Art and the Oil Spill: A letter from Dan Cameron

Prospect New Orleans founder, Dan Cameron, has released a letter addressing the devastating effects of the BP oil spill and the role of the city’s artist community in this dire time. Below is Mr. Cameron’s letter:

 “Like you, those of us who work everyday to lift New Orleans up have been alternately frustrated, saddened, and sickened by the oil spill and unfolding environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. As we move further from April 20, when the first hundred thousand barrels of oil surged into the ocean, it seems increasingly likely that the magnitude of devastation will surpass our worst nightmares. Beyond the immediate loss of flora and fauna, and the thousands of jobs that have disappeared overnight, there is long-term damage to consider.

How, you might ask, does contemporary art play a role in this painful scenario?

Artists in New Orleans and beyond have, for years, created works that expose the incongruity between the beauty and fragility of the Louisiana wetlands and the raw power of the oil industry that has put this vital aspect of New Orleans at great risk. Perhaps not surprisingly, many artists in New Orleans – Skylar Fein, Dawn Dedeaux, Anastasia Pelias, Dan Tague, Robert Tannen, Michel Varisco, and many others – have been on the front lines since the very first day of the disaster, volunteering as first responders, supporting organizations that advocate for sustainable Gulf economies, and documenting the crisis as it unfolds. Even more crucially, art and artists are the lifeblood of New Orleans’ cultural identity – invaluable to the character of the Crescent City and essential to its appeal as a tourist destination. Art comprises one of NewOrleans’ most important natural resources; the arts community has proven its perseverance and adaptability in the face of great adversity, and its centrality to the revitalization of the city post-Katrina.

It is clear now more than ever, that the economic future of the city is closely tied to its image as a hotbed of creativity. We remain committed to our belief that Prospect New Orleans can play an important role in helping the city recover as quickly and fully as possible from the post-Katrina devastation that spurred the creation of the Biennial, and continuing now with the current challenge on the Gulf Coast.

Thank you for your support,

Dan Cameron”


Limited Editions

In a brand-new Limited Edition benefitting Prospect New Orleans, August 31, 2005, acclaimed New York artist Fred Tomaselli has taken as his starting point one of the most harrowing post-Katrina media images. On the front page of the New York Times for Wednesday, August 31, 2005, readers saw the first printed images of the city engulfed by waters, and Tomaselli has astutely captured the sense of unreality and dislocation still associated with this image in the popular imagination. A full day following the hurricane’s pounding of the region, and when most of the world (including New Orleans itself) believed the city had been spared the worst, the levee system had unexpectedly failed in multiple locations, rapidly submerging eighty percent of the city in toxic waters for nearly three full weeks.



Founded in 2008 by Dan Cameron, Prospect New Orleans is the largest biennial of international contemporary art in the United States. Conceived in the tradition of the great international biennials, such as the Venice Biennale and the Bienal de São Paulo, Prospect New Orleans showcases new artistic practices from around the world and contributes to the revitalization of New Orleans by spurring tourism and bringing international attention to the city’s vibrant visual arts community. Prospect.2, the second iteration of the contemporary art biennial, which is curated by Dan Cameron, will open to the public on November 5, 2011, and will be on view until Sunday, February 3, 2012. Prospect.2 is organized under the auspices of U.S. Biennial, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in New York with offices in New Orleans. U.S. Biennial, Inc., was launched in January 2007, and its first project was Prospect.1. Read more about Dan Cameron, the founder and curator for both Prospect.1 and Prospect.2, below.

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