My New Orleans: Artist Terrance Osborne

The Jazzfest poster artist draws inspiration from his hometown

Terrance Osborne doesn’t sing or play a musical instrument, yet he’s one of Jazzfest’s most popular annual draws. In addition to creating the festival’s 2007 and 2010 commemorative Congo Square prints and its official 2012 poster of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Osborne painted this year’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band image. You’ll find him at his Congo Square booth April 25-27 and May 1-4 greeting old fans and generating new ones.

This is your second Jazzfest poster. Any connection between the two as with your complementary Congo Square series?

The only connection is little T+S with a heart around it. I put it in a lot of my work. It’s on the porch below the bricks on the Trombone Shorty poster; on this year’s poster it’s underneath the balcony near a bracket. It stands for Terrance + Stephanie. It’s just symbolic of my love for my wife and a way to honor her.

2014 Jazzfest poster
Osborne’s 2014 poster of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (©2014 N.O.J.H.F. Inc., Published by ART4NOW Inc., New Orleans,

Who would you like to take the final spot in your Congo Square triptych?

Louis Armstrong has been done so many times, but to paint him would be great. He had such character. There’s already a tuba and a drummer, so a trumpet would be the perfect addition.

Which of your four Jazzfest/Congo Square posters is your favorite?

The 2012 Shorty poster is my personal favorite. It’s not a specific thing; it’s more an overall feeling. When I put all of the posters next to each other, that one I feel like I created entirely from my mind’s eye. I created that neighborhood and everything on the poster, with the exception of Shorty’s face, which was made from a combination of a few photos. 

Architecture is a recurring theme in your work. Compare local architecture with local music.

New Orleanians are really proud of our houses, our culture and our music, so it’s kind of all the same. Our music is an expression of our passion for our city; it was born out of that. And so is the architecture. When you look at a New Orleans house, the person who lives there seems to belong there, because it’s a reflection of their character. The houses we live in, the way we design them, are expressions of our creativity and love for our city.

New Orleans architecture
The city's colorful architecture informs Osborne's vibrant works. (©Cosmo Condina/

How long have you been exhibiting at Jazzfest?

About 12 years. I first exhibited because of Richard Thomas, who was my teacher and introduced me to paint. He’s been at Jazzfest for 30-plus years, and actually did this year’s Congo Square poster [of Ernie K-Doe]. So, it’s interesting, the whole student/teacher thing.

How has the fest’s arts scene changed?

The culture at the Fair Grounds has gotten a lot more vibrant over the years. When you walk around and look at the artwork booths, everything is colorful. I think people are infatuated with color now.

Terrance Osborne Jazzfest art booth
Osborne's art booth is one of Jazzfest's most popular. (©Jay Combe/NOCVB)

Are there any stages or food booths you have to hit each year?

I don’t commit to any certain stage. If there’s an artist playing that I like, then I’ll go wherever. But the Mango Freeze is a favorite. We also like the jama jama, a plantains, spinach and rice dish. I don’t know who the vendor is offhand—I know it when I see it—but gotta have those plantains. They’re delicious. 

Any advice for first-time festgoers?

Head to the Grandstand to cool off—often!