How to ‘Soak’ in New Orleans

The conversation about the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failure of 2005 on New Orleans’ visual arts community has shifted in the past few years. Though the tragedy and resonance of all that has transpired is far from forgotten, more prescient are issues related to the urban development and gentrification that have followed the cultivation of a thriving contemporary art scene. There are many positive aspects to the rapid growth the city has experienced in recent years, as transplants from all over the world continue to arrive in droves and, alongside longtime residents, contribute to the continuing re-building process. But there are also many reasons to be wary. In addressing the politics of this expanding cultural landscape, it is essential to consider the outside forces that have shaped the city’s visual arts community as well as the local grassroots efforts that have maintained it. It is also crucial to understand the communal nature of the city, and the way in which artists operating in New Orleans mirror the city’s existing social structures and cyclical calendar.

As many New Orleans’ residents are quickly being priced out of their neighborhoods, other young entrepreneurs have found ways of hustling and bartering their way into opportunities that are unheard of in most American cities today—Detroit and Buffalo being notable exceptions. Post-Katrina, numerous artists, musicians, and performers moved into the Bywater (also known as the Upper Ninth Ward)—though many already lived in this working class neighborhood prior to 2005. The synergy and growth in the Bywater has also seeped into nearby neighborhoods such as the Tremé and Mid-City, as have the residual effects of heightened rent and increased tourist activity. Artists in the city have staked an additional claim in the Bywater/Upper Ninth Ward as instigators and participants in a number of artist-initiated endeavors located on or in close proximity to St. Claude Avenue. Many of the artist-run spaces in New Orleans have verbal agreements with their landlords or pay reduced rent in exchange for maintenance and construction of their buildings—some artist-collectives even own the buildings that house their galleries. The epicenter of this ongoing conversation is primarily the Bywater, though artist-run spaces in nearby neighborhoods such as the Marigny and St. Roch and as far away as the Central Business District and Magazine Street are also part of this dialogue.

View over the Industrial Canal on St. Claude Ave, November 3, 1953. Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

View over the Industrial Canal on St. Claude Ave, November 3, 1953. Charles L. Franck/Franck-Bartacci Photographers Collection. Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection.

The constellation of DIY grassroots artist collectives, galleries, and cooperatives in the Bywater has come to be known as the St. Claude Arts District (SCAD).[1] Though it is an acronym that screams the kind of city planning that many New Orleanians vehemently resist, it was designated as such by artists Jeffrey Holmes and Andrea Garland along with Farrington Smith Gallery and Barrister’s Gallery in October 2005. Following the media attention garnered by the post-Katrina “Toxic Art” exhibition organized by L’Art Noir New Orleans on the neutral ground of St. Claude Avenue, artists residing in the neighborhood worked together to unite the visual arts community. L’Art Noir and Farrington Smith are now defunct, though they served as important precursors to many of the existing galleries and artist-run spaces in the area, as did other ad-hoc exhibitions organized in temporary spaces, coffee shops, nightclubs, or makeshift galleries throughout the city such as the Saturn Bar, The Pickery, and Big Top. In addition to a website ( that serves as a resource for activities in the district, one of the most important aspects of this initiative was (and is) the coordinated gallery openings on the second Saturday of each month.

In most American cities, artist-run spaces, collectives, or cooperatives are often referred to as “alternative” spaces. As has been parsed, processed, and unpacked in numerous texts, lectures, panel discussions, and seminars over the last several decades, the term “alternative”—or “alter the native,” in the words of Exit Art co-founder Papa Colo—is inherently problematic. Julie Ault acknowledges the complicated use of the term in her introductory text for the exhibition “Cultural Economies:  Histories from the Alterative Arts Movement, NYC” in 1996.[2]

“The very word alternative produces endless arguments. It’s provocative and meaningless, and suggests simultaneously an opening up and closing down. Naming oneself alternative sets up both distance from and bondage to dominant institutions and ideas. It implies both a subordinate and a rebellious, perhaps productive, relationship to power. For critically constructive activities and structures it becomes essential to reject the term as a label. The more radical a group effort, the more likely it is to resist the tag. ‘We are not alternative to anything’ is a much-echoed sentiment that defies simple binary readings of power and its dynamics.”[3]

In New Orleans, the artist-run spaces are the central contemporary art scene and are most certainly not an “alternative,” since the city’s three established museums/art centers—the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (Ogden)—are not devoted exclusively to international contemporary art. That said, all three institutions have significantly increased their contemporary art programming in recent years. NOMA hired Miranda Lash, the museum’s first ever curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, in 2008, and the Ogden has organized several exhibitions that included artists who are members of artist-run spaces in the city (though their program is limited to artists based in the South and/or traveling exhibitions from Southern institutions).

