Sunday, June 28, 2015

Along St. Claude: Photographs by Jonathan Traviesa

Recently, while showing a visiting artist around St. Claude Avenue, I had trouble explaining the bullet riddled windows of the newly restored St. Roch Market. The artist, a native of a Latin America and no stranger to turmoil, was shocked at such a violent reaction to a historic restoration. It's not always easy to understand how gentrification became such a hot button issue in this old, traditionally working class neighborhood, but now a series of portrait photographs, Along St. Claude, by Jonathan Traviesa, lends a rich visual dimension to the discussion. It is actually the pictorial component of  Eve Abrams' WWNO radio production of the same name that recently won a 2015 Regional Edward R. Murrow award for Best News Documentary for its colorful exploration of this complex issue.

In a neighborhood now known for hipsters from all over, it is immensely reassuring to discover that Steve Nuccio, above, has lived on the same block of Franklin Ave. for over 60 years, after arriving on a boat from Sicily when he was 12, and that he raises pigeons in a coop behind his house. Or that tavern keeper Roy Markey was born in Bywater when it was known simply as "da Nint' Ward"--but you have to listen to the radio show (on the WWNO web site) to learn that his family's bar once opened at 6 am for dock workers who preferred to drink their breakfast. Sculptor Malcolm McClay could almost pass for a relative of the Markeys, but is actually an Irish expat who arrived in the 1990s. Joanne Livaccari Cieutat, top, has lived in her old Poland Ave. home for the past 76 years, and here she appears resplendent in her tropical garden dominated by a statue of the Virgin Mary--but the no less colorful personal style of artist Francesca McKenzie, top left, who arrived in 2009, suggests more continuity than might be expected. St. Claude has always inspired deeply felt passions, and it may be that those same passions will enable it to evolve without losing its distinctive character. ~Bookhardt / Along Saint Claude: Photography by Jonathan Traviesa, Through July 5, The Front, 4100 St. Claude Ave., 920-3980. Above left: Susan Brady of the North St. Claude Association of Neighbors.