A nationally known artist has unveiled a project he has coordinated to help get the lead out of New Orleans. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.
Artist Mel Chin talked about Operation Paydirt at the New Center for Contemporary Art on Monday. His new project is designed to raise awareness about and money for the rehabilitation of lead contaminated soil in New Orleans by having children draw fake 100 dollar bills. They then send them to a local school acting as a collection center to later be delivered to Congress. Today, 56 schools in 31 states are collecting the bills, including Louisville’s Ballard High School.
But Chin isn’t limiting project involvement to children.
“Students are asked if they will draw one drawing but our age limit is 125,” he says. “After that we won’t be held responsible for any actions.”
Chin conceived the project after learning that New Orleans has some of the highest concentrations of lead in the country. He then consulted an expert on lead contamination who advised him on the cost of a clean up.
“I asked him how much would it cost to change the situation. He said three hundred million dollars,” Chin says. “I’m a conceptual artist, so I said, ‘I can’t raise that much. But I can make that much.'”
Chin says he aims to gather bills made by at least three million people. He says he hasn’t met with members of Congress yet, but plans to do so.
Evenutally, Chin wants Congress to exchange the funny money for the real thing.
More information about the project: