Oak Street mural shines a light on financial domestic abuse


Despite its buoyant pastel colors and popping fireworks pattern, a new mural on Oak Street is meant to draw attention to a serious problem suffered by victims of domestic violence. The message of the mural, “financial abuse is hard to see,” is difficult to decipher at first. But it can be clarified somewhat by the use of the Instagram “Moon” filter.

The mural, by the New Orleans-based Milagro Collective, is part of an awareness campaign devised by the Allstate Insurance Foundation, called “Purple Purse.” As the foundation’s website explains “One of the most harmful forms of domestic violence is called financial abuse, where abusers limit or prevent access to financial resources, like bank accounts and job opportunities. This is one of the main reasons victims stay in or return to an abusive relationship.”

The solution to the problem, the foundation advises, is by educating the families, friends and work colleagues of potential victims to the warning signs.

Asked why a foundational affiliated with a corporate powerhouse like Allstate Insurance would resort to a modest strategy such as street art to spread the word, foundation spokesman Ellen Lisak said that the mural itself is only the start. Street art, Lisak explained, is a magnet for smartphone photography. The message might seem to be confined to a few square feet of wall space on Oak Street, but in fact the message could spread across the city and beyond. Other locally-produced Purple Purse murals have been painted in other cities as well.

Who knows if the Allstate Foundation’s awareness strategy will work. But what’s interesting is how the strategy harmonizes with an aspect of all graffiti and street art in the 21st century.

In the past, murals and graffiti popped up on city streets where commuters and passers-by couldn’t miss it. But over the last decade or so, laboriously made graffiti murals have appeared in lonely, out of the way locations. The reason, as explained by the artists in the Ogden Museum of Art’s 2016 exhibit “Top Mob: A History of New Orleans Graffiti,” was the advent of the cell phone and social media.

These days the walls exist in our purses and pockets as well as the streets; that’s the phenomenon the Allstate Foundation is counting on.

The mural was painted with permission of the Yes Yoga studio at the corner of Oak and Cambronne Streets