A collaboration between the Consulate General of Switzerland's SWISS TOUCH & Green Light New Orleans

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Peter Zimmerli, Consul General of Switzerland in Atlanta

The impact of global warming is felt through changing patterns of water availability, with shrinking glaciers and the increased likelihood of droughts and floods. Regardless of where we live - New Orleans or Switzerland – the duty of all of us is to ensure that sufficient water is available for future generations. Innovative solutions are required on both a large and small scale. With its highly ranked science and technology institutes and a rich startup scene, Switzerland is strongly contributing to global solutions. On the local level, creative solutions are often developed by ingenious minds. Andreas Hoffmann, a Swiss expat living in New Orleans, is one of those creative entrepreneurs. With his rain barrel installations, Andreas Hoffmann found a way to alleviate New Orleans’ water woes by encouraging residents to collect and reuse their rain water. On top of that, the barrels also contribute to the beautification of the recipients’ properties as each barrel is painted by a local artist. The unique approach to water management through art is an important part of our participation at FORESTival. Together with four local artists, we discuss the impact of art on people’s environmental behavior. I look forward to meeting you at FORESTival and I wish to thank Andreas Hoffmann as well as all people involved in this project for their outstanding commitment!

I met Andreas Hoffmann many years ago and I remember him telling me about his Green Light project, replacing all incandescent light bulbs in people’s homes with energy efficient bulbs for everyone who wanted it, regardless of their ability to afford it. It was exciting for me to meet a fellow Swiss citizen since Switzerland is such a small country, especially when it’s someone giving back to their adopted home, like Andreas had. When I became Honorary Consul of Switzerland in New Orleans, I realized how many people had Swiss heritage and how we are all interrelated, Switzerland and Louisiana. Andreas was part of that. We crossed paths again some years later, and I learned he had now saturated the New Orleans market with light bulbs and his organization had grown in new directions. Now Andreas is helping people tackle water management issues, one home at a time. Green Light New Orleans is installing rain barrels, again, regardless of ability to pay. These are no ordinary barrels, but hand painted ones by hired and volunteer artists. I appreciate Andreas’ approach in tackling environmental issues. In both projects – light bulbs and rain barrels – he acknowledged that improving the environment required changing people’s behavior. With the bulbs, people had to think about the whole home and how to make it all more efficient. With the rain barrels, people see how they contribute to the overall ability of the city to manage rain water. It’s good to see Switzerland and Louisiana working together to improve our global environment, one step at a time!


Alexandra Mora, Honorary Consul of Switzerland in New Orleans


Swiss Touch connects Switzerland and the U.S. Led by the Swiss representations in the United States, the Swiss Touch campaign aims to display Switzerland’s uniqueness in terms of innovation and tradition. Following the kickoff in Switzerland in January 2017, Swiss Touch has been touring the US discussing a multitude of topics with Swiss and American stakeholders.

The Table: Swiss Touch is embodied by what appears to be a simple table. The table represents the tradition of high-quality Swiss craftsmanship paired with breakthrough technology. The table invites people to gather and share knowledge about pressing global challenges, while it is also promoting creativity and change through dialogue and forward-looking conversations. The table’s digital features allow individuals to interact with each other as well as to discover its hidden content.

SwissTouch @FORESTival Water management in New Orleans Featuring Greenlight`s rain barrel initiative


Digital Table: Experience the SwissTouch table and learn more about SwissTouch @FORESTival

Rain Barrel Painting: Help us paint rain barrels and learn how you can install your own barrel to save water

Roundtable Discussion: Please join us at 2:30pm for a discussion with local artists to talk about how art can act as a catalyst to save the planet


Alexandra Mora


Miro Hoffmann Michel Varisco Hannah Chalew Anne Blenker

A Studio in the Woods A Studio in the Woods is proud to host SwissTouch at the 9th annual FORESTival: A Celebration of Art and Nature honoring 50 Years of Land and Legacy at A Studio in the Woods. A Studio in the Woods, a program of Tulane University located in an endangered bottomland hardwood forest on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, is dedicated to forest preservation, science-inspired art education and providing a peaceful retreat for artists and scholars who are interested in tackling challenging issues with imagination, resourcefulness and power.

