Bruce Davenport, Jr. at the Mahalia Jackson Center

Mahalia Jackson Center
2405 Jackson Avenue
Early Childhood & Family Learning Foundation
Monday- Friday, 10am – 5 pm

This exhibition features Prospect artists who have developed work in and about Angola State Penitentiary, presented together with art by Angola prisoners. Symposium and community activities at the recently opened school and community center in Central City, organized in collaboration with the Innocence Project and Resurrection after Exoneration, are planned in conjunction with the exhibition.

Bruce A. Davenport, Jr.

Bruce Davenport is a native New Orleanian who grew up in the Lafitte public housing projects in the Sixth ward. He started drawing stick men at the age of five, and from those figures evolved the detailed, colorful renderings of New Orleans life that has brought him the attention of the artworld.

Davenport is mostly known for his drawings of New Orleans public school marching bands: “The marching bands are a passion to me. I love the history and culture. Without the band, a lot of kids wouldn’t have a reason or make the effort to graduate from high school and go on in life to achieve goodness and stay focused. I keep the FAITH. God is good all the TIME.”

The series presented here developed during trips made to Angola Prison to visit family members. The six drawings trace the course of the act of crime, and its consequence: Prison and Prison life. For Davenport, drawing is a tool that helps him deal with hardship: “My art is like a peaceful state of mind. My talent is a gift from God and a blessing.” 

While attending Craig Elementary, Davenport would be rewarded with art prizes and was encouraged by having his winning art displayed on every floor of the school.  He went on to Andrew J. Bell Jr. High School and then to Clark Sr. High School where he excelled in playing sports. Art wasn’t a serious subject for Davenport; it was the furthest thing from his mind.  Later when enrolled in college, football was more of his passion and seemingly the ticket out of the projects for his family and he put all that he had into it.  An unfortunate injury sidelined his dream of pursuing the NFL and after twelve years of not picking up a pen, he resumed his latent interest in art.

In an effort to share his talent while simultaneously publicizing his work, Davenport has donated his creations to twenty local high schools in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes and some ten universities, some of which include Southern, Grambling, Florida A&M, Texas Southern and Jackson State.

His work has been prominently featured alongside the work of other up and coming artists and well established folk artists at The Contemporary Arts Center City Stage Event in New Orleans, Prospect.1 for the St. Claude Collective, and in New York’s Dieu Donné. Of further note, Davenport has consistently given back to his community by donating to fundraising art auctions like the NO/AIDS Task Force holiday gala Art Against AIDS, a John T. Scott fundraiser and local PBS affiliate WYES channel 12, among many others.