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While the building had taken heavy damage, ArtEgg’s website remained up and running, where the title of this piece informed tenants and clients of ArtEgg’s fate post-Katrina. Dr. Esther Dyer, owner of the building, told her renters that they could not enter thebuilding until a structural engineer had determined the safety of the building.  “. . . it is sad all of the destruction of beautiful and cherished things,” observed Dr. Dyer, “but most of all it is important that we don’t destroy the opportunities to support creative activity.”

Dr. Dyer went on to list the damages the building sustained including the damage to the five roofs, several drop ceilings that had fallen in, “warping” and damages to individual studios, and the destruction of records on the first floor. The Alliance for Affordable Energy, located on the first floor of the building (which flooded with rain water that filtered down from the second floor), lost a good share of the organization’s archives, all the computers, and the photocopier. Forest Bradley-Wright, the Sustainable Rebuild Coordinator for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, describes how the files were destroyed, explaining that the files had been kept in cardboard boxes, with the bottom boxes getting “. . . soggy and then all of it falling over.”

Dr. Dyer, using a home-made pass and having hired two men (“I chose two guys from the bayou with their shotguns. . . ), entered New Orleans between hurricanes Katrina and Rita in order to visit her home and ArtEgg. When confronted by soldiers while removing the refrigerator from her Marigny home, Dr. Dyer challenged the soldiers, saying, “Now you can arrest me, you can take me away, you can let me do this so I can get outta here.” Dr. Dyer further demanded of the soldiers if they would treat their own mothers in such amanner. Dr. Dyer removed her refrigerator.

Dr. Dyer then visited ArtEgg. “And it was real ugly being here between Katrina and Rita. My heart broke because there were. . . these lap dogs running wild, . . . and they would be these little [dogs], you know . . .that’d been to the groomer twice a week.” Matt Lottinger, the on-site manager, with the help of Dr. Dyer, managed to return fromHouston to rescue Arty prior to Dr. Dyer’s return. Dr. Dyer did an initial assessmentof the building and rescued all insurance papers and vendor files, using a blow dryer to salvage the documents. She evacuated for hurricane Rita, returning to New York City.

Common Ground at ArtEggBefore any rebuilding could begin, the building required gutting. After receiving quotesfrom various demolition crews of two to three dollars a square foot, Dr. Dyer realized that this could prove an obstacle that could derail her efforts to rebuild the 50,000 square foot building. Dr. Dyer then heard of Common Ground, a grass roots organizationstarted by local activists ten days after the storm, via Charles Reith of the Alliance forAffordable Energy.

Common Ground and Dr. Dyer reached an agreement. Common Ground would provide gutting and mold remediation services for ArtEgg in exchange for using the building as a base for the many college-aged volunteers who came to the city after the storm to assist in rebuilding. Arriving in February 2006, 170 students called ArtEgg home, using grey water showers and sleeping both in the building and in a tent outside. Stakes from the tent remain in the back parking lot, a mute testimony of the many volunteers who selflessly gave their time and labor to the city.

Common Ground supported an environmentally friendly approach to gutting and mold remediation, offering residents a mold remediation technique using Effective Micro-organisms (EM) rather than bleach. EM can reduce mold spore count by 80%. This is the process used to remediate the building during the gutting. While the Alliance for Affordable Energy did not have an office onsite until the building’s official opening,members did maintain a presence, helping with the gutting and rebuilding efforts.

Kitchen at ArtEggAt first, the partnership between ArtEgg and Common Ground went well. The building had been successfully gutted and remediated. “They began to move beyond the agreed upon protocols.” according to Dr. Dyer. While Dr. Dyer and Common Ground forbid alcohol on the premises, volunteers began to drink. As well, with the building gutted, ArtEgg was ready to begin rebuilding. This led to a parting of ways between ArtEgg and Common Ground in late June or early July of 2006.

Dr. Dyer and the Alliance for Affordable Energy continued their efforts after Common Ground left, working together to rebuild ArtEgg in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

Images from duke.edu where you can read more about their participation in the rebuilding effort.