The opening dedication of “Turning: prayer wheels for the Mississippi River” on Prospect.4 biennial opening weekend was a wonderful event. Photo: Julie Dermansky

Commissioned by the Arts Council of New Orleans Percent for Art program, the City of New Orleans, and featured in the Prospect.4 Biennial, “Turning” blends social and environmental activism with interactive sculpture, where the history of the land itself is an integral component of the piece.

“Turning” consists of three, 9 foot, stainless steel, interactive “prayer wheels”, individually cut with iconography of the Mississippi River from three distinct periods of the river’s history, (the wild era, colonial plantation era, and petrochemical era), based on the mapping in Kate Orff’s seminal book, “Petrochemical America”. Each cylinder is rooted in a hand-made mosaic base that depicts the land building patterns created from deposits of the river’s sediment over 7000 years, informed by the Fisk maps of 1944. At night, the prayer wheels will emit pulses of dim blue light via solar power, and visitors may spin each wheel to intensify the emanations. The path that weaves through the installation echoes the river’s serpentine curvature, while the indigenous gardens surrounding the site were planted by Varisco and a team of devoted community volunteers.

A tremendous thank you to my hands on team: Skip Stander, Adam Dowis, Keith Rogers, Lorraine Monseu, Amy Graham of Longue Vue House and Gardens, Katrice Reid with Metal Graphics, Jason Smith at Joly’s Metal Works, and Christian Repaal. Much gratitude to the entire team at the Arts Council of New Orleans, the City of New Orleans, everyone at Prospect New Orleans, Jay Nix of Parkway Bakery and Tavern, Kate Orff with Scape Studios, Andre Daugereaux and Adam J. Constantin of the Biology department at University of Lafayette, Sophie Harris and everyone at Friends of Lafitte Greenway, Rommel Azevedo and Eddie Krauzhoffmann of R A Pavers, Jeffrey Schwartz of Broad Community Directions, Susan Gisleson, Esther Murphy, Zack Hughbanks and NOCCA. Major thanks to my amazing volunteers: Tony Gould, Lu Stand, Jennifer Ruley, Phyllis Lawton Cosentino, Ryan Rachal, Teran Samuels, Lauren Luna, Pearce Wood, Adrian Marti, Deena Bedigian, Norman Nail, Jenisse Gaines, Brad Spiegel, Kyle Kimber,Margee Green, Joyce Jordan, Jillian Gibson, Joshua, Beverly, Vida, Ify Walker, Michelle, Zarouhie Abdalian, Jenae with NORDC and my family, especially Ruth Varisco.