The Crescent City is justly proud of its 200 art galleries displaying the work of more than 1,000 artists. Each year, over 6-million people attend non-profit art events in the area, and AmericanStyle Magazine consistently ranks the Crescent City among the top 15 U.S. arts destinations. A sparkling addition to New Orleans’ downtown museum district is Marriott’s Renaissance Arts Hotel and the long-awaited Ogden Museum of Southern Art, University of New Orleans.
The 217-room arts hotel, a former 1910 furniture warehouse, features its own ground-floor gallery containing Arthur Roger’s special collection. “The hotel is not really about decoration”, explains Roger. “It’s about calling attention to the local arts community. In this hotel, art is more pronounced than in other hotels.”
Large, sparkling, blown-glass chandeliers grace the lobby. These are the creations of Pacific Northwestern glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. Lin Emery’s blue and brass kinetic fountain greets guests as they enter, while New Orleans glass master Mitchell Gaudet’s translucent grid of Caribbean blue tiles forms a division between the lobby and the restaurant. Metal, fiberglass and paper Mache figures flirt for visitors’ attention in lobby corners.
Nearby, the new Ogden Museum is three floors displaying the largest collection of Southern art in the world. Supported by the Center for Southern Craft and Design, the Ogden concentrates on work from artists from 15 Southern states plus the District of Columbia. At the core are 1,200 works donated by New Orleans philanthropist, Roger H. Ogden bringing the museum’s display total to 2,750 works. These works span the 18th to the 21st centuries, from World War I, the Great Depression and the Jazz Age through the Civil Rights era.
The fifth floor contemporary galleries include a graffiti-influenced collage by Jeffrey Cook and William Christenberry’s depiction of a sharecropper’s shack. This floor is termed the “Anything Goes” level. The fourth floor features the Rise of Modernism, and the third floor is devoted to the southern landscapes. In all, there are two dozen individualized galleries where visitors use optional hand-held audio devices.
As most museums observe daytime hours, brunching is practical, and save the evenings for serious feasting. The food served at the Renaissance Arts Hotel’s restaurant, LaCote Brasserie, showcases the talents of Chefs Rene Bajeux (formerly of Rene Bistrot), Richard (Bingo Starr (formerly executive chef at Cuvee) and Joy Jessup, (former pastry chef at the Windsor Court Hotel). Just the tips of their collective imaginations lets them blend pastry and entrée techniques for an interesting menu. Some examples are their Oyster and Artichoke Cobbler with Parmesan Streusel, Study of Lobster with Asparagus Streudel and Mussels Basmati Flan with Red Curry Broth, Wilted Spinach and Papadom Chips.
The New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts Gallery on colorful Magazine Street is close to a locals’ favorite, Joann Clevenger’s Upperline Restaurant. The house’s signature dish is Original Fried Green Tomatoes topped with their piquant Shrimp Remoulade. Chef Ken Smith works his magic with this and other dishes such as Crispy Louisiana Oysters with Celery Root Remoulade or Tom Cowman’s Famous Roast Duck with Garlic Port. Before leaving, see the Upperline’s art collection placed throughout the restaurant.
Ideal for a Sunday morning is Arnaud’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. Great food, streaming sunlight and the Huey Bourgeois Trio’s with romantic renditions of smooth oldies such as “The Sheik of Araby.” Choose from six Benedicts, also signature Shrimp Arnaud, many types of Oysters and Turtle Soup. Maybe a Petit Filet Mignon Bourgeois topped with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce and Roasted Pecans? Before leaving, visit their Mardi Gras Museum, upstairs.
Another great brunch, served most days, is Breakfast at Brennan’s where they have a long reputation for “doin’ it right.” If you’ve tried their Eggs Housarde, Sardou or Portuguese, try their Eggs Nouvelle Orleans — poached eggs on a generous bed of lump crabmeat topped with a brandy-cream sauce. If you hit the right day, your Bananas Foster will be dramatically flamed by favorite opera singer belting out part of an aria.
More art venues to enrich your visit:
Arthur Silverman Tetrahedronal Sculpture Gallery and workshop shows the full-time contented genius of this retired physician whose works are positioned throughout the world. His fascination with tetrahedronal configurations engages the viewer’s fascination.
Confederate Civil War Museum: located next to the Ogden Museum, contains the second largest collection of Confederate memorabilia in the world and is the oldest continually operating museum in Louisiana.
Contemporary Arts Center: Located directly across from the Ogden, this Center holds 2 floors of art exhibits and performances areas. It reflects the youth culture of our time, also a cyber café.
D-Day Museum: This museum tells the story of bravery and patriotism exhibited by our uniformed men and women during World War II. It contains highlights, through reproduction, of the Higgins Landing Craft, veterans’ artifacts, oral histories and photographs.
Louisiana ArtWorks, (soon to open) lets visitors view artists at work in 50 individual studios. Check with the Visitor’s Bureau for opening information.
Louisiana Children’s Museum: Two floors of colorful display with electrifying fun. A chance to explore, plenty of hands-on exhibits and a live performance to catch.
New Orleans GlassWorks & Printmaking Studio: The South’s largest glassblowing, fine silver alchemy, bookbinding and printmaking design studio.
New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden: This venue houses in-depth presentation of world art from the pre-Christian era to the present. Keep in touch regarding the completion of their vast Sculpture Garden covering seven acres containing 48 sculptures.
Private Galleries: There are 22 galleries in the Warehouse Arts District most located on Julia Street and close by. A special brochure guides a walking tour.
BEFORE YOU GO: Contact Visitor Information at the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau for comprehensive brochures, maps and other information. Phone them at 800.672.6124, or visit http://www.neworleanscvb.com and select “Visitors Guide” in the upper right.