Two regions most vulnerable to climate change The planet’s average surface temperature has risen almost 1˚ C compared to pre-industrial times. Different parts of the world are affected in different ways by the changing climate. Switzerland has experienced an especially big increase of 1.9˚ C due to a decrease in snow cover, which has an important role in reflecting sun light. The results of this year’s Swiss parliamentary elections have demonstrated that more and more people are concerned about the impact of climate change. To explore the environmental correlations between two regions most vulnerable to climate change, Swiss Touch is visiting New Orleans, Louisiana, where Swiss expatriate Andreas Hoffmann leads an environmental project.

Aletschgletscher, 2007

Permafrost is underground material that is frozen all year round and covers 5% of the surface area of Switzerland, which corresponds to twice the area covered by glaciers. Permafrost is structurally important to the Swiss Alps but also helps delaying the snow melt by about 15 to 20 days. Thawing of alpine permafrost increases the frequency and extent of rockfalls and landslides. At the same time glaciers are melting at an accelerated speed. Water shortage in Switzerland and rising sea levels in coastal regions are the direct impact of the disappearance of glaciers.

The solution: To keep the warming of the planet below 1.5ËšC, global carbon emissions need to reach carbon neutrality (a net zero carbon footprint) by 2050 or earlier.

Aletschgletscher, 2019


The problem:


The problem: Most parts of New Orleans are below sea level, enclosed by a levee system designed to protect the city from hurricane storm surges and built to keep water out from surrounding swamp land. Every time rain falls in New Orleans—an average of five feet annually and on occasions 8 inches per hour—the water winds through a system of underground drainage pipes and canals and gets eventually pumped over the levees back into Lake Pontchartrain by 120 pumps. Sometimes the pumps get overwhelmed so that the storm water backs up and slowly fills up the “bowl,” flooding parts of the city. Once the pumps catch up they ironically also pump groundwater out of the city, causing the ground to dry out and collapse. This leads to subsidence, which aggravates the problem. New Orleans sinks into the ground between 1/4 - 3/4 inches per year depending on the area. Combined with rising sea levels, faster strengthening hurricanes and the loss of wetlands, subsidence makes New Orleans one of the most vulnerable cities to climate change.

Climate Change Impact CAUSE



climate change global warming

melting glaciers permafrost thawing

rising sea levels

global warming

loss of snow cover

wetland loss through salt water intrusion

global warming

more extensive rain fall events

more extensive rain fall events

wrong practice of pumping water out of the city

soil subsidence

The solution: Storing water in rain barrels, rain gardens and retention ponds not only reduces flooding but also helps mitigate subsidence. Combining de-paving and tree planting with these solutions will allow retaining the first 1 1/4 inches of rain fall, a number suggested by scientists and urban planners. Pumping the water out of the city consumes a gigantic amount of energy, creating a carbon footprint that can be dramatically reduced by retaining the water and slowly releasing it into the ground after a rain storm.

New Orleans flooding, Dante Street, July 2019



water shortages/ landslides

flooding, stronger and faster hurricanes

reduced reflection of sunlight causing extreme temperatures

loss of hurricane protection

flooding, overwheming of infrastructure

flooding, overwheming of infrastructure flooding


Andreas Hoffmann grew up in Bern, Switzerland. After completing his degree in education at the University of Bern, he decided to follow his passion and became a musician. In 1993, he immigrated to the United States with his young family. His final destination was New Orleans, where music and art have a treasured place in the hearts of its citizens. With his band Andi Hoffmann & B-Goes, Andreas found a home in this amazing city. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, he wanted to contribute to the rebuilding process, and he also realized that an environmental approach was needed to create a city that is resilient and sustainable for the future. Katrina became a call to action to combat climate change for Andreas. To offset the pollution of his touring band, he founded Green Light New Orleans. During the intermissions at his shows in Germany and Switzerland, he asked for donations from his fans, which

financed the creation of a program that switched out incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. It started with a few peoples’ homes, then word spread, and this small action became a movement. Using the unique model developed for the light bulbs, Andreas expanded GLNO’s services to include building backyard vegetable gardens and rain barrels to implement broader environmental change in the city. This work is driven by volunteers—local, national and global—who are inspired and dedicated to making a difference in the New Orleans community. “I am excited about the success of the rain barrel program and how the art on the barrels is creating the conversation around the program. Both my sons, Miro and Luca, are great artists, and I see art as a great tool to drive the change that the world needs to be able to sustain itself. I am a musician after all, and it feels that all the puzzle pieces start to fit together.”

