Art and culture abound in New Orleans, and what better way to spend a night in New Orleans steeped in culture than by going gallery hopping? In Downtown New Orleans and the Warehouse District, gallery openings are coordinated to the first Saturday evening of each month. But slightly further afield, the funkier downriver neighborhoods surrounding St. Claude Avenue: Marigny, St. Roch and Bywater, hold their monthly art gallery openings on the second Saturday nights on the calendar, on a night called Second Saturdays.
Downtown galleries have the advantage of having pristine, renovated warehouse and gallery spaces, and you’ll find long-standing art galleries and world famous artists showing their work. But head over to St. Claude Avenue and the Marigny and Bywater, and many of the art galleries have a decidedly more Do-It-Yourself and experimental feel to them. The spaces are a little more raw – sometimes popping up in an artist’s home, in a live/work space, or in an old corner store. These artists may not have agents or worldwide acclaim, but their work is often exciting, new and cutting edge, and real examples of what’s happening right now in New Orleans.
Art Galleries on St. Claude Avenue
What makes the more down-river neighborhoods and their gallery openings so special is their proximity to the city’s vibrant nightlife on St. Claude Avenue. The more than one mile stretch of St. Claude from near Elysian Fields to the bridge connecting to the Lower Ninth Ward, you’ll find a concentration of galleries and spaces, in addition to dive bars, some of the city’s hottest music spots, vintage clothing and furniture and other second hand goods.
There’s longtime St. Claude gallery anchor Barrister’s Gallery, located near popular bars/music clubs the Hi Ho Lounge and Siberia. Within walking distance of Barristers is Byrdie’s Gallery, which is also a coffeehouse by day. Marshall Gallery curated by visual artist Jarret Marshall is next door to the Healing Center, which often has new artwork hanging at Café Istanbul in the complex. Next door to the Allways Lounge & Theatre is LA46, a vintage goods “general store” that features artwork and sometimes live music. Nearby is the UNO Gallery, a satellite gallery showcasing graduate student and faculty artwork from the lakefront University of New Orleans on St. Claude.
Along the way to the Bywater on St. Claude, things are always hopping at local hangouts St. Coffee coffee shop, The Allways, Lounge, and at Faubourg Wines, where you can pick up a bottle of wine or enjoy a glass in store (and you might see a food truck or two parked in front). Siberia bar also has a Polish fast-food kitchen inside called Kukhnya featuring eastern European inspired sandwiches and burgers, blini, and other Slavic soul foods that go well with alcohol, metal bands, and gallery hopping!
Cross the railroad tracks at Press Street and you’re in the Bywater, home of visual artist collective The Front Gallery, Antenna Gallery, the Good Children Gallery (named after the old street name for St. Claude Avenue), and dance/performance and education space Dancing Grounds, which holds a performance/visual art salon on Second Saturdays.
Head towards the Mississippi River in the Bywater and check out the Bywater Art Lofts and adjacent Bywater Art Garden. The Art Lofts are a live/work community of over 40 artists in a renovated garment factory, and the lofts usually have exhibitions and open houses on Second Saturdays. The New Orleans Community Printshop and Darkroom on Mazant Street showcases photography and hand printed art.
On Burgundy Street, the visual and culinary arts converge at the funky casual neighborhood restaurant/gallery Suis Generis. Down the block is The Bank of Soul, featuring the work of photographer Christopher Porche-West, who specializes in black & white photography of old New Orleans, Mardi Gras Indians portraits and portraits and scenes of Haiti, Liberia and Cuba.
In addition to these venues, there are many more pop-up galleries and events that happen during the second Saturday of each month in the “back’a town” parts of New Orleans off St. Claude. Keep your ears peeled and senses heightened and follow the sounds and the party to the St. Claude Arts District, and you’ll discover and enjoy New Orleans’ exciting visual arts scene.
Second Saturday Nightlife
Once you’re done gallery hopping, make sure to enjoy some late night nightlife along St. Claude, from dance parties and live music at Saturn Bar to the long-running Saturday Night Hustle Party with DJ Soul Sister at the Hi Ho Lounge; it’s always a fun night out on St. Claude, but especially so on Second Saturdays.
Photos by Paul Broussard