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Art With A Heart 

New Orleans may be known as the city that care forgot, but Cindy Badinger is helping to make sure that it also is a place that remembers to care. As owner of Gallery Nine Forty (940 Royal St., 558-0000; www.gallerynineforty.com), Badinger creates, manufactures and patents original artwork and printed items, including a series of 10 tongue-in-cheek "Official Hurricane Katrina Posters" featuring a magenta cat named Katrina -- proceeds of which help support a cause that's dear to her heart: Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO).

Since opening the gallery in 1976, Badinger has specialized in art with a local flavor. French Quarter scenes, Mardi Gras posters, handmade shadowbox sculptures inspired by the city's wrought iron, and T-shirts bearing the gallery's exclusive designs are among her top sellers. Custom framing and other custom work for a variety of clients such as hotels, restaurants and office buildings also make up a large portion of the business.

After seeing how many animals suffered after Katrina, Badinger knew she wanted to use her talents to turn a horrible misfortune into a proactive tool for change. While sitting in a hotel room in Mississippi -- where she'd evacuated with numerous pets in tow -- she began designing the satirical images that since then have done just that. All proceeds from the pieces go to ARNO, which was started in response to the storm and is still rescuing, reuniting, fostering and finding homes for animals in need.

Badinger, who lost her house and her fishing camp in the storm, waited a year before unveiling the Katrina series.

"I didn't want to make fun of it until a full year had passed," says the ninth-generation New Orleanian. "You have to mourn for a while. But then you have to bury it and put it away. Making fun of the hurricane was good for me, and I thought it would help other people. You can't dwell on negativity."

Among the 10 copyrighted and trademarked images bringing smiles to locals and tourists is one commemorating Lakeview, one commemorating Mid-City, one paying tribute to our first responders, one with a recipe for a Katrina martini and one poking fun at the Road Home program. Accompanying each is a flyer explaining how the works benefit Badinger's "pet cause" and how the artist believes her city found the strength to move forward. "A true New Orleanian," the flyer says, "makes fun of everything."

click to enlarge Cindy Badinger of Gallery Nine Forty uses comic relief to - help New Orleans rebuild.
  • Cindy Badinger of Gallery Nine Forty uses comic relief to help New Orleans rebuild.
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