Green Light New Orleans Green Light New Orleans is a grassroots organization that began by swapping incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient CFL and LED bulbs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Between 2007 and 2018, Green Light changed more than 600,000 light bulbs in almost 28,000 homes. This effort reduced the city’s CO2 output by 266 million lbs. and involved over 17,000 volunteers! In 2012 Green Light expanded its programming to also combat food insecurity by installing backyard vegetable gardens and in 2015 expanded again to aid in water management by installing rain barrels. Using the same methodology that helped turn the light bulb program from a small grassroots initiative into a huge community movement, Green Light is aiming to provide households throughout New Orleans with 50-gallon rain barrels that are painted by artists. While the rain barrels combat subsidence and flooding, they also make people more mindful of storm water issues and how their individual, yet collective, actions can actually make a tangible difference.





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ARTIST: Miro Hoffmann

Miro Hoffmann is an emerging visual artist living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hoffmann graduated from NOCCA Riverfront in 2009 and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, earning a BFA in 2013. Since then, Hoffmann has moved back to New Orleans to grow from the richness of culture, food and music that continues to influence his art. Hoffmann was a 2015 artist in residence at The Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans and is currently represented by LeMieux Gallery and WhereY’Art. His body of work explores the rise of urban farming in post-Katrina New Orleans, investigating the history of landscape painting, while grounded in larger issues around climate change, resilience, breaking racial, social, economic boundaries, food deserts, and self-sustainability.

The End of Press St II, 9th Ward New Orleans, LA, acrylic on panel, 25inX50in, 2016

The Middle of Paradigm Gardens, 1131 Rampart St, New Orleans, LA, acrylic on panel, 48inX48in, 2019,

Burn Off, face-mounted chromogenic photograph, 40”x60” 2011

ARTIST: Michel Varisco

Michel Varisco received her Master of Fine Arts from Tulane University, studied in France and Italy, and is an artist/mentor at NOCCA|Riverfront in New Orleans. Her work is included in public, private and corporate collections including the National Library of Paris, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Surdna Foundation Collection and more. She is represented by A Gallery for Fine Photography. Michel Varisco explores the complex relationships between natural and engineered environments in the Anthropocene and studies through her work what it means to live in a “resource cursed” land. Public resistance to the science of climate change has led Varisco to the “what-if” technique of “magical realism” photography in a series entitled “Below Sea Level. Most recently, Varisco was commissioned by the City of New Orleans to create the sculpture Turning, prayer wheels for the Mississippi River.

Seer, Pigment print photograph, 30”x40” 2019

ARTIST: Hannah Chalew

Hannah Chalew is an artist raised and currently working in New Orleans. She graduated from NOCCA in the Visual Arts in 2004, received her BA from Brandeis University in 2009, and her MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2016. Chalew has exhibited widely around New Orleans and the whole country. Her work is held in the collections of the City of New Orleans and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The artwork explores what it means to live in an age of global warming with an uncertain future, and specifically what that means in Southern Louisiana where petrochemical industries dominate the horizons of the vulnerable coastline. Believing that art has the power to make people feel and to change their perspectives, she uses here artwork to reach people on the issues of climate change in an oversaturated information age.

Abundance Undermined, iron oak gall ink on paper made from sugarcane and shredded plastic, 11’ x 8’, 2019

Entropical Futures, found pipes, found electrical wire, bagasse, paper pulp, lime, oops paint, collected plastic litter, LED grow-lights, diffusers, “fertile rot� perfume, native and locally adapted Louisiana plants, installation size variable, 2019

Warm Earth, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 24”, 2018

ARTIST: Anne Blenker

Anne Blenker spent her earliest years in Santa Rosa, California. At 14 she moved to Lafayette, LA where she attended the Lafayette Parish High School Arts Academy program. She then studied fine arts painting at Pratt Institute in New York City. After moving to New Orleans in 2013 she discovered a fascination with aerial topography. She has shown in New Orleans at Parse Gallery, Brand Gallery, NOCCA, and the 2019 Tulane Environmental Law Conference among others. Her work focuses on the ever-shifting contemporary natural landscape. In her paintings she draws on aerial topography, organic shapes and textures for inspiration. In her most recent work she reflects on the New Orleans landscape. Each work features different views of the region’s subtropical ecology and urban landscape, including the Mississippi River and surrounding swamplands. For here and the people it is the most important geographic feature in the region.

Downstream, acrylic on canvas, 48” x 96”, 2019

1349 W. Peachtree Street NW Two Midtown Plaza – Suite 1000 Atlanta, GA 30309, USA

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