New Orleans Charter School and Local Artist Help the State of Louisiana to Promote Tourism with Recycled Mardi Gras Beads

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A creative interpretation of the official Louisiana State Tourism Campaign called "Louisiana: Pick Your Passion" becomes a traveling art exhibit created by more than 500 Students of the Andrew Wilson Charter School and local mosaic artist Stephan Wanger

Normally a so-called school project involves a handful of students representing their school. But in the case of Broadmoor’s Andrew H. Wilson Charter School’s  “Louisiana: Pick Your Passion,” ”more than 500 students, in grades kindergarten through 8th grade, have collaborated on this giant undertaking. Breathtaking in its simplicity and intricacy, the project literally takes tons of unwanted Mardi Gras beads and transforms them into 12 pieces, all 4'Hx6'W dazzling mosaics, depicting a variety of state, city and neighborhood flags, and maps. Along the way, Wilson students learned valuable lessons in conservation, mathematics, Louisiana history, art, cooperation, and persistence.

Photo and Interview Opportunity: Unveiling of Exhibit Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 2:00pm

The project is the dream child of Stephan Wanger, a self-taught artist who has spent the past 6 years working on “A Million Greetings From New Orleans.” Wanger uses recycled materials and channels his creative energy into re-creating scenes, images, and icons of Louisiana to bring awareness to the state's unique culture and varied communities.

“It’s something iconic out of something recycled,” Wanger says and added, "that there are many volunteering opportunities for everyone to help the local government with its effort of promoting tourism to generate revenue." Wanger's inspiration was the famous quote used by President John F. Kennedy in his speech urging American citizens to participate in public service and "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

Last January, Wilson students began bringing leftover beads to school. Under the direction of Wanger, all students helped recycle, sort, and cut the beads. Second grade through 8th grade students glued the beads. Parents and volunteers have pitched in too. Logan Crowe, Wilson principal, says "that the project hasn’t only inspired teamwork and school spirit, but also has shown students how they can apply their daily class lessons."

“It’s one thing to look at a map, but it’s whole other experience to actually create a map,” says Sara Smith, Wilson art teacher.  “And you need the basic skills: you have to be able to count, sort, glue and paint. The reward isn’t just the completed project, but it’s the process as well.”

Stephan Wanger's concept is to promote something that is actually from Louisiana, namely those recycled Mardi Gras beads. The tremendous draw this exhibit has, is its uniqueness amongst other efforts in tourism marketing. Tourism marketing consists primarily of print advertisements, television or radio advertisements, conventions, websites, and word of mouth; unfortunately every city in the world is doing this in an almost identical fashion. I believe an event that is not only an art exhibit but a fully interactive experience displaying the richness of Louisiana culture will have a tremendous impact to generate tourism revenue. The "Louisiana: Pick Your Passion" tourism campaign was launched by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne.

The students have completed a Louisiana flag, an Acadian flag, the New Orleans City flag, a State map, the State Capitol, Tiger Stadium, Historic City Hall of Lake Charles, and a map of Broadmoor where the school is located. About eight mosaics will be displayed in the cafeteria of the school, but then they will travel to promote and educate. Wanger says that “The school will own and eventually house all 12 artworks. The Wilson Charter school’s “Louisiana: Pick your Passion” will compliment Wanger’s overall exhibit “Bead Town” and will showcase other local schools as part of the traveling exhibit.”  Part of the exhibits will travel to Winnsboro, LA on display August 30th through November 4th and then travel to Ruston, LA through December 16th. "Bead Town" will premier in New Orleans in January of 2013.

