In The Media

Sep 16, 2010
Artist Uses Talent to Help Homeless
By Earl Hodges, Contributing writer
The Times Picayune

When Metairie artist William Crowell received 10 cases of rice as payment from Jazzmen Rice for a painting he did of Louis Armstrong, he didn't quite know what to do.

"I knew my wife and I could eat some of it, and I could share the rice with friends and neighbors," Crowell said. "But I would still have a lot of rice left over."

After giving it some thought, Crowell came up with what seemed to be an ideal solution for the abundance of rice stacked in his workshop next to his brushes, easels and paintings.

"I thought about the state of the economy and all of the people who are struggling, who are hungry and who are in need help," Cromwell said. "There are so many people today who don't have enough to eat."

Crowell contacted Sister Jane Remson, director of the New Orleans chapter of Bread for the World, and asked her for guidance. Remson said she encouraged Crowell to contact Deacon Biaggio DiGiovanni, director of Ozanam Inn in New Orleans.

And it's the Ozanam Inn where Crowell ultimately donated the rice.

"There is always something that people can do to help feed the hungry," Remson said. "Some think you can only give money. But what Mr. Crowell did is wonderful. He used his talent as an artist to help provide food for those in need."

When DiGiovanni heard that Crowell wanted to donate the rice, he said he "didn't hesitate to accept the offer."

Crowell, 57, paints primarily scenes of the French Quarter. His work has won the "best of show" award several times at local art shows since 2001 with his most recent win coming last November at the Louisiana Watercolor Society Show in Hammond.

Crowell said he originally did the painting of Louis Armstrong for the 2009 Satchmofest Art Show. The painting didn't win or sell at the fest. A year later, when he still hadn't found a buyer for it, he decided to contact Jazzmen Rice, which has an image of Armstrong on its bags of rice, to see if they would be interested in it.

After some negotiation, Crowell had 10 cases of rice and Jazzmen Rice had the painting of the New Orleans jazz legend.

George Chin, president of Jazzmen Rice and one of the company's founders, said the company will display the painting of Armstrong at their corporate office on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans and possibly use it for one of the company's annual posters.

Ozanam Inn, established in 1955, provides three meals a day, seven days a week to those in need. DiGiovanni said 650 meals are served daily on average.

Ozanam's main meal is lunch, and rice is often served with such classic New Orleans dishes as red beans and jambalaya, DiGiovanni said.

"The rice that Mr. Crowell donated will help us provide meals for those we serve," DiGiovanni said. "The donation will also allow us to use other money in our budget for such things as utilities."

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