Coast Artist Creates Labyrinths To Help With Katrina Healing
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The labyrinth at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.
Evelina Burnett

A Gulfport artist is using a historic art form to help coast residents find solace ahead of the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this August. MPB’s Evelina Burnett has more.

Environmental artist Elisa DaSilva places tiles in a pattern she’s laid out on the slab of a historic home destroyed by Katrina, near the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi.

DaSilva is arranging the tiles into a path, a labyrinth inspired, she says, by the form’s historic connection with spiritual journeys.

"For example, the medieval churches of Chartres, if you couldn't make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they would have this labyrinth, this pattern, that you could go to the church and you could walk, and it represented the journey of making a pilgrimage," she says. "So people have used it for a long, long time as a tool for prayer, for meditation and just to represent the journey of becoming whole, healing yourself."

The hurricane-shaped pattern is five circuits in and out, representing the 10 years since the storm. DaSilva says she hopes it will help visitors reflect on how far they’ve come over the past decade.

"It was a huge journey for anyone who survived Katrina," she says. "To rebuild, not just the buildings, but ourselves, our lives, our community, because it was just gone after the storm - all we had was each other. And be grateful, instead of sad."

Ohr museum curator Barbara Johnson Ross says the labyrinth was a natural fit with their Katrina+10 exhibition series.

"As a way to offer people solace or closure," she says. "They can bring pieces of debris out here and place it in the labyrinth and medidate."

This is the fifth of 10 labyrinths DaSilva hopes to build on slabs on the coast ahead of the 10 year anniversary of the storm. Other labyrinths she's created are in Gulfport and Long Beach.

DaSilva says she decided to build the labyrinths on slabs because she sees it as a way to transform one of the storm's eyesores into something beautiful.

"For people to come together, to walk it, to release that negative energy that built up over all this time from the storm and the things that happened since the storm," she says. "To bring anything that they found, little statues, pictures - all of the little things that we found that we saved after the storm - just bring it here. You can set it on the tiles, and on the 10 year anniversary, let it go."