1:30pm Interview Opportunities with students and the principal
2:00pm Lower grades (either including 5th with lower or upper) enter cafeteria
2:45pm Upper grades (either with 5th or not)

Program should take about 30 minutes and include the following:
10 minutes presentation of slide show while passing out cookies
5 minutes of Logan Crowe and introducing Stephan Wanger
5 minutes of Stephan speaking and showing pictures
10 minutes with Sara Smith heading Aneisha Williams and Sam Jordan speaking about each mural (they were chosen because they were the oldest and youngest to be a part of the "Schools: Ambassador Program")

About Andrew H. Wilson Charter School

Wilson strives for diversified education, whether it be small group breakout instruction or our large collection of extracurricular activities.  Wilson’s Primary Academy (Kindergarten to 5th grade) focuses on instilling the fundamentals of education while nurturing your child’s creativity and imagination to new heights. The old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  Here at Andrew H. Wilson, there is an abundance of will.  A will to work hard.  A will to succeed.  The willingness of our teachers to instill core values such as respect and responsibility into our children.  Making sure that our students will be become professional men and woman who lead the way to the future with wisdom and opportunity.

Wilson’s Junior Academy (6th to 8th grade) focuses on a high school preparatory curriculum while preparing our future leaders for the world they will one day lead.   Andrew H. Wilson’s standardized scores are soaring as high as the dreams of our children.  This year, 95% of Wilson’s 8th grade scored Basic or Above in Language Arts, the highest rate in the Recovery School district.  Across all grade levels, there was a significant increase in our testing scores for the LEAP/iLEAP.  In addition, Wilson had a 100% success rate of 8th graders testing for High School Carnegie Unit credit.

The Broadmoor community has more that its ever had before:  more passion, more drive, more spirit.  Wilson serves as the anchor of the Education Corridor, featuring the Rosa F. Keller Library & Community Center and the future Blessed Trinity Fine Arts & Wellness center.  These institutions provide education enrichment to every member of the Broadmoor family.  And that is just what you will become when your child enrolls at Wilson, family.

About Stephan Wanger

Stephan Wanger is a self-taught artist who channels his creative energy into assembling dazzling mosaics using recycled Mardi Gras beads. Working in a photo-realistic style, Stephan recreates iconic Louisiana images to make the innate beauty and unique culture of this area available to the world.

Through his experiences traveling the globe, Stephan has gained insight and influence from the Spanish Art Nouveau designs of Antoni Gaudi, the Moorish and Persian architectural details in Istanbul, Turkey, and the the sculpture and environmental art of Chicago artist and friend John David Mooney. These designs and images have influenced the use of pattern, design, and fine detail in his work. Though Stephan is not formally trained as an artist, he engages in a craft that speaks to fine art, borrowing the ideals of Post-Impresssionistic Pointillism and emulating the style and scale of Roy Lichtenstein's Pop-Art works. Approaching each piece with an eye toward superior craftsmanship, Stephan has elevated what may be considered whimsical material to a level of fine art.

In preparation for the formal construction of each piece, beads are meticulously sorted by size down to the exact millimeter and perfect shade, creating a detailed and varied palette much like a painter would prepare hues for painting. The resulting play of light and color recalls several Post-Impressionistic artists' works while adding a new dimension of glitter and shine through the use of metallic, plastic and luminescent beads. The illusion of three-dimensional space is often created through the use of perspective but also the variety of sizes of the beads he uses to create actual dimension adds an element of bas-relief. The finished works are stunning to regard both from a distance and upon close inspection of the highly detailed craftsmanship.

In January of 2012 - Stephan Wanger completed a Guinness World Record for the World's largest mosaic called "Sanctuary of Alegria", a 8'H x 30'W large mural that depicts the skyline of New Orleans.

A manifestation of Mr. Wanger's stylistic and environmental goal is the use of recycled materials for his pieces. Not only does he collect discarded beads throughout Mardi Gras in an effort to clean post-parade debris, but he regularly visits salvage yards to gather additional materials for his work. Through his art, Mr. Wanger hopes to inspire the citizens of Louisiana to recycle and to create, and encourage the rest of the world to appreciate and gain fondness for the unique culture and natural beauty that Louisiana has to offer. This labor of love is "A Million Greetings from New Orleans". Visit for more information.

