Multidisciplinary artist Asante Salaam will serve as the inaugural director of The Helis Foundation John Scott Center at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH). Named for artist, activist, and humanist John T. Scott, the center will present more than 50 original works by Scott in 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibition space. The center will open on the ground floor of the LEH’s historic Turners’ Hall headquarters in downtown New Orleans in the spring of 2022.
“The establishment of The Helis Foundation John Scott Center at the LEH is a powerful investment in recognizing, celebrating, and activating one of New Orleans’s most dynamic, instrumental and visionary artists and thinkers,” states Salaam. “I am inspired by the center’s future as a uniquely interpretive museum and community space that cultivates engagement, sparks discussion, and addresses social concerns, and I am thrilled to serve as the center’s founding director.”
Born in 1940 in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward neighborhood, Scott was best known for his kinetic sculptures and his commitment to teaching students at Xavier University of Louisiana, where he was on faculty for over forty years. In 1992 Scott received a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Common themes in his work—including human expression, human and civil rights, and human interaction—will serve as jumping-off points for programming at the center.
Salaam brings over 26 years of experience to her role as center director. She previously worked for the New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy from 2011 to 2019, where she managed programming and served as interim director. In addition, she has worked with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, Louisiana State Museum, The Porch, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, KID smART, National Endowment for the Arts, and Greater Jackson Arts Council in Mississippi.
“The founding director of The Helis Foundation John Scott Center is a leadership role at the LEH that will guide us in honoring the legacy of an important native son and creating a public space dedicated to fostering inquiry and dialogue through arts and humanities. In this way,” says LEH President/Executive Director Miranda Restovic, “the center will be the LEH’s storefront to the community and beyond, requiring special leadership to bring it to life. Asante brings passion, skill, and experience to the role, and we are excited to welcome her to the LEH family.”