The CAC is a multi-disciplinary arts institution founded in 1976 by a group of artists and patrons with programming encompassing music, theater, and visual art. Post-Katrina, the CAC’s longtime curator, David S. Rubin, left the city after six years at the institution. Curator Dan Cameron was hired in 2007 as the Director of Visual Arts at the CAC around the same time that he founded U.S. Biennial, Inc. and began developing Prospect.1. He curated several exhibitions with local artists (as well as international artists) during his tenure, including “Hot Up Here” in 2009, which featured a handful of up-and-coming artists based in New Orleans. Prospect.1 was the first exhibition in the institution’s history to utilize the two upper floors of the CAC’s massive warehouse space and seemed to be a spark of hope for the art center. I followed Cameron in the position of Director of Visual Arts in January 2011 and in February of 2012 curated Spaces:  Antenna, The Front, and Good Children Gallery, which was the first exhibition to bring together these three artist collectives. In the wake of my  resignation and a subsequent action of twenty St. Claude artists to remove work from the CAC in protest of instututional improprieties, the organization has made attempts at restructuring by hiring a new Executive Director, Neil Barclay, as well as adding St. Claude artists to their board such as Bob Snead, a member of Antenna Gallery, and Tony Campbell, a member of Good Children Gallery.

Lash continues to present progressive contemporary art programming and scholarship at NOMA (within the structure of an encyclopedic museum with a 40,000-object collection consisting primarily of work from ancient to modern times) and is a strong advocate for the artist-run spaces in the city. As she stated in her essay for The Front’s second publication, it has been essential for the artists in the city to create spaces to present their work and that of their peers—out of sheer necessity.

Exterior of The Front

Exterior of The Front at 4100 St. Claude Ave

The Front’s creation reflected a moment of self-determination, critical for the artists involved, but also reflective of a general trend spreading throughout the city at the time, particularly on St. Claude. Rather than wait for outside forces to provide them with opportunities, several clusters of artists around St. Claude decided to build their own spaces for showing art on the periphery of the city’s center, run under a non-hierarchical model of self-governance.”[4]

The initial drive to streamline and to some degree systematize the arts community—on its own terms—occurred around the same time that maps distributed by the Urban Land Institute designated a number of New Orleans’ neighborhoods as “green space,” insinuating that they should not be rebuilt post-Katrina. Art critic and writer D. Eric Bookhardt briefly addresses this issue in his essay “The St. Claude Arts District:  A Brief History.”

“Citizens of New Orleans, anarchic in the best of times, would have none of it and rose up in mass protest, quickly mobilizing into militant groups that successfully agitated for neighborhood self-determination. This was, in fact, the same DIY spirit that simultaneously propelled St. Claude area artists to create their own galleries and artist run organizations, which in short order brought new interest and vitality to the surrounding neighborhood.”[5]

For those who live or have spent significant time in New Orleans, this passionate embrace of the city is a familiar sentiment. And while many (myself included) have echoed Bookhardt’s enthusiasm about this lively, growing community, it is important to remain attentive to how arts organizations situated in various city neighborhoods impact their residents.

There are many differences between the burgeoning visual arts community in New Orleans and the galleries (mostly commercial) that dominated New York’s Lower East Side in the mid-1980s, but it is useful to re-visit Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel’s seminal essay, “The Fine Art of Gentrification,” which provides an in-depth analysis of the art community that came to prominence in the decade of indulgence and which has now developed into a neighborhood that is home to the New Museum and myriad commercial galleries and alternative art spaces.[6] The text unabashedly points out the art world’s “marginal interest” on the subject and the wide range of opinions that proliferated at that time. The development of the Tenth Street Galleries (artist-run cooperative spaces) in New York in the early 1950s also shares many parallels with the recent activities on or around St. Claude Avenue, though the many texts regarding gentrification and uneven urban development in the 1980s are more aligned with the difficult questions prompted when considering the rapid development of the Bywater over the last ten years.

