Natchez native relocates to New Orleans

Published 12:32 am Sunday, September 2, 2007

For former Natchez resident Noah Saterstrom, the decision to relocate from Denver to New Orleans was almost a whim.

A painter, Saterstrom was in the city for a show opening in May when he decided he needed to spend more time in New Orleans.

“The magic of the city is really intact,” he said.

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Saterstrom, the grandson of Margaret Wesley and nephew of Helen Rayne, said he plans to start an art journal.

“It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with New Orleans, but I wanted to be close to whatever energy is going on in New Orleans right now and see if there is any holding space for art,” he said. “I want to see what kind of community for artists has formed down there.

“I’m interested in what’s going on with the arts at a grassroots level.”

New Orleans — especially in its current state — has a special attraction for artists, Saterstrom said.

“There’s this search with artists to be where the periphery is because that’s usually where the action is,” he said. “There’s something so marginal about New Orleans that it’s almost like the edge.”

The people who have remained in the city have a special kind of emotional transparency that Saterstrom has not encountered in other parts of the country, he said.

“People are so much more transparent with their lives and what they find difficult or joyful about living,” he said. “In so many other places people are so guarded, but (in New Orleans) people aren’t isolated from one another.”

Because of the state of the city and what people have witnessed in the last two years, citizens are more aware of how things operate at local, state and federal levels than they would be if things had always gone well, Saterstrom said.

“That kind of thing is almost common conversation,” he said. “It’s almost refreshing that people have to pay attention to (government). There is almost something beautiful about people having to pay that much attention to their lives, but that’s also devastating.”

Because of the recovery effort and the sheer volume of work needed to go into it, some things — like cutting the grass in the medians — have been neglected while others — like getting plumbing and roofing work — have been severely delayed, Saterstrom said.

“Weeds are seven feet tall and the handful of people out there (in the lower Ninth Ward) complain it’s like living in the country,” he said.

But those setbacks won’t deter New Orleanians, Saterstrom said.

“In the nation there is a lot of perception people should leave New Orleans, but there’s something so peculiar about the city,” he said. “It’s in people’s blood.”

While reports of the bad things happening in the city may filter out in greater numbers than the good, people are working to improve the situation, Saterstrom said.

“A lot of people are working toward non-violence and setting up a recycling program,” he said. There’s always a need for things to happen, and it’s up to people to sort it out the where and how.”