The Congo Square @ Jazz Fest poster enjoys a purpose and personality distinct from the “Classic” Jazz Fest poster. It celebrates the Afro-Caribbean diaspora at the core of America’s (and the world’s) culture that is figuratively and literally at Jazz Fest’s heart. As a boutique project produced in significantly smaller editions than its older sibling, its art is inherently freer, subtler and rarer. The project has developed a loyal following of curating collectors who prefer whispers to screams. This approach has attracted eminent artists including Elizabeth Catlett (2000) and Benny Andrews (2001), artists most could only dream of collecting otherwise. The poster is a secret bargain; it makes big name artists accessible and presents new talent at the beginning of promising careers that will typically push them out of reach.
Fats Domino has been portrayed twice before on the Jazz Fest poster: 1989’s colorful pop-art quad-panel by Richard Thomas - the first time an actual performer was portrayed on the poster - and Michalopoulos' 2006, honoring Fats’ dramatic Katrina rescue. His passing late last year reminded all of us of his status in the world well beyond New Orleans.
Our favorite anecdote dates to that first poster. It took some convincing that signing 500 prints wouldn't burden him. He finally agreed when we said we'd bring the prints to his house. On the appointed day - a Monday - we arrived to find Fats in his kitchen in the Lower Ninth Ward stirring a big pot of red beans. He began signing the posters at his kitchen table, getting up every so often to sample the beans, season them and stir the pot.