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Culture Shocks 

If you want to canvass the city for art and theater, here are 10 places to start.

1. Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard -- This Central City neighborhood is a hub of culture and art for African Americans and cutting-edge artists. A few years ago, Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (1724 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 525-2767) opened up its eclectic space inside the equally progressive Barrister's Gallery, providing a one-stop shop for visual and performing arts and cinema. Ashé Cultural Arts Center (1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 569-9070) is dedicated to just about every conceivable cultural exploration of the African Diaspora, while the Neighborhood Gallery (1410 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 524-8800) features some of the most interesting visual-arts offerings around. (Also in Central City is Jomo Kenyatta Bean's venerable Ethiopian Theatre at the corner of Broad Street and Napoleon Avenue.)

2. New Orleans African-American Museum of Art, Culture & History (1418 Gov. Nicholls St., 565-7497/www.noaam.org) -- Located in the historic Treme neighborhood next to the French Quarter, this museum is an amazing way to learn about the unique development of the African-American culture in New Orleans. This goes a long way toward explaining such unique entities as voodoo, Mardi Gras Indians, second lines, and even jazz.

3. New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle, City Park, 488-2631/www.noma.org) -- The grande dame of the city's visual arts scene, "NOMA" plays host to interesting touring exhibits while maintaining its local flavor. Recent examples include an exhibit of one-time New Orleans visitor/French impressionist Edgar Degas, and this summer's history lesson, Jefferson's America and Napoleon's France. NOMA also hosts a permanent collection of more than 40,000 objects worth an estimated $200 million-plus, including American and French art, African and Japanese works, photography, and glass.

4. Julia Street -- The first Saturday of each month, art patrons flock to Julia Street for a stroll by the galleries as they put up their latest exhibits. The custom is so big that special nights -- August's White Linen Night and October's Art for Art's Sake -- were fashioned to make a big art/social event that much bigger. The heart of the action runs from the 300 to the 500 blocks, where you'll find Arthur Roger Gallery, Heriard-Cimino Gallery, LeMieux Galleries, Marguerite Oestreicher Fine Arts, and Sylvia Schmidt Gallery, among others.

5. Magazine Street -- Saying there is art on Magazine Street is like saying there's music in New Orleans -- can you be more specific? After all, Magazine Street stretches from downtown to the Riverbend. There is a whole mess of art from the 700 to the 1900 blocks (Metal Studio, Thomas Mann Gallery I/O, and Lionel Milton Gallery), and along a 25-block stretch (2000 to 4500) including DLKart Fine Art Gallery, SPACE Gallery, and Cole Pratt Gallery. Combined, they span the spectrum.

6. Southern Repertory Theater -- (Canal Place, 3rd Floor, 522-6545) -- New Orleans' theater has experienced impressive growth over the past three years, and much of the credit goes to younger troupes breaking out of the stodgy productions that can drag down any theater scene. The new blood among theater venues is most notable at Southern Rep, which last year offered shows about everything from political correctness on college campuses to black exploitation movies. Keep an eye on Southern Rep's fall schedule.

7. Anthony Bean Community Theater and Acting School (1333 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-7529) -- Nobody tackles African-American themes onstage as consistently or boldly as Anthony Bean. Last year was a particularly successful year for Bean, whose production of No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs captured three Big Easy Entertainment Awards. Bean also works with some of the most talented actors in the city, including City Council members (smart move!).

8. 3 Ring Circus/The Big Top (1638 Clio St., 569-2700) -- At first glance, the three women who started 3 Ring Circus (Adele Borie, Kirah Haubrich, Tracy Kennan) seemed like the "arty party girls." But they're much more, particularly after opening their own venue, The Big Top, this year. Now they have a home base for providing more youthful, edgy art happenings -- and it's much easier to find the party from now on.

9. Museum Row -- The Warehouse Arts District already had the multifaceted gallery Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp St., 528-3800), which features everything from visual arts to movies. In 2001 came The National D-Day Museum (945 Magazine St., 527-6012), which offers explorations of events and themes surrounding World War II. This fall comes the much-anticipated opening of the University of New Orleans' Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., 539-9600), which houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world. The museum opens Aug. 23 with its inaugural exhibit, The Soul of the South: Art and Culture 1890-2003.

10. Music and Dance: Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (305 Baronne St., 523-6530/www.lpomusic.org), New Orleans Ballet Association (305 Baronne St., 522-0996/www.nobadance.com), New Orleans Opera Association (305 Baronne St. 529-3000/ www.neworleansopera.org), Jefferson Performing Arts Society (400 Phlox Ave., Metairie, 885-2000, wwwjpas.org) -- The big four of the area's music and dance organizations offer a solid schedule of local and touring performances. The LPO brought in legendary composer David Amram last year and welcomes back popular guest artists: pianist Lilya Zilberstein (October) and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (April 2004). NOBA has a modern sensibility that translates to such bookings as the popular MOMIX (March 2004), while NOOA typically mixes classics with newer pieces including Pontalba (a work commissioned to celebrate the Louisiana Purchase, in October). The JPAS consistently mixes up a wide array of the performing arts: music, dance and theater -- locally and nationally.

click to enlarge the New Orleans Ballet Association presents such - comtemporary national tourig acts as the popular - Urban Dance Theater.
  • the New Orleans Ballet Association presents such comtemporary national tourig acts as the popular Urban Dance Theater.
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