The racial and economic divides in New Orleans are overwhelmingly apparent in the steep rise of real estate prices in specific pockets of the city. In Richard Campanella’s “Gentrification and its Discontents:  Notes from New Orleans,” he included a somewhat contentious map that targets what he deems the “hot spots” of gentrification along the Mississippi River.[7] The article sparked a wave of both support and dissent locally and was followed shortly after by a panel at Tulane University, “Does progress destroy culture?” The panel mysteriously overlooked the visual arts community, focusing instead on music and tourism.

Hot spots of post-Katrina gentrification. Map and analysis by Richard Campanella. Courtesy of Richard Campanella and

Hot spots of post-Katrina gentrification. Map and analysis by Richard Campanella. Courtesy of Richard Campanella and

To understand the current state of affairs on or around St. Claude Avenue, it is necessary to briefly elaborate on the activities by organizations/entities located outside the city that have helped shape the visual arts community. As has been discussed and written about widely, several forces converged post-Katrina. These included, but are not limited to, the official announcement of the international biennial Prospect New Orleans in 2007 (Prospect.1 occurred in 2008, Prospect.2 in 2011, and Prospect.3 is scheduled for 2014), Paul Chan’s production of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans in the Lower Ninth Ward (organized by Creative Time and curator Nato Thompson) in November 2007, various initiatives by the Life is Art Foundation/KK Projects, and Transforma, which sought to engage artists in the rebuilding of New Orleans (spearheaded by artists Sam Durant and Rick Lowe from 2005-2010). While the presence of large-scale exhibitions and projects by well-funded organizations such as Creative Time and U.S. Biennial, Inc. undoubtedly served to unite local artists and ideas and aided in bringing attention to a largely overlooked visual arts community, it was (and is) the grassroots efforts of local artists that have built and sustained these activities (often on their own dime) for the last decade.

Transforma Projects produced a fantastic downloadable catalogue that outlines their activities, but unfortunately the website is not currently accessible online. They defined their mission as such:

“Transforma [was] a collective of artists and creative professionals formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to support and celebrate cultural practices that impact the social and physical environment. The initiative sought to expand opportunities for artists to use their creativity in the rebuilding of New Orleans by exploring the relationship between art making and issues such as education, health, the environment, and community development.”[8]

Though it was intended to be an “on-the-ground” effort providing support (financial and otherwise) to artists in New Orleans, it remained largely invisible, and thus ignored to some degree by those in the local community who it did not directly benefit. Aimee Chang, in her essay “The Artist and the City:  New Models for Creative Public Practice” for the Transforma catalogue, is very transparent about the difficulties the organization faced when attempting to work with and support the visual arts community in New Orleans post-Katrina:

“Different reasons and possibilities have been put forward by the core Transforma team for why they were not able to integrate artists into the core of the rebuilding process, including an overly optimistic view of the openness of cities to major change in the wake of large-scale disasters. Initially the team thought that the lack of infrastructure would lend them flexibility in reenvisioning the city; instead they found not only that it was difficult to operate without a functioning infrastructure but also that in a situation of such devastation people often gravitated toward what had existed in the past in an attempt to establish security and equilibrium. This finding has been cited by the Transforma team as one of the major lessons learned from this process. These difficulties were exacerbated by the political complexity of New Orleans, especially for a group headed by people who were not living in the city full-time.”[9]

Though much has changed since this essay was written, it remains a bit challenging for outside organizations/initiatives to seamlessly connect with the local arts community. The lack of infrastructure Chang cites may have created obstacles for certain entities located beyond the city (especially in the years immediately post-Katrina), but for artists living in New Orleans it has been advantageous.

The Joan Mitchell Foundation (based in New York City) warrants special attention as they are one of a few private art foundations situated outside of the city that has consistently supported the visual arts community in New Orleans. In November of 2008, the foundation announced twelve New Orleans Career-Opportunity Grant Recipients, which included two artist collectives:  Tchoupitoulas Studio Group (no longer in existence) and The Front. Many of the projects funded through this initiative coincided with Prospect.1. Additionally, the Joan Mitchell Foundation has provided necessary support to a number of local institutions and organizations including Louisiana ArtWorks (now defunct), the CAC, the Arts Council of New Orleans (specifically their Art in Public Places and Arts Business Program), and many others. According to a recent article in The Times Picayune:

