THE ICON: Deb Cotton
THE LEGACY: Deborah Cotton, a transplant from Texas, Oklahoma and California, took to New Orleans with a vengeance when she moved to the city in 2005. Assuming the pen name Big Red Cotton for her locally focused culture blog, she documented parades and second-lines, brass bands, and social aid and pleasure clubs. Given Cotton’s passion for all things New Orleans, her death is tragically ironic: On Mother’s Day 2013, Cotton was doing what she loved — following a second-line as it meandered through the 7th Ward — when she was one of 19 people struck by gunfire. She died four years later of complications from the shooting, leaving as her legacy a wealth of photographic and video records of New Orleans’ street-party traditions and standing as an example of unconditional love, both for her adopted hometown and for those who shot her, whom she forgave.
THE ARTIST: Saegan Swanson
THE INSPIRATION: “Deb certainly lived the art she admired. … I know no one who has become a member of a community as deeply as Deb Cotton. She is as New Orleans as anyone born and raised or who has committed themselves to this place.” — Andre Perry, a friend and frequent collaborator.