NEW ORLEANS—Six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated this city, its galleries and museums are trying to get back to normal.
On Jan. 7 the community celebrated “Arts Alive”—a festive reopening of the heavily damaged Contemporary Arts Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and several galleries—in true New Orleans party style with Creole food and zydeco, jazz and R&B music.
Of the 18 galleries located in the Arts District before the hurricane, all have returned but two—Sylvia Schmidt, which closed, and Jonathan Ferrara, which has temporarily relocated to Atlanta. In the nearby French Quarter about half of the 30 or so galleries are back: some, such as Crescent, have closed, while one, William & Joseph, has moved to Santa Fe, N.Mex. Uptown on Magazine Street the half-dozen major spaces are back in business.
Looking to Sell Online
Gallery owners citywide, however, report that business is slow as a result of the decrease in tourism after Katrina. Some, including Bryant Galleries, are relying heavily on the Internet to sell works, while others, such as Arthur Roger Gallery, are dealing mostly to area residents.
“Before the storm, about 60 to 70 percent of our buyers were out-of-state,” says owner Arthur Roger, who is also vice president of the New Orleans Arts District Association. “Now 60 to 70 percent of the sales are to locals. We’re getting people who never bought art before Katrina and lost everything. Now, before buying new appliances for their homes, they want to buy artwork. It has been a very meaningful experience.”
Generally institutions are proceeding with previously planned exhibitions. The Contemporary Arts Center, for example, will host its 2005–06 Louisiana Biennial, originally planned for last October, this coming August.
Some, however, including LeMieux Galleries and Cole Pratt Gallery, are exploring Katrina-inspired themes. LeMieux’s ongoing exhibition “New Orleans Our Hometown: Photographs from a World of Admirers” memorializes what the city and region have lost. Inspired by a similar show in New York after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the gallery will donate proceeds to artists displaced by the hurricane.
“I feel there is a lot of hope, not just the bad news you hear,” says Roger. “There’s a lot of optimism that we will recover.