“In the five years following Hurricane Katrina, the foundation poured about $2 million into the New Orleans art community to help artists and institutions recover from the 2005 hurricane and flood. In 2010, the foundation also acquired a cluster of historic 7th Ward properties for $1.25 million. Those buildings, which center on a historic, Creole-style plantation house at 2275 Bayou Road, are the site of the Joan Mitchell Center.”[10]

In 2013, the Joan Mitchell Center began a new chapter with the launch of a Pilot Artist-In-Residence Program through which they invited twenty-four artists who were past recipients of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Painters and Sculptors and MFA Grants to participate in the inaugural residency located in temporary studio spaces on N. Rampart Street. Recently, the Center has focused on being a resource to the local community, swinging open its doors to host an array of public meetings and programs like Visual Mashup, monthly Pecha Kucha style presentations by local artists.

Rebecca Solnit, in her epilogue for A Paradise Built in Hell:  The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, echoes the oft-cited assertion about post-Katrina New Orleans:  “Politics failed, culture prevailed.”[11] Solnit summarizes that post-disaster scenarios such as what occurred in New Orleans reveal the strength of communal/creative efforts locally and the feebleness often displayed by existing structures and agencies (in this case, the local and federal government) in calamitous moments.

“Hierarchies and institutions are inadequate to these circumstances; they are often what fails in such crises. Civil society is what succeeds, not only in an emotional demonstration of altruism and mutual aid but also in a practical mustering of creativity and resources to meet the challenges … Citizens themselves in these moments constitute the government—the acting decision-making body—as democracy has always promised and rarely delivered. Thus disasters often unfold as though a revolution has already taken place.”[12]

Paul Chan expresses a similar assessment in the essay he contributed to The Front’s publication documenting their first 15 months in existence:

“The emergence of The Front and other groups in the city (artistic, political, religious, civil) is a testament to the will of the people to self-organize against the wake of a natural disaster slowly turning into a societal tragedy already precipitated by political inertia, poverty, and racism.”[13]

Both Solnit and Chan, though not city residents, spent significant time in the city post-Katrina, participating in a personal and nuanced capacity at moments when the city was at its weakest—and their writing stands as a testament to their appreciation of and concern for the city and its people.

Dilapidated building on Dauphine Street in the Bywater (building now being renovated). Photo courtesy of Amy Mackie.

Dilapidated building on Dauphine Street in the Bywater (building now being renovated). Photo courtesy of Amy Mackie.

Visual arts organizations such as U.S. Biennial, Inc., which oversees Prospect New Orleans, were certainly more successful (than government agencies) in rallying local support towards rebuilding the visual arts community, though their relationship to the city (as an organization) is somewhat distanced. This structure is not unlike that of many transitory international biennials or triennials such as Manifesta that briefly infiltrate a community then disperse, but the difference is that Prospect New Orleans seems more akin to inSite or SITE Santa Fe—exhibitions “sited” in places where it is/was (both are no longer in existence) impossible to overlook the local community. Curator and critic Joshua Decter states the following in his essay “Art and the Cultural Contradictions of Urban Regeneration, Social Justice and Sustainability: Transforma Projects and Prospect.1 in Post-Katrina New Orleans”:

“Prospect.1 managed to distribute itself through a variety of sites across the city, and a map included local art spaces that were not officially part of the biennial, suggesting a desire to accommodate the indigenous situation—perhaps so that the biennial might institutionalize itself as intrinsic to the context on a sustainable basis. And then we must return, again, to the question of whether the biennial actually functioned as an effective engine for a new kind of cultural tourism, and whether this engine is (or should be) sustainable, which is ultimately a decision that the citizens, communities and local government officials of New Orleans will have to make.”[14]

Though this is not often the case, in a small, tight-knit community such as New Orleans, U.S. Biennial Inc. would serve to fill its self-proclaimed desire to “contribute to the cultural economy of New Orleans and the Louisiana Gulf region” by maintaining a more active presence in the city in its interim years and supporting artist-initiated endeavors locally in addition to providing resources for the community that are otherwise absent.

