Floodwall: Art Exhibition of Jana Napoli in Berlin

"Drawers Speak - New Orleans Five Years Later"

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and US Embassy Co-host the Floodwall Exhibition Opening

(Berlin, Friday, 10th of September 2010)

Hosted by:
Phillip D Murphy (US ambassador to Germany)

Event Report

Executive Summary

On Friday September 10th, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy was privileged to co-host an event alongside the US Embassy in Germany, bringing the art installation project ‘Floodwall’ from New Orleans to Berlin. The evening, which took place on the ‘Kurier’ ship on the Spree River, was attended by over 250 people, including ambassadors, members of the general public, the Berlin arts community, journalists, and politicians.

Background – The Artist

Jana Napoli was born and raised in New Orleans and continues to live there. Trained as a painter, Napoli is a mixed-media artist and a creative entrepreneur deeply concerned with civic and community engagement.  In 1988, she founded the internationally acclaimed non-profit arts and social service organization, YA/YA inc. Young Aspirations/Young Artists, whose mission it is to empower creative young people to become successful adults. She served as its full-time Creative Director for 12 years.

Event Overview

The Floodwall Exhibition was a joint project between the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and the US Embassy to Germany. The opening took place on the ‘Kurier ship’ at Fischerinsel, looking over the Spree River on a beautiful Berlin evening.

Over 250 guests attended, stemming from backgrounds in journalism, academics, politics, music, and art. Among the distinguished guests to attend was his Excellency Phillip D. Murphy, the American ambassador to Germany and his family. The guests boarded the ship for drinks on the deck before moving downstairs to experience the collection of over 380 draws recovered from the floodwaters lest in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

After all of the guests took their place, Mark Donfried, Founder and Director of the ICD, together with Ambassador Phillip D. Murphy welcomed the participants and guests. His Excellency began his address in German, thanking the organizers of the event, and discussing the impact and lasting effects that Hurricane Katrina had on not only New Orleans, but America as a whole.

Ambassador Murphy described how despite the challenges that faced the community in the wake of the hurricane, the city was able to unite and overcome the heartbreak and tragedy. Today, New Orleans is a city that is thriving, and stands an example of how a community can be overcome.

The ICD Director Mark Donfried then introduced Jana Napoli, the creator of Floodwall, who spoke about her experience during Hurricane Katrina and what inspired her to create Floodwall. Napoli then pointed out the life preserver which hung from the ceiling and wanted guests to understand the symbolism what it felt like to feel like one was drowning, like many people did in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Following the conclusion of the speeches, guests mingled and enjoyed a touch of southern hospitality complete with unique, Louisiana cuisine. The guests were treated to “Oil Spill Jambalaya” consisting of shrimp, black beans and black rice. Sandwiches were wrapped in black cloth, symbolic of the recent BP Oil Spill in the Gulf Coast, just off the coast of New Orleans. Apples were also served as a sign of happiness and for dessert guests were treated with a sticky rice pudding. As the sun set on beautiful Berlin, the sweet sounds of New Orleans jazz played into the late hours of the night.

Art and the Commonality of Shared Experiences

The Floodwall exhibition provided guests with an opportunity to reflect not only on the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, but on the many disasters that occur worldwide, whether the floods in Pakistan or the earthquake in Haiti. By exploring difficult memories and the notions of loss, Floodwall brings people together from all places and provides a jumping off point for compassion, cooperation and understanding into the future.

Further Information

For further details about the Floodwall program, including the exhibition, the youth outreach program, or the event series, please see the following link: www.floodwall-berlin.de