Gentilly featured in upcoming illustration book ‘Snippets of New Orleans’
With no prior knowledge of the neighborhood, artist Emma Fick took to illustrating iconic Gentilly establishments and tenants, the Gentilly Terrace area and staples of the Gentilly community for her upcoming book “Snippets of New Orleans”.
Fick’s “Snippets” project started after she returned home to Louisiana from Serbia and 2015 and made an explicit goal to illustrate New Orleans with a book, as she previously did in Serbia with “Snippets of Serbia”.
“I began by illustrating general New Orleans elements, like crawfish and gumbo and Mardi Gras, but I quickly realized I needed a way to dig deeper into the city, neighborhood by neighborhood,” Fick said.
The journey to illustrating Gentilly began by Fick meeting a woman, while she was selling work at the Art Garden on Frenchman Street. The lady said she had seen Fick’s other neighborhood guides and was born and raised in Gentilly, so she told Fick she would be really missing out, if she did not familiarize herself with the neighborhood.
“I love serendipitous encounters like that, so I took down her name and email address. It was a few months before I had time to tackle Gentilly, but when I dug up her email address and sent her a message, she was extremely kind and generous and invited me for a day of driving around Gentilly.”
After grabbing her initial notes from the woman and her family, she took to eating out in Gentilly, talking to folk in the area, and poking her head around.
President of Gentilly Terrace and Gardens Improvement Association, Frank Rabalais, said that Fick’s illustrations and descriptions of Gentilly Terrace were “spot-on”.
“It rarely occurs to folks outside the neighborhood that the terraces mentioned in the neighborhood’s name have literal meaning,” Rabalais said.
In illustrating Johnny’s True Value Hardware, owner Jimmy Mcculla said that Fick did a fine job and that there was a lot of reaction from people of her illustrating a moment with Mccula and one of his customers as well as friend. When asked what made Gentilly unique, Mcculla spoke of the quiet neighborhood location that offers easy access to all parts of the city.
“A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to get through places in this area,” Mccula said. “From here I could go ten different directions if I want to get to the CBD or the French quarter.”
When asked what was one of her favorite aspects of Gentilly, Fick said the area feels like a small, specific town of its own.
“You could almost forget you’re in New Orleans, except of course everyone is still so essentially New Orleans at their core, and the restaurants make sure you remember exactly where you are.”
According to Fick, she chose to illustrate places like the Gendusa Bakery, because of how specific the establishment’s history is. She said she could not help but pick up her watercolors and start painting after hearing about details like “the poboy loaf shape”.
“it started with one entrepreneurial family, and it was one very specific and kind of bizarre attribute they ‘revolutionized’ (the shape of the poboy loaf’s end),” Fick said.
As for McKenzie’s Bakery’s inclusion, that interest of Fick’s came from the the bakery seeming to be an establishment one can hear people reference almost daily. She called McKenzie’s Bakery presence pervasive and “nostalgia-inducing”.
“They play such a huge role in the city’s collective consciousness, and I’m interested in how something so ubiquitous became obsolete. I like tracking the former McKenzie’s bakeries — for instance,McKenzie’s Fried Chicken and The Creole Creamery uptown — and musing on what they were and what they’ve become, and what that says (or not) about New Orleans as a whole.”
Fick’s illustrations of Gentilly will be on shelves and featured in her April book release of “Snippets of New Orleans”.
“I hope it inspires curiosity.”