As Natalie Sciortino-Rinehart (a founding member of The Front) states in her assessment of Prospect.1 in 2009:

“Of the 81 artists in “Prospect.1,” only 11 were from Louisiana. While one could rightly argue that an international art biennial should not include local artists simply for the sake of local representation, the inescapably altruistic undertone to “Prospect.1” left many wondering why the opportunity for substantial investment in the New Orleans art scene went largely unexplored.”[15]

Prospect New Orleans replied promptly to local criticism following Prospect.1 by announcing Prospect.1.5. The exhibition brought together local artists—many who were or are members of artist-run spaces in New Orleans—in a handful of venues throughout the city. According to the prospectus for Prospect.1.5 in 2010:

“Prospect.1.5 is the first of what are planned to be an ongoing series of inter- biennial programs, developed to focus on artists working in New Orleans and the Southeast region, as well as artists originally from Louisiana and living elsewhere. Organized for years when no biennial is scheduled, and in collaboration with public art centers and museums, schools, alternative spaces and commercial galleries in New Orleans, Prospect.1.5 is a staggered program of group exhibitions and one-artist projects involving more than 50 artists, that run from early November 2010 to late February 2011.”[16]

Prospect.1.5 echoed initiatives such as the Southern Open in Lafayette, LA (in existence since 2007) as well as the Louisiana Open or Biennials at CAC, New Orleans in the early 2000s—which brought in jurors such as Eleanor Heartney, Kerry James Marshall, and Valerie Cassle—in addition to the triennials organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art beginning in 1911, when the institution was founded.[17] It is worth noting that Dan Cameron guest-curated the New Orleans Museum of Art Triennial in 1995. Though Prospect.1.5 was primarily seen by an insular (local) audience, it did serve as an important platform for emerging and mid-career artists with some affiliation to the city. At the moment, there appears to be no plans for a Prospect.2.5.

As I briefly elaborated in an article I wrote for Art Papers in January 2013, “Future Perfect:  Artist-run Spaces in New Orleans,” it is important to acknowledge that a number of grassroots endeavors were already in existence prior to the disastrous events of 2005 or the announcement of Prospect.1—and though the biennial served as motivation to self-organize and a means of capitalizing on the attention of an international art public, these activities were already underway. Sciortino-Rinehart has also alluded to this pre-Katrina/pre-Prospect activity in her writing.

“In the year preceding “Prospect.1,” satellite exhibitions and galleries organized by local artists were pivotal forces in New Orleans’ drive towards practical sustainability. Utilizing the international platform provided by “Prospect.1,” dozens of local artists combined resources to guarantee parallel representation during the biennial’s run. Artist-run collectives like Antenna, Good Children Gallery, and The Front attested to the literally transformative potential of art: These groups turned dilapidated spaces (vacant since Katrina) into energetic centers for artistic practice.”[18]

Artists Kyle Bravo and Jenny LeBlanc (both founding members of The Front) formed the custom printshop Hot Iron Press in 2002 and have participated in numerous book fairs and collaborative print projects over the last decade. The literary and visual arts collective Press Street (which now oversees Antenna Gallery, Room 220, Draw-a-Thon [in existence since 2006], various other educational initiatives, and also produces several print publications annually) was founded in 2005. Additionally, a number of artists were already organizing exhibitions in unconventional spaces throughout New Orleans pre-Katrina in a desperate attempt to create a platform for contemporary art in a city. Artist Dan Tague (a founding member of Good Children Gallery) organized a handful of exhibitions in the late 1990s and early 2000s at The Pickery, Big Top Gallery, and Barrister’s Gallery (in its previous location on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard). Other artists such as Stephen Collier (a founding member of Good Children Gallery) and Jonathan Traviesa (a founding member of The Front) collaboratively curated exhibitions and events, notably “Natural Disaster” at Acme Gallery on Magazine Street, the first of a two-part exhibition that opened less than six months prior to Hurricane Katrina. Shawn Hall (a founding member of Antenna Gallery) also organized exhibitions in the early 2000s at the Mermaid Lounge on Constance Street. These artist-curated exhibitions were the exception—not the rule—pre-Katrina. However, given the communal structure of the city’s artist-run spaces as they currently operate, a large number of artists living and working in the city have curated an exhibition at some time or another.

