BY MARGARET ADAM
While most people are not encouraged to – as the old saying goes – “wear your feelings on your shirtsleeves,” artist Marie Lamb gathered local youngsters recently to convey their emotions about hurricane Katrina in only a word or two, on their arms, their feet, even their faces.
Lamb borrowed her idea from a similar project in New Orleans, following Katrina, in which residents expressed themselves with a word or two painted somewhere on their bodies and were photographed, in Robert Fogarty’s “Dear World” campaign.
As the 10th anniversary of the storm approaches, and Coast residents reflect on its impact, it would almost seem illogical to ask kids so young to share their feelings about an event that occurred during their more tender years.
But the young people who met at the Pass Christian Library had clear impressions of the hurricane which altered lives. If they did not remember the storm itself, they drew from memories of family patterns which emerged as everyone endeavored to regain a sense of normalcy.
Eleven-year-old Mason Barker lives in Jackson but visits her grandmother Gayla Schmitt in Pass Christian every year. She had the words “changed us” painted on her arm because she said she has observed over the years how Katrina “changed everything, changed our perspective on things.”
She said she has learned quite a bit by reading about the storm and its effects, but she has witnessed first-hand its impact on her grandmother, who consistently packs her dearest mementos and important papers every time she travels.
“We lost everything and it’s just stuff,” said Schmitt, “but we had to replace it all. Now every summer when we leave to go on vacation we take what we want to have left, just in case.”
Schmitt chose the phrase “always ready” to have painted on her arm.
While Lamb explored the artistic side of the body painting, her photographer, 14-year-old Dustin Christensen, captured the graphic images with his camera, including the American flag in some of his shots because of the patriotic and community spirit it represents.
The message on his arms stated “hearing” and “listening,” because he has learned about Katrina and the hardships it caused from his father who has shared his stories and experiences with Dustin.
Farah Muhammed, 14, lived in Houston when Katrina struck, but she has many family members in the Pass, and she said she knows Houston is where many people evacuated and even settled after the hurricane.
After painting the words “help us” and “Houston…” on her arm, she explained she has seen photographs and news footage of victims in New Orleans stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued.
The single word “strong” was all Pass resident Sally James needed to describe how she felt about herself despite Katrina’s blows to her community.
High school sophomore Abraham Loredo, 16, who lived in DeLisle when Katrina struck, said he is amazed by the “never-ending” construction on the Coast in the past several years.
His family moved to Gulfport, he said, as he reflected on changing schools and communities.
One of his hobbies is running, so he chose to paint “running strong” on his bare feet.
His younger brother, Isaac, 10, has no memories of Katrina, but represents the decade that has passed: “0 -10” was written on his small face for his photograph.
Lamb plans to continue her art project, expanding to include residents of all ages, with additional sessions at the library slated for August 4, 14 and 21, from 3 until 5 p.m each day.
The public is welcome.
All of the photographs will be displayed as part of a larger art exhibit during a community picnic in War Memorial Park August 29.
Lamb said the commemoration is meant to be a positive celebration of the resiliency of the Pass and there are a few surprises in the works for the event.