22, 2013:
Olde Towne, Slidell, LA

External links[edit]