Announces New Investments to Grow Cultural Economy
The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation has commissioned a series of eight murals to beautify and visually connect a collection of its buildings along St. Claude Ave. within the Old Arabi Cultural District. The public art project is part of a new wave of development the Meraux Foundation has planned for the area, which includes the creation of a state-of-the-art outdoor event space next to the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (6621 St. Claude Ave.) and the purchase of the former Tales of the Cocktail headquarters (7220 St. Claude Ave.) for charitable purposes to be announced.
These new developments are part of the ongoing Creative Placemaking Initiative the Meraux Foundation began in 2016 when it first invested over $2 million to develop a two-block stretch of vacant and underused properties along St. Claude Ave. into an “arts campus” that now includes studios, galleries, and a theatre. Borrowing from creative placemaking approaches, the Meraux Foundation is leveraging arts and culture as a driver for economic development and enhanced livability in St. Bernard Parish.
“A growing body of evidence shows that fostering creative activity is an effective way to invigorate communities. And we’ve seen it firsthand since we began this initiative, seeing the area blossom with the addition of new stores, shops, restaurants, and lounges,” said Rita Gue, the president of the Meraux Foundation. “With this success, we’re doubling down on our investment to further nurture the area’s growth into a thriving artistic center.”
The first two murals have been painted on a building (7143 St. Claude Ave.) that the Meraux Foundation recently acquired and renovated to house the Community Center of St. Bernard, a charity that provides emergency food assistance to local families.
The Meraux Foundation partnered with the NOLA Mural Project to identify the artists and manage the project. The organization has facilitated dozens of murals, including some of the region’s most recognizable and several along St. Claude Ave. in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans.
Sophie Peters, an artist and the project manager, says that the murals will bring happiness and cohesion to the area. She describes the first pair of murals as “abstract, fun, and bright.”
The mural on the west side of the building is by artist Mike Collins who describes his art as graphic, nature-based and angular. He uses images as a form language, referring to the works as “hieroglyphics.”
The mural on the east side of the building is by artist Lana Guerra who creates characters and worlds that are both childlike and edgy. Her style playfully bounces between abstraction and pop art.
Throughout the summer and early fall, in addition to those at 7143 St. Claude Ave., murals will be painted on Meraux Foundation properties at 6601, 6621, and 6707 St. Claude Ave.
In the coming months, the Meraux Foundation will announce details on the outdoor event space and plans for the former Tales of the Cocktail building.
Placemaking is an intentional, collaborative effort to build the character of a place. Creative placemaking employs arts, culture, and creativity to transform a community in a way that builds character, identity, and sense of place. There are many approaches to creative placemaking, including cultural districts, creative industry clusters, mixed use development, and public art.
The Meraux Foundation is focusing its Creative Placemaking Initiative in the Old Arabi Cultural District, a state-certified Cultural District. The district, spanning from Jackson Barracks to N. Peters St. and St. Bernard Hwy. to the parish line, contains cultural assets, including St. Claude Arts, Zeitgeist, the Maumus Center, the Sugar Museum, Aycock Barn, artist studios on Mehle Street, and more. Businesses within the district benefit from tax incentives including a sales tax exemption on the sale of certain original works of art.