A museum centered on Art + Education + Social Justice through the lens of Africa + the diaspora

Langston Allston + Demond Melancon | A Love Letter to New Orleans

Curated by: Langston Allston and Sean Meenan in partnership with Habana Works
Dates: October 19- November 25, 2018
Location: Central and Exterior Galleries @ 80 Hanson Place

Made possible thanks to the generous gifts made by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and NYS Council on the Arts.

Press Preview: Friday, October 19 | 5-7 PM
Opening Reception: Friday, October 19 | 7-10 PM
Artist Talk: Langston Allston + Demond Melancon | Saturday, October 20 | 7-10 PM


An intimate look at the work of two artists, Langston Allston and Demond Melancon, energized by the crescent city in which they first met. Their affection for New Orleans, though driven by different perspectives, found a common thread in their unique bond of friendship which has inspired the other’s artistic journey, whether contemporary or ancestral, ever since.

Langston Allston, an outsider of New Orleans, documents moments that captivate him, from the moments that introduced him to the city to the stories that weave together its contemporary history. Similar to his earlier work which is a reflective collection of love stories, Allston’s dives into the root of his love for the people he’s encountered and the places he’s found them. Thus far, his journey as an artist has been a chaotic and unpredictable one that ultimately led him to settle in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, Demond Melancon carries on the 200-year old tradition of Black masking, which is a core part of New Orleans’ identity. It is a work that is dedicated to ancestors, to heroes, to the people that kept the cultural myths alive and to those that made them real. A native of the region, Melancon’s 26-year journey as an artist has been guided by the spirits of elders to express love as reflected in his work, which features hundreds of thousands of tiny glass beads individually sewn. From Shaka Zulu to Chief Red Cloud, Demond honors all of his subjects — Africans and Native Americans, and the most rebellious among the enslaved in America, who led revolts like, Bras-Coupé.

As an exhibit, A Love Letter to New Orleans navigates the loaded conversations revolving around the city and its constituents as told through the insider/outsider combined experiences of Melancon and Allston, with additional support from Christopher Porche West and Glade Billy. More than this, through A Love Letter the pair pay a great respect to the storied past of New Orleans while offering up a lens into its bright, new future.



Inspired by the exhibit and curated by DJ/Music Supervisor Run P.



Big Chief Demond Melancon is a multidisciplinary contemporary artist and performer with extensive roots in the Black Masking Culture of New Orleans. With a career spanning almost three decades, Melancon is well-known for his meticulous hand-sewn beadwork used to create massive Mardi Gras Indian suits which are composed of intricately beaded patches depicting actual and imagined events from African and American history. His complex and multidimensional portrayals draw inspiration from indigenous people in America, enslaved Africans, and inspirational leaders from history. His work draws from a broad variety of stylistic influences, features imagery rich with symbolism and meaning, addresses stereotypical representations of black people, and tells powerful stories from his experience of the African diaspora.

Melancon was born in 1978 and grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He was initially taught by a prolific Mardi Gras Indian elder named Big Chief Ferdinand Bigard. Melancon went on to study under Nathanial Williams in connection with a 1993 Louisiana Folklife Apprenticeship Grant. Melancon joined the Seminole Hunters and masked as a Spy Boy for over 15 years under Big Chief Keitoe Jones. In 2012 the elders of the Mardi Gras Indian community declared that Melancon would then be known as Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters, his very own tribe based in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

For more, visit http://demondmelancon.com


Langston Allston: “I use paintings and murals to tell stories and explore hidden histories, through careful research and site-specific installations. Over the past year my work has been focused on describing the intimate relationships between people and the places they live. That project began with an exploration of my relationship to my home in New Orleans, and continued with my research with the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago.

My work comes from listening attentively to and learning actively with the people around me, pulling together images from the cacophony of experiences that frame each piece. In my public art sometimes this framing comes from the environment around the piece; the Andre Callioux murals at St. Rose presented New Orleans’ first black Civil War hero beneath cathedral architecture, amidst heated debate around monuments in the city. In my work with the National Public Housing Museum each drawing was supported by anecdotes from the residents of Chicago public housing. Ultimately each piece aims to tell honest, legible, compassionate, and exciting stories about the spaces and the people who inhabit them.”

For more visit, http://langstonallston.com


Habana Works is the charitable extension of the Habana Restaurant Group founded by Sean Meenan. Incorporating the Group’s core ideals, Habana Works strives to spread love and connect communities through art, environmentalism, shared experiences, and philanthropic giving. Its programming ranges from free children’s events and environmentally friendly markets to artist sponsorships and direct donations to local charities. In this case, Habana Works is proud to work with MoCADA, Langston, and Demond to both showcase their incredible art for the entire MoCADA community and to spread a little New Orleans Love up the Brooklyn way.

For more, visit https://cafehabana.com/habana-works


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