About Bead Town

It's finally arrived! Five years of effort to combine fine-art, sustainable sourcing, and tourism development has culminated in the "Bead Town" project. Artist and founder Stephan Wanger is bringing his vision of a cleaner and more prosperous Louisiana to schools and parishes across the state through community-created bead mosaic projects before the exhibit will tour Europe in April of 2013.

The Bead Town project is a compendium of artwork, classes, and exhibits that have grown from the collective work of schools and volunteers from around Louisiana. German transplant Stephan Wanger, has made his living creating Mardi Gras bead mosaics in an effort to promote and teach the manufacture of environmentally friendly pieces of high-art. Every year over 10,000 tons of Mardi Gras beads are sent to landfills as a result of New Orleans' iconic celebration. Mardi Gras beads are, initially, symbols of celebration and dedication to all that New Orleans represents. But when the festivities are over, very commonly, they are sent to storage or discarded. Bead Town's projects incorporate separated and sorted Mardi Gras beads and recovered objects from around the state, including wood used in antebellum buildings, that may have otherwise been relegated to garbage dumps if not rescued for this sort of project.

Bead Town aims to bring ecologically sound and artistically profound activities to regional schools and Louisiana towns. It offers art classes that are open to the public in addition the school-specific projects that define Bead Town and result in art pieces that represent the area from which they originated and the students that put in the hours of work required to make these wonderful local homages. He brings all of the necessary supplies, teaches the precision skill required for mosaic work, and guides the students into a greater understanding and respect for their region.

The work that results from Bead Town's projects remains with the town or school that created it, but can also tour. These pieces act as a representation of what is beautiful and valuable in these regions and are beacons for the media attention drawn by Bead Town as it travels the world. As our project gains exposure, so do the pieces left behind and those available in traveling promotional and reproduction material. Bead Town is a traveling spokes-piece for local tourism bureaus and the people they represent.

Bead Town Winnsboro, LA: August 30 - November 4, 2012
Bead Town Ruston, LA: November 7 - December 16, 2012
Bead Town New Orleans, LA: January 2013
Bead Town Gronau, Germany: April 16 - May 7, 2013

One of these school based events, that truly defines Bead Town's artistic, promotional, and environmental motives, is that taking place in Winnsboro, Louisiana. Four local schools will participate in the series of classes and exhibits, beginning on August 30th and running through November 4th, 2012, and create four pieces that depict defining Winnsboro & Franklin Parrish's events and images. These will include the Catfish Festival, which attracts nearly 20,000 people a year, the cotton plant, which has shaped southern economics, the Princess Theater, which has substantially contributed to the intellectual life of the area, and a forth image that will encapsulate what it means to be Winnsboro resident. Over 60 pieces of art will be displayed throughout the city, at banks, libraries, and museums; a city-wide Bead Town celebration of the Franklin parish area. The exhibit will then travel to Ruston, Louisiana from November 7th to December 16th. There will later be a January 2013 world premier of the full exhibition in New Orleans and a full tour throughout Europe in Spring of 2013.

Love for Louisiana drives this movement. Every art piece, composed from recycled Mardi Gras beads and, very often, locally sourced surfaces, is a reminder of the effort it takes to ensure that Louisiana is a thriving ecological and cultural resource. The combined efforts of Stephan and this thriving community of students, teachers and volunteers is born from a love of Louisiana culture and the people of this great state. This work promotes a sense of civic pride, an appreciation for sustainable use of resources, and a general sense of community amongst those who contribute to these artworks. We invite you to become a part of this growing phenomenon.

The exhibits of Bead Town are:

Taste of Louisiana (12 pieces 4'H x 4'W) created with Rudolph Matas Elementary School
Louisiana: Pick Your Passion (12 pieces 4'H x 6'W) created with Andrew Wilson Charter School
Reflections from Louisiana (12 pieces 4'H x 8'W) completed in December 2012 with SCI ACADEMY of New Orleans East
Louisiana Book Gardens (6 pieces) completed in December 2012 with the Audubon Charter School

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