view of NOMA prior to Katrina
- Floodwater stops short of City Park museum
By Dante Ramos and Doug MacCash
The New Orleans Museum of Art survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath without significant damage.
But when Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives arrived in the area Wednesday, NOMA employees holed up inside the museum were left in a quandary:
FEMA wanted those evacuees to move to a safer location, but there was no way to secure the artwork inside. Six security and maintenance employees remained on duty during the hurricane and were joined by 30 evacuees, including the families of some employees.
Harold Lyons, a security console operator who stayed on at the museum, said FEMA representatives were the first outsiders to show up at the museum in days.
They immediately tried to persuade staffers to leave the building. That would have left no one to protect the museum's contents, and no one inside the museum had the authority to give that order, Lyons said as he inspected the grounds.
Museum Director John Bullard was on vacation and assistant Director Jacquie Sullivan had taken a disabled brother to Gonzales.
“We can't just leave and turn out the lights on the say-so of someone we don’t know,” Lyons said.
The phones inside the museum had failed. Lyons asked a reporter to pass a message to Sullivan as soon as possible.
Interviewed by telephone, Sullivan said she had been in close contact with emergency management officials all day Wednesday. State Police had promised to take her back to the museum at 7 a.m. Thursday, she said.
City Park was littered with fallen trees, but evacuees’ cars, clustered around the museum’s walls, were mostly unscathed. The museum itself was spared any wind damage, and floodwater had not reached the building.
Inside, the museum’s generators whirred away, providing air conditioning to preserve the priceless artworks.
Sullivan said museum workers had taken down some pieces in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden before the storm.
But a towering modernist sculpture by Kenneth Snelson was reduced to a twisted mess in the lagoon.
The American Association of Museums has info on historical sites, museums, zoos, planetariums, oceanariums and more here.
General information on NOMA sculpture garden from viatraveldesign.com
New Orleans Museum of Art Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden
50 sculptures by such artists as Henry Moore, Fernando Botero, Antoine Bourdelle, Gaston Lachaise, William Zorach, Jacques Lipchitz, Barbara Hepworth, Seymour Lipton, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Kenneth Snelson, George Rickey, Elisabeth Frink, Masayuki Nagare, Lynn Chadwick, Louis Bourgeois, Jesus Bautista Moroles, George Segal, Deborah Butterfield, Alison Saar and Joel Shapiro.
One website visited indicated their may actually have been two Snelson sculptures in the garden at one time. it is not clear if the two were on view at the time of the storm.