Guide for Designing a Walking Tour to Explore New Orleans’ Alternative Art Scene

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Alternative Art Scene

This guide is brought to you by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Delightful beignets coated with sugar, potent sazeracs infused with rye, and a month-long Mardi Gras revelry – the sensory experiences of New Orleans are truly captivating.

In contrast, the city’s dynamic art scene often remains unnoticed. However, taking a leisurely stroll through its streets during the daytime reveals that, much like the live jazz melodies resonating from windows and street corners, art saturates every nook and cranny of this urban landscape.

From the once-neglected warehouse district, transformed into a trendy arts quarter in the 1990s, showcasing small galleries and prominent museums, to the Creole townhouses along Royal Street within the French Quarter, serving as sophisticated backdrops for fine-art galleries – the city’s artistry is multifaceted. Notably, Frenchman Street offers a night-time art bazaar nestled between jazz clubs adorned with murals, where visitors can explore an array of handcrafted artworks.

  1. Contemporary Arts Center

Commence your journey on Camp Street, where the Contemporary Arts Center stands as a cornerstone of the Warehouse Arts District. Its expansive interior provides ample room for photographs, sculptures, and various visual art pieces, accompanied by a vibrant schedule of performance art. Should your artistic appetite remain unsated, numerous independent galleries are conveniently clustered within minutes’ walk along Camp, Julia, and Magazine streets.

  1. The Old No. 77

Before embarking, enjoy a cup of coffee from the industrial-chic café, Tout La, within The Old No. 77 hotel. Meander to the petite lobby gallery, where an ever-changing exhibit, ranging from paintings to sculptures, reflects the seasons. These curated collections are overseen by the local collective Where Y’Art Works, which boasts its exhibition space on Royal Street. The hotel also proudly hosts an artist-in-residence initiative, showcasing the resultant creations each summer.

  1. Stella Jones Gallery

On your way to the French Quarter, you’ll encounter Stella Jones Gallery, a space exclusively dedicated to Black artists. Founded by a doctor-turned-gallerist, Jones, alongside her late husband Harry Sr., initiated the gallery in 1996. The couple advocated for African American, contemporary African, and Caribbean fine art, utilizing their thoughtfully curated exhibitions to reshape perceptions about Black artists and enhance accessibility to their often thought-provoking creations.

  1. Napoleon House

Venture into the heart of the French Quarter to savor a muffuletta sandwich, composed of cured meats, cheese, and tangy olive salad, accompanied by a refreshing Pimm’s cup at the Napoleon House. The Creole townhouse has a storied history, rumored to have been intended as a gift for Napoleon Bonaparte, although circumstances prevented his acceptance. Regardless of the veracity of the tale, the dining room has unintentionally transformed into a gallery, where quirky Napoleon sketches coexist with faded photographs.

  1. Gallery Arlo

A few blocks northward lies the quaint Gallery Arlo, brimming with contemporary artworks by female artists. This space deviates from a conventional gallery, evoking the sensation of stepping into an idiosyncratic collector’s treasure trove – nearly nothing adorns a plain white wall, with discoveries awaiting in every corner. The collection spans a wide spectrum, juxtaposing paintings and sculptures of vastly diverse dimensions side by side.

  1. Frenchmen Art Market

Continue eastward along Royal Street, passing the purportedly haunted LaLaurie Mansion, until you arrive at Frenchmen Street, a vibrant strip known for its laid-back jazz clubs. Nestled within this milieu is the Frenchmen Art Market, an outdoor bazaar where you can directly acquire pieces from local artists. Operating from 8 pm onwards, if you arrive early, you can enjoy a drink and live music at any nearby bar while you await the market’s opening.

This narrative was crafted with support from Travel South and the Eliza Jane and Hyatt Centric French Quarter hotels.
Featured in the September 2023 edition of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

For those in select countries, you can subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Alternative Art Scene

What is the focus of this article?

This article sheds light on planning a walking tour in New Orleans to explore the city’s vibrant alternative art scene.

What are the notable art destinations mentioned?

The article highlights various locations, including the Contemporary Arts Center, The Old No. 77 hotel’s gallery, Stella Jones Gallery, Napoleon House, Gallery Arlo, and the Frenchmen Art Market.

How does the art scene in New Orleans differ from its well-known attractions?

While New Orleans is renowned for its culinary delights and lively celebrations, its rich art scene often remains unnoticed. This article aims to uncover the city’s artistic side that might be overshadowed by more widely recognized aspects.

Are there specific areas covered in the walking tour?

Yes, the tour covers areas like the Warehouse Arts District, the French Quarter, and Frenchmen Street, where visitors can explore a range of galleries, exhibitions, and art markets.

Can visitors directly purchase art during the tour?

Absolutely. The Frenchmen Art Market offers an opportunity for visitors to buy art directly from local artists, adding an interactive and immersive element to the tour.

What is the significance of some of the mentioned galleries?

Stella Jones Gallery is dedicated to Black artists, striving to promote their works and reshape narratives around their art. The Contemporary Arts Center and Gallery Arlo also contribute to New Orleans’ thriving art scene.

How can readers plan their own walking tour?

The article provides a comprehensive guide, highlighting key locations, points of interest, and the overall route, allowing readers to design their own unique art-focused exploration of New Orleans.

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