Over the last decade, the city has seen many artist-run spaces, alternative galleries, and studio/residency programs come into fruition (though many are now defunct). These include Antenna Gallery/Press Street, AORTA Projects, The Aquarium Gallery and Studios, The Art Salon and TEN Gallery, Big Top, Central City Artist Project, Farrington Smith Gallery, The Front, Good Children Gallery, HomeSpace, KK Projects, L9 Center for the Arts, L’Art Noir New Orleans, Louisa Digest, May Art Gallery and Residency, New Orleans Airlift, Parse Gallery, The Pickery, The Porch, Sidearm Gallery, Staple Goods Collective, Southerly Gold, Studio Defense Complex, T-LOT, Trouser House, and UNO St. Claude Gallery. This is by no means a complete list, but the sheer number of these spaces/initatives that remain is quite encouraging, as is the fact that the community only seems to be growing stronger, serving collectively and communally as the largest and most pervasive outlet for contemporary art in the city.


Press Street/Antenna moved into a two-story space at 3718 St. Claude Avenue. Installation view of “End of Days (as seen on TV).” Courtesy Press Street/Antenna.

It is easy to discuss why things don’t work, but perhaps more challenging to address why they do. To position the artists collectively organizing and cooperatively running spaces in New Orleans, one must look towards the city’s intrinsic communal and collaborative nature. In writer Rachel Meunier’s account of growing up on a commune known as “The Farm” in Summertown, Tennessee, she explains the process of entering this world as such:  “People considering joining The Farm are required to ‘soak’—to spend time living within the community to see if they really want to make a lifetime commitment.”[19] This notion echoes the response I received upon querying Antenna Gallery/Press Street about their process of inviting new members to join their collective for an article I wrote for the online visual arts publication Pelican Bomb (founded in February 2011).

“Typically new members are highly motivated and often get themselves involved with Press Street or Antenna in some way, like volunteering, prove to be trustworthy and simpatico, and are then brought into the fold. Consequently, the process for bringing on new members is very organic.”[20]

Chan, in his writing about The Front, calls it a “communitarian experiment,” additionally referring to it as a shelter, and it has most certainly filled this role, but has also served as a showroom, classroom, and incubator.

A further parallel can be drawn between the city’s cyclical calendar and its social organizations, such as the Mardi Gras Indians or one of many krewes or Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs throughout the city. Initiation is not a given, but an earned privilege in these organizations. Local artists’ collectivity and sustainability reflect the dynamics of social groups that not only spend copiously amounts of time and money annually on costumes, floats, and parties, but also operate as egalitarian communities—and are spurred and inspired through the friendly rivalry between various groups. As D. Eric Bookhardt and Jon Newlin aptly state in Geopsychic Wonders of New Orleans (a limited-edition book that has developed a cult following since its initial publication in the late 1970s), “The Mardi Gras Indians, divided into diverse and sometimes fiercely competitive tribes, have marched and fought and spent alarming shares of their annual income upon infernally gorgeous costumes since around the turn of the century.”[21] A similar statement could describe the artist-collectives currently operating in the Bywater—and most specifically Antenna, The Front, and Good Children Gallery—that have, since 2008, funded and operated their own spaces and paid for their programming out of their own pockets with little outside support. Press Street/Antenna occupies a slightly different position in this ecosystem since they achieved 501(c)(3) status in August of 2007. They are one of the few artist-collectives in the Bywater that is a nonprofit and thus have served as a fiscal agent for many organizations and individuals locally in recent years.

Any attempt at summarizing or drawing conclusions about the artist-driven contemporary art scene in New Orleans will undoubtedly fall short as this community continues to morph and change at a rapid pace. Several of the artist-run spaces on or around St. Claude Avenue are now considering applying for nonprofit status as their exhibition programs increasingly demand funding from national foundations to support travel, installation costs, honorariums, etc. Other spaces are considering alternative approaches to funding, though many local artists have been hesitant to rely on support from established institutions. Artist Lala Raščić, describes Good Children Gallery as an “outpost for anarchy,” and it certainly does appear to be the space most opposed to becoming a 501(c)(3) in favor of maintaining their autonomy. The aesthetics and politics of each space are vastly different, and thus it is no surprise that their approaches to funding also varies greatly. As the artist-run spaces in the city work towards building sustainable structures to support their programs, the neighborhood continues to grow around them—for better and worse. This overlap, as well as the well-deserved attention of a growing international audience, significantly raises the stakes for a dynamic art community that has been neglected for far too long.

G.A.S., Monopoly (St. Claude), 2012. Included in "Spaces: Antenna, The Front, Good Children Gallery" at the Contemporary Arts Center. Courtesy Generic Art Solutions (G.A.S).

