Four stories high, filled with lights, fire, liquor, and a chaotic energy, the art studios at 2809 North Robertson opened their doors to the general public. Multiple DJs played electronica stylings from room to room. Some rooms were filled with paintings; in others, artists were hammering away, creating sculptures made of metal, sending sparks flying.
“Stand back,” one artist said to some reckless or foolish attendees, myself included, who had strayed into the line of fire in such tight quarters. The building houses over a hundred art studios and the New Orleans Neon Museum is nearby.
While art, booze, music and neon lights were a part of the event, the main focus for me was the New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Socialist Feminist Caucus’s Fundraiser for Reproductive Justice.
Logan Yates, a member of the DSA sat down with me in artist Laura Welter’s studio. Yates explains that they are raising funds through an art raffle on behalf of Birthmark Doula. “It’s one of the projects of the Socialist Feminist Caucus, as part of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.” Birthmark Doula, he says, has a sliding payment scale, and a part of their mission is to help provide care for pregnant women. “What they do, when providing their services, they make it clear that if you can’t afford it, you should apply anyway.”
The art varied in great detail, from pictures of cartoon dinosaurs to the punk-rockingest red skull I’ve seen recently, to a pretty little bird cursing at me – a painting of one, not an actual live bird, just to be clear.
Speaking to Katie Leese, the artist who created the adorable bird with the words, “I fucking Love You,” explains her involvement: “I support reproductive justice because I support abortion only in cases when it is absolutely necessary… like when someone is pregnant and decides they no longer want to be.”
About her piece, she said, “So the piece I have here today is mixed media of a cute little bird that says, I fucking love you. And it is a departure from my ‘normal art’. I normally paint cute little birds but typically they say things like, ‘you are my sunshine.’ Not usually any profanities.” She adds, “I think for this venue, and this cause, and this crowd, it’s appropriate and fun.”
I asked her how she got involved:
“This event specifically, I heard about from my dear friend Laura Welter, who is in the DSA, and she knew I would be interested in the event, because I do have strong feelings about reproductive justice. For myself, for a lot of people in my own life, and in the community in general. I’ve seen a lot of things I really love and I really hate, and the event like this can put a spotlight on the changes that still need to happen to make sure that people have the rights that they should have.”
Laura Welter, a painter and a member of the Socialists Feminists Caucus says that the Caucus is a group of feminists trying to help with reproductive rights, fundraising for reproductive justice. “It’s the right to have children, the right to not have children, and the right to raise the children that we have.” She added,
“One of socialist feminism’s biggest tenets is the idea that capitalism fails to value reproductive labor, basically the work put into reproducing the labor force. Having children, rearing children. Capitalism only values reproductive labor when it’s caring for someone else’s children, or raising someone else’s children. There’s no value put on raising your own children. Capitalism needs the labor force, but fails to acknowledge in any way the importance of reproducing that labor force.”
The raffle was her idea. “I was really just thinking about how I don’t have a lot of money, and I know a lot of artists and they don’t all have a lot of disposable income. And what we do have is art, which is a direct translation of our labor, and I knew that I could pretty easily, from the number of artist friends I have, and the people I know who have good hearts and believe in good causes, round up some donations and put a little fundraiser together.”
Welter concludes, “The more we can unify women’s voices, and not only around the possible failures of capitalism, or the possible overturning of Roe V. Wade the better for women.”
Between the fantastic art and the information, it was a good way to spend a Friday night at the end of November.
Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. If you like this piece, you can read more of his work here.