The New Orleans art movement is diverse and brilliant. But most of all, it’s hardy. Like violets and snapdragons able to withstand surprise frosts, the New Orleans art community took a beating from Katrina but a decade later flowers as boldly as ever.
Regional artists explain how and why in a massive collective exhibition called “Reverb: Past, Present and Future,” ongoing through November 1, 2015, at the Contemporary Arts Center at 900 Camp St. “Reverb” is the creative focal point of the art community’s signature annual event, Art for Arts’ Sake. It’s also the emotional linchpin for the 2015 event, as the nonprofit CAC, like all of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, observes the 10th anniversary of the terrible August 2005 storm.
But notwithstanding the appropriate reverence for the universal suffering, feats of valor, and determination for rebirth that equally animate the Katrina story, this event is mainly a celebration (this is New Orleans, after all). Begun in 1980, Art for Arts’ Sake celebrates an art community that was colorful before Katrina but has rebranded itself since the storm as one of the most important in the nation.
Art for Arts’ Sake—a free event which in 2015 takes place October 3—is basically an open house of the entire downtown Arts District. Streets will be blocked off to accommodate pedestrian throngs of art lovers (and anyone else with an excuse to look for a Saturday night street party). In addition to activities inside around the CAC, 20 area galleries highlight their signature displays while restaurants in the district fund-raise for the CAC with food and drink specials.
This exercise in mass art appreciation—OK, and partying—starts at the CAC with a free public reception that begins at 5 p.m. Among other purposes, the three-hour, cash-bar event celebrates “Reverb” and marks the grand opening of the CAC’s bookstore, called The Stacks, which actually opened in 2014. Independently operated, The Stacks is the only bookstore in New Orleans dedicated to the arts. Its curated titles include selections on visual and graphic design, architecture, music, photography, art theory and more.
Art Walk in New Orleans
At 6 p.m., the Downtown Art Walk begins. Galleries on Julia Street, Camp Street and the vicinity invite the public to browse door to door. You can visit the CAC website in September for the exact lineup of participating galleries and information about their special exhibitions and featured artists.
As for “Reverb”: The exhibition, which opened in August, expresses ideas from a large and diverse group of artists using an equally diverse collection of traditional and nontraditional media. They include:
Kira Akerman & Silvie Deutsch, Angel P., Tim Cavnar, Anita Cooke, Abigail Clark, Aaron Collier,Ben Diller & Cynthia Giachetti, Courtney Egan, Skylar Fein, Generic Art Solutions, Robert Hodge, Krista Jurisich, Gene Koss, Ernest Littles, Charles Lovell, Norah Lovell, Patrick Melon, Ti-Rock Moore, Adam Mysock, Casey Parkinson, Stephanie Patton, Rontherin Ratliff, S&S Club, Brian St. Cyr, Karoline Schleh, Loren Schwerd, Rick Snow, Leona Strassberg Steiner, Carlie Trosclair, Charlie Varley, Sidonie Villere, Joshua Walsh and Carl Joseph Williams. The exhibition’s distinguished guest curator, Isolde Brielmaier, directs the philanthropic public art platform at Westfield Trade City in New York City.
Here’s how the CAC characterizes “Reverb” in a publicity release:
“’Reverb’ explores the evolution of art and artistic practices in New Orleans and throughout its surrounding region over the last decade. Marking the 10th year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it positions the vast social, economic, and political reverberations of this monumental event as a catalyst for change, revitalization, determination, ingenuity, and creative innovation among the region’s artistic community. “
Art for Arts’ Sake makes for a fun and fascinating evening any year. But in 2015, a decade after Katrina, it connects to a greater purpose. And you’re one vacation decision away—the decision to be in New Orleans on October 3—from joining in the transformative experience.