This panel and more will be presented on two stages at the Rising Tide 7 Conference on Sept. 22, 2012.

Eventbrite - Rising Tide 7 

Panel Discussion: Community or Commodity?
We've all heard it said that "tourism is the lifeblood of the New Orleans economy." The city is a frequent host to major conventions and high-profile special events and boasts a burgeoning film industry subsidized by a generous state tax credit. 

But as the city's economy becomes more and more dependent on the selling of its culture and entertainments, does the commodification of those elements also stifle them? As we focus more and more on selling "what makes New Orleans New Orleans" to visitors, at what point does the culture produced and revered by the city's residents cease to belong to them anymore? 

At times it feels like our most beloved public spaces are always up for sale.  Jackson Square becomes the site of a private corporate party, the Superdome gets a hood ornament, the city streets are frequently appropriated by film crews, the sidewalks become guerrilla advertising vectors. Residents can be forgiven for wondering whether just going about the business of living their daily lives they might be interfering with the set of a commercial... or maybe an HBO drama.  Even the Mayor, at times, doesn't make distinguishing what's real from what's fake any easier. 

What, then, are the real costs and benefits of the "cultural economy" in New Orleans?

Moderator: Kalen Wright
Community activist, contributor to; more commonly known as "lunanola." As an activist, Wright's efforts and NOLAFemmes posts contributed significantly to voter disapproval of the proposed French Quarter security district tax, prompted the overnight clean-up of Coca-Cola's sidewalk graffiti advertisements in several neighborhoods during the NCAA Men's Final Four competition hosted by New Orleans, and facilitated the ultimate failure of "Hospitality Zone" Senate Bill 573 in the Louisiana Legislature. As the moderator of this panel, she will be "flipping the script" by representing the views of a proponent favoring growth of the tourism industry and the aggressive marketing of New Orleans' culture.

  • Brian Boyles - Creative Director of the People Say Project, Boyles graduated from Tulane University, relocated to New York City in 2001, and became active in the city’s spoken word scene. Beginning in 2003, he developed theater and multi-media events at the Williamsburg Art Nexus in Brooklyn, as well as directing performances at the Sideshow Gallery and the Brecht Forum. His collaboration with choreographer Luke Miller, The Pet Goat, was a Village Voice “Pick” during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. He has been a featured performer at the Charlie Parker Festival, the Vision Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Theater for the New City’s Summer Festival, and a contributor to The New York Theater ReviewThe Maple Leaf Rag,11211, OffBeat, SLAM, The Brooklyn RailGathering of the Tribes Magazine, and Louisiana Cultural Vistas. A DJ and founding member of East Village Radio, he returned to New Orleans in 2006 and began developing programming at the Louisiana Humanities Center (LHC), including the “As Told By Themselves: The New Orleans Brass Bands” oral history project and the LHC’s acclaimed series on the history of the New Orleans mayoralty. In 2011, he was named to Gambit Weekly‘s 40-under-40 list. 
  • Deborah Cotton - Deborah "Big Red" Cotton is a communications consultant, freelance writer and videographer. She has worked as a writer/blogger for AOL, BET, EURweb,, and, covering post-Katrina recovery, politics, life, and culture in New Orleans. She is currently writing for Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, covering second line parades, brass bands, and Mardi Gras Indian culture. She has the largest online archive of brass band and second line parade footage with over 550 videos on her Big Red Cotton YouTube channel. Please also see her personal blog site, Big Red Cotton Presents... 'Notes from New Orleans.'
  • Mari Kornhauser -  Independent filmmaker, French Quarter resident, advocate for abused pit-bulls. She also is an associate professor teaching screenwriting in the LSU creative writing program and has written for HBO's "Treme" since Season Two.

  • Meg Lousteau - Has been active in neighborhood and civic issues, professionally and as a volunteer, for 17 years. For the past four years, she’s been the director of the Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents and Associates, a non-profit neighborhood advocacy group formed in the 1930s to protect and preserve the French Quarter. VCPORA organized the opposition to this year’s failed Hospitality Zone legislation, which would have transferred significant amounts of control of the Quarter and Central Business District from elected representatives to political appointees and representatives of the tourism industry. She chaired the Jackson Square Task Force, which Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer created in response to the outcry over the use of Jackson Square and its environs for the NFL season kickoff event in 2010. Meg was a founding member of the Historic Faubourg Tremé Association, served on its board for five years, and has spent the past nine years renovating her home in that nationally-significant neighborhood.

  • John McCusker - Is a photographer for the Baton Rouge Advocate New Orleans Edition. Prior to that, he worked at theTimes-Picayune for 26 years. He is the author of Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz and founder of the New Orleans Jazz History Tour. He is a New Orleans native.

  • Alex Rawls - After five-plus years editing OffBeat Magazine, Alex Rawls left to launch his own website, My Spilt Milk, which focuses on New Orleans' culture with an emphasis on music. It's the logical extension of his work at OffBeat and Gambit, where he served as music editor before Hurricane Katrina. He has also written on recovery issues for national outlets, and is currently guest-editing Oxford American's music issue, which this year will focus on Louisiana.