Strong Light follows artist Brandan “BMike” Odums, who in the summer of 2013 transformed an abandoned New Orleans housing project into a surreptitious public art space, painting graffiti-style portraits of activists and artists inside the residential buildings left vacant since Hurricane Katrina. The film by Patrick Melon premieres this week at Tulane University's Black Arts Festival and documents what Odums and his crew dubbed Project Be, an exhibition that gained traction primarily through social media, particularly the #ProjectBe hashtag on Instagram.
Project Be calls attention to the struggles faced by urban African-American populations living in poverty, but perhaps more importantly the project effectively turns blight into beauty, appropriating a symbol of neglect and powerlessness into a call for action. Or at least it did, until the buildings were boarded up last fall by the Housing Authority of New Orleans, shutting out both artists and audiences.
In the trailer for the film, Odums says, "They might ask 'Why did artists come and paint in this place?' Well, even a better question is, 'Why is this place here, eight years after Katrina?'"
Strong Light premieres Thursday, February 20, 2014, at 7:00pm at Tulane University, followed by a panel discussion with Odums and the filmmaker Patrick Melon. More info on the Tulane Black Arts Festival here.