G.A.S., Monopoly (St. Claude), 2012. Included in “Spaces: Antenna, The Front, Good Children Gallery” at the Contemporary Arts Center. Courtesy Generic Art Solutions (G.A.S).


[1] Many visual arts spaces in New Orleans fulfill Renny Pritikin’s definition of both an artist-run space and artist co-op as elaborated in Phonebook 3. Chicago:  threewalls, 2011, p. 2.

 [2] Papo Colo, exhibition brochure for “Alternative Histories:  A History of Alternative Spaces in New York City since the 1960s” at Exit Art, New York, NY (September 24 – November 24, 2010).

[3] Julie Ault, “Why is today the same as every other day” in Cultural Economies:  Histories from the Alternative Arts Movement in NYC. New York:  The Drawing Center, 1996, p.7.

[4] Miranda Lash, “Irresistible Forces:  Working Together at The Front” in The Front Round 2:  Feb 13, 2010 – June 5, 2011. New Orleans:  The Front, 2011, pp. 4 – 5.

[5]  D. Eric Bookhardt’s essay “The St. Claude Arts District:  A Brief History” was commissioned by the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans shortly after I curated “Spaces:  Antenna, The Front, Good Children Gallery” (February 25 – June 10, 2012) and following my resignation from the CAC. It is available on Bookhardt’s website at (last accessed August 17, 2013).

[6] Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel, “The Fine Art of Gentrification,” in The Portable Lower East Side, Volume 4, Number 1 (Spring 1987), available at (last accessed August 18, 2013).  

 [7] Richard Campanella, “Gentrification and its Discontents:  Notes from New Orleans,”, March 1, 2013, available at (last accessed August 17, 2013).

 [8] Jessica Cusick, Sam Durant, Jess Garz, Rick Lowe, and Robert Ruello. Preface for Transforma:  2005 – 2010, previously available as an online catalog at

[9] Aimee Chang, “The Artist and the City:  New Models for Creative Public Practice” in Transforma:  2005 – 2010, previously available as an online catalog at

[10] Chris Waddington. “Joan Mitchell Center of New Orleans hires local arts consultant as director,” in The Times Picayune (September 27, 2013), available at (last accessed September 30, 2012).

[11] Jason Berry. “Memory of the Flood” in Satellite, Issue 1, Fall 2011, p. 70.

[12] Rebecca Solnit. A Paradise Built in Hell:  The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. New York:  Penguin Books, 2009, p. 305.

[13] Paul Chan. “The Unthinkable Community” in The Front:  Our First 15 Months, November 1, 2008 – February 7, 2010. New Orleans:  The Front, 2010, p. 7.

[14] Joshua Decter, “Art and the Cultural Contradictions of Urban Regeneration, Social Justice and Sustainability:  Transforma Projects and Prospect.1 in Post-Katrina New Orleans.” Afterall (Autumn/Winter 2009), pp. 30 – 31.

[15] Natalie Sciortino-Rinehart, “Missing Prospects:  A Reflection on Prospect.1 New Orleans,” in Afterall Online, January 19, 2009, available at (last accessed August 6, 2013).

[16] Prospect New Orleans website, available at (last accessed August 22, 2013).

[17] This was also the inspiration for the NOLA NOW exhibitions and artist database I developed at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans.

[18] Natalie Sciortino-Rinehart, “Missing Prospects:  A Reflection on Prospect.1 New Orleans,” in Afterall Online, January 19, 2009, available at (last accessed August 6, 2013).

[19] Rachel Meunier, “Communal Living in the Late 60s and Early 70s,” Human Issues Project, December 17, 1994, available at (last accessed on August 17, 2013).

[20] Amy Mackie. Building a New New Orleans:  Press Street and Antenna Gallery on St. Claude in Pelican Bomb, February 14, 2013, available at (last accessed on August 22, 2013).

[21] D. Eric Bookhardt and Jon Newlin. Geopsychic Wonders of New Orleans. New Orleans: Temperance Hall Limited, 1992, second edition, NP.

How to ‘Soak’ in New Orleans was originally published in the catalogue for the Hand in Glove Conference, hosted by Press Street on October 17-20, 2013 in New Orleans.

There is 1 comment

Add yours

Post a new comment