BFT and the Wolfbat Railway takes NOLA
The following is a guest post by Josh Dannin.
When Wolfbat Studios and Woodcut Funhouse roll into town, word (and ink) spreads quick. Such was definitely the case at 612 Piety Street.
Hosted by Dennis McNett and Sean Starwars and sponsored by Vans Custom Culture, BFT and The Wolfbat Railway was an unaffiliated event that ran parallel to the SGCI Conference. Completely free and open to the public, the three-day community-minded project took over the Old Ironworks in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans and brought together artists, educators, and students from all over the country with the mission to promote printmaking collaboration, conversation, and celebration.
The main event of the BFT was the construction and creation of the Wolfbat Railway: a wooden train consisting of one steam engine and twenty boxcars, made largely of wood rescued from a local recycling facility. Each car was tricked out by an artist or team (see list below) with the help of 40 local students from the McMain Secondary School. There was a real sense of excitement and energy coming from these kids, whether they were assisting artists, wheatpasting, cutting their very first woodblocks, or making Wolfbat masks and headdresses for the parade that concluded the event. Dennis McNett was kind enough to talk to me a bit about the project:
The primary goal of the BFT and the Wolfbat Railway was to offer an outlet for artists to collaborate with one another on one large project and to also interact with the community. [It] was completely free to everyone, anyone could contribute, collaborate, make things, show prints, or just experience the event. Something we didn’t want to do is come into New Orleans and not include the community, so we gave workshops for local kids, all the bands were local, and several locals were involved with the art market on Saturday.
The kids [from McMain Secondary School] were amazing and some of the best students I’ve ever worked with. They were smart, interested, and really helped a lot with the project. I think the experience was a two way street. They were able to learn several new mediums, talk with artists from all over the US, and contribute to the project. We were able to give away some information, experience the project through their eyes, and watch them learn.
Before (above) and after (below) with the MC himself.
Dennis McNett working with students from McMain Secondary School (above). Who also got a great deal of help from..
Sean Starwars (above)
John Hancock (center)
Tom Huck (on the right)
Bill Fick hard at work
[editors note: and sporting a jaunty fuchsia t-shirt!]
Martin Mazzora of Cannonball Press (above) put some finishing touches on their cars.
Cannonball Press built way beyond the original car structure, producing a bold and instantly recognizable geometric BOXcar.
This amazing boxcar by Danielle Spralding and Florence Gidez that went on to win the BFT award for “Best Traincar”.
At night the Old Ironworks was transformed from a project site to one full of festivities, with open call print shows hosted by Drive By Press and McNett and Sean Starwars, a BBQ, a print fashion show (complete with print-covered runways), and the Carnival of Ink running two nights. The event finished up Saturday with an art market during the day, and an opening for the completed train and the BFT awards ceremony in the evening. Bill Fick won the award for most inspirational, John Hancock for most encouraging, Drive By Press for most innovative and educational, and finally the BFT award (for Best Traincar) went to Danielle Spralding and Florence Gidez. From here, the Wolfbat Railway left its home on Piety Street and was paraded through the streets of Bywater and Marigny, finally parking at a lot owned by the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts alongside the Press Street Railroad Yard. The train was on display at this site for the past weeks since the BFT as a street piece. Ultimately some of the boxcars will go on to McMain Secondary School for display and others to the New Orleans Creative Center where they will be part of reading areas for kids.
It goes without saying that the event was a huge success, drawing great people, great local music, and great prints on paper, clothing, and boxcars. The day after the parade, I ran into Beverly Cook, an art teacher from McMain Secondary School, at the NOCCA lot viewing the finished train. She couldn’t speak highly enough of the excellent experience her students had. Of course, the completed train cars speak for themselves as well. I’d like to thank Dennis McNett for talking to me about the event, and also Bill Fick for inviting me to join in on his boxcar. Dennis wanted to pass on the following.
Thank you to all of these people: VANS, The Ironworks, McMain Secondary School, all of the boxcar participants, Eric Fuertes, Colin, Dylan, Nick, and Quinn for helping me build all this stuff. Everyone who participated, helped set up, break down and get down. It was one of the most memorable events I’ve done. It’s only going to get bigger and better from here on out. This train don’t need no tracks.
For a seemingly never-ending gallery of brilliant photos from the BFT click here!
Some opted to carry their cars instead of pull them. This car was built by Alex Heir, Jess Poplawski, Justin Catania, and Rebecca Durham.
The parked train at NOCCA’s Press Street lot.
BFT & the Wolfbat Railway artists –
Tom Huck – St. Louis / Drive By Press – Bronx, NY / The Amazing Hancock Brothers – Austin, TX / Bill Fick – Greensboruogh,NC / John Hitchcock – Madison, WI & Pat Seals – Temple, TX / Jenny Hager & Emily Author (Trojan Horse) – Jacksonville, FL / Emily Arthur – Jacksonville, FL & Katy Seals – Norman, OK / The UNF Wolfbat Crew (UNF students) – Jacksonville, FL / Miryam Prodanovic & Nathan Catlin – Brooklyn, NY / Alex Heir, Jess Poplawski, Justin Catania, & Rebecca Durham – Brooklyn/NOLA / Derrick Riley & Jeff Rial – Lexington, KY / Dylan Goldberg & Colin Sussingham – Brooklyn, NY / Ryan O’Malley & Tyler Krasowski – Corpus Cristi, TX / Danielle Spralding & Florence Gidez St. Louis, MO/Brooklyn, NY / Pressure (Pratt Print Club) – Brooklyn, NY / Fresh Hot Press (UW-Madison Print Club) – Madison, WI / Cannonball Press – Brooklyn, NY / Joel Peck & Zach Schrey – Elgin/Chicago, IL / Sk8 high car done by local kids from New Orleans, LA / Sean Starwars – Laurel, MS / Wolfbat Studios – Brooklyn, NY / James Chase – Lubbock, TX.