Saturday, March 18, 2006
Jennifer Garant — Canadian-born artist Jennifer Garant, like people across the world, watched in disbelief as the devastation of Hurricane Katrina unfolded in late summer of 2005. As she thought about her friends and their families struggling in New Orleans, she also thought, “That could have been me.”
Last May, Garant and her husband, Tadd Garant, sought to purchase a home in New Orleans in nearby Slidell. The couple already had a timeshare in the Crescent City and wanted to spend even more time in the Big Easy. The historic city served as inspiration for Garant, who took studio vacations there for 20 years to capture the sights and sounds of the Big Easy to serve as inspirations for the characters in her art. The home purchase, however, didn’t work out. The couple moved to Bloomington, Ind., instead. Regardless, Garant decided to do something to help New Orleans. Starting last September, Garant is donating 12 months’ worth of all her print royalties from Wild Apple Graphics to hurricane relief through the American Red Cross.
“For me, it was just a no-brainer,” Garant says about her decision.
John Chester, president of Wild Apple, says it’s rare for an artist to donate all publishing royalties to a dedicated cause when the artist would usually bestow royalties for a specific print. “Jennifer has a big heart,” Chester says. Garant’s passion for New Orleans stems from its rich cultural history. To her, it’s more than just the site of the world’s largest Mardi Gras celebration.
“New Orleans is my favorite city in the world because of the people that make it up,” says Garant, a native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It’s filled with artists, musicians, people with millions of stories floating around. It’s conducive for thinking and creative people.”
Garant’s heart continues to ache for the people of New Orleans and others along the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. She was upset by the initial treatment of citizens by government officials.
“I was sick to my stomach,” Garant says when watching the images on TV. “There were only so many people with the means to leave. Those who had to stay behind, many of them were led into human warehouses (Superdome, convention center). I’ve heard stories of my friends and their families in New Orleans who had no choice but staying. It was horrifying.” Garant also is taking her compassion to another level. She’s planning an art auction featuring artists across the globe. Her goal is to establish a fund to aid visual artists in the New Orleans area.
“I hope my efforts will help pull more artists back in the city,” Garant says. “A lot of artists, musicians and chefs are moving away.”
Garant says people can’t forget about the devastation in the long run and hopes the awareness generated by her donations and upcoming auction help in that process.
“It gets very frustrating and confusing for people in New Orleans that are trying to rebuild their lives,” Garant says. “Some people are still trying to keep it in the forefront. It’s very necessary. If it’s not in front of you, not impacting your life, you tend to forget about it.”
Reflecting on National Women’s History Month, Garant says several female artists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Carr and Tamara de Lempicka, have inspired her.
“At one point in time, it was a man’s world no matter what business you were talking about,” Garant says. “Today, art, like most things, there isn’t that boundary any more. Today, the image speaks more than the person creating the image. The average art purchaser is savvier, and that’s having a big impact, too.”