THE ICON: Carol Bebelle
THE LEGACY: It is impossible to think of Carol Bebelle without thinking of the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, which she co-founded in 1998 at 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. as a showcase for African-American arts and culture. Back then, it was one of the few bright spots in the middle of a Central Citythoroughfare that was once a thriving shopping area known as Dryades Street — but which by the late 1990s had succumbed to decades of decay. But Bebelle persevered, drawing people with attractions such as lectures, plays, art exhibits and a celebration of Mardi Gras Indians. Soon enough, Ashe, along with such businesses as Cafe Reconcile, would become a catalyst for the gradual revitalization of the corridor, which now stands as a model for urban revitalization — and inspiration for those who value the richness of New Orleans’ patchwork of distinct, culturally vibrant neighborhoods.
THE ARTIST: Jessica Strahan
THE INSPIRATION: “Art is an expression of culture, and when the art you see does not represent your lifestyle and culture, it’s another way of saying you don’t matter.” — Carol Bebelle, in a 2000 interview with The Times-Picayune