Only one short month after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, before many residents had even returned home, Jared Zeller—a New Orleans resident and music business professional with a deep love for his city—started working on a project to support his community during this extraordinarily intense time.
His neighborhood, Mid-City, suffered severe flooding due to the levee breaks, with flood waters ranging up to eight feet in certain areas. While residents and volunteers from all over the world were spending every day producing sweat and tears to rebuild the community, the MotherShip Foundation provided a break from the grueling task at hand by producing Bayou Boogaloo, a free music and arts festival in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood.
The Bayou Boogaloo was founded as a way to revitalize a neighborhood in peril, to connect neighbors, neighborhoods, and businesses, and to provide hope for the future by creating an opportunity for all residents to celebrate the heritage, culture, and diversity of New Orleans. From the very start, Bayou Boogaloo was more than just a festival: It was an opportunity for people to appreciate the beauty of the bayou, an opportunity for musicians to be paid for their talent and gain new fans, an opportunity for local food vendors to attract new customers to their restaurants and businesses, an opportunity for artists to sell their work and generate exposure, and most of all, an opportunity for people to have a good time.
This grassroots community festival has experienced tremendous growth every year, creating economic opportunities for artists, musicians, food vendors, and the community at large. It has become one of New Orleans signature events, drawing roughly 35,000 people to a once devastated neighborhood.
Offbeat Magazine, which is considered to be “the music resource” of Louisiana, voted Bayou Boogaloo “Best Neighborhood Festival” in 2010. Also in 2010, Zeller was presented with a proclamation from the City of New Orleans for promoting an economically and environmentally sustainable event.
In addition to the Bayou Boogaloo, the MotherShip Foundation pursues its mission through working with neighborhood groups, nonprofits, and other organizations to implement neighborhood improvement projects throughout the year. Previous projects have included building playgrounds, supporting community sports initiatives, planting native habitat-building and erosion-preventing marsh grasses, and replacing trees that are lost during hurricanes.