The Jazz Fest poster, a visual institution begun in 1975 as a means of celebrating the event itself, has taken on a life of its own and become one of the most sought after examples of a popular artwork edition. One that has spawned its own collector market—a 1976 poster recently sold for over $1200 dollars (it originally retailed for $12 dollars, signed), and last year’s poster signed by both the artist, Richard Thomas, and his subject, Fats Domino, sold for three times the original price within hours of selling out on the first day it was released.
This year, ProCreations, the creator of the Jazz Fest poster, has released three limited edition series. A special edition of 500 signed by the artist, Louise Mouton, and her subject, George “Kid Sheik” Colar, is available at $150, retail, while an artist-signed edition of 2,500, and an unsigned numbered edition of 12,500 posters, are available for $76 and $30, respectively.
Ever since ProCreations originated the Jazz Fest poster in 1975 (when company founder Bud Brimberg was a college student) the poster enterprise has steadily grown. The first signed poster, by Maria Laredo, was introduced in 1976, and the edition size has increased over the years. The rest, as they say, is history. Other companies introduced posters celebrating everything from gumbo and frog festivals to cockroaches and boiled shrimp on newspaper, and in the process New Orleans became a capital for popular art poster production. ProCreations has created posters for the Newport Jazz Festival, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the Boston Marathon, both the New Orleans and Vancouver World’s Fairs, and Mardi Gras among others.
This sampling of Jazz Fest posters from years past provides the viewer with something of the flavor of the event and the city that spawned it.
KID SHEIK: A NEW ORLEANS TRADITION
This year’s poster features New Orleans traditional jazzman George “Kid Sheik” Colar, who at age 81 is a living legend. Although essentially self-taught, he was a protege of the late great “Wooden Joe” Nicholas, who had befriended him as a youth. Kid Sheik has performed with a variety of other jazz legends, ranging from Harold Dejan and his Olympia Brass Band to hot jazz titan Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
It is the legacy of Preservation Hall, however, for which he is probably most famous. Kid Sheik’s band began jamming there for a drop-in audience in the 1950s, when it was an art gallery owned by jazz buff Larry Borenstein. This evolved into the Preservation Hall we know today, where his band continues to play the same kind of music it has played for the last 66 years (four of its seven members are over 80 years old).
The poster was created by New Orleans artist Louise Mouton, and employs an iconographic visual language of signs and symbols referencing the exotic socio-historical milieu encoded in this city’s traditional jazz culture—as embodied in the emblematic figure of Kid Sheik. Mouton is a native of the city, extensively trained in printmaking and painting, and is deeply involved with African-American culture. She also designed this year’s Jazz Festival shirt.