An enormous public art installation on view in New Orleans is a force to be reckoned with. And that’s the point. The piece, created by New York City-based artist Tavares Strachan and presented as a part of the Prospect.3 art exhibition, is deceptively straightforward: A giant 100-foot-long magenta neon sign with the words “You belong here” scrawled in refined cursive. But don't be fooled by the playful pink lights—the cheery words belie a searing commentary.
The subtext of the piece is its context. New Orleans is the fastest growing city in America, the city’s mayor Mitch Landrieu will proudly tell you, and its rising reputation as a hotbed for culture—from a thriving food scene to art exhibitions like Prospect—have contributed to its appeal. But like many U.S. cities, that success has come with growing class divisions and the pangs of gentrification. You belong here, it assures every onlooker—but it leaves those for whom its success has meant intense economic pressure to wonder, for how much longer?
“You belong here,” commissioned for the Prospect.3: Notes for Now arts biennial in New Orleans, is on view at the Esplanade Wharf through January 25, 2015. The accompanying “You belong here” mobile app is available at Youbelonghereproject.org.