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The Arts District - New Orleans

July 23rd 2008 02:27
Who knew that New Orleans had one of the best Art districts in the United States? It all began back in 1975 with the development of the Contemporary Arts Centre in the run down Warehouse district.

The Warehouse District dates back to the 19th century when it was an industrial area used to store grain, coffee, and produce being shipped through the port of New Orleans. As trade and commerce developed, the area was abandoned and the once busy streets became deserted.

Since the Contemporary Arts Centre first opened, it has set the scene with large exhibitions by local artists that attracted large crowds back into the area. It also exhibits a wide variety of art by national and international artists. As well as the eclectic collection of artwork, there are also a number of music and theatre performances.

Now many other warehouses in the area have been converted into hotels restaurants and museums, making the area that was once full of abandoned warehouses into a major tourist district.

Contemporary Arts Centre

Across the road from the Contemporary Arts Centre is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The building itself is considered one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the South, with five floors and 47,000 square feet of exhibit space. The Museum that was founded after philanthropist and businessman Roger H Ogden donated more than 1200 pieces of Southern Art, now includes paintings, watercolours and sculptures representing Southern Art.

There are also a number of museums in the area including The National World War II museum, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Orleans. The museum, which includes personal accounts and artefacts, recounts the war from an American perspective.

With plenty of Art galleries, museums and restaurants in the area the New Orleans Art District there is something to suit everyone’s taste.

When someone mentions New Orleans, most people think of the birthplace of jazz, or perhaps rowdy parties on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. However, there is so much more to the ‘Quarter’ (as the locals call it), than just the nightlife.

Take a stroll around the French Quarter by day, and check out some of the amazing buildings whose archetitecure dates back to the 1700s, when Louisiana was a French Royal colony. The buildings are a beautiful mix of French and Spanish designs. Some of these old homes are now open to the public, offering visitors the opportunity to see how residents of New Orleans lived in that time.

Street in French Quarter
Street in French Quarter

At the centre of the French Quarter is Jackson Square, which is a good place to start your explorations of the area. The Square is named after Andrew Jackson who led the United States to victory in the battle of New Orleans. It is also home to many open-air artists who display their works on the wrought iron fences that surround the Square. Many visitors have had their portrait painted by one of the local artists.

Overlooking the Square is St Louis Cathedral, one of the longest continuously active cathedrals in the US. First built in 1726 the cathedral has been rebuilt twice, once due to fire and once due to hurricane damage. The current cathedral dates back to the 1850s.

St Louis Cathedral New Orleans
St Louis Cathedral New Orleans

The buildings on either side of the cathedral are called Cabildo and the Presbytere. The Cabildo was where the French and the Americans signed the documents for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Nowadays it is now a museum showing exhibits of Louisiana history.

The Prestybere, which was completed in 1831, was originally designed as home for the Capuchin monks. This building is also a museum displaying much of New Orleans Mardi Gras memorabilia, from rare historic artefacts to magnificent gowns.

On the opposite side of Jackson Square are redbrick buildings dating back to the 1840s, now home to a number of shops and restaurants on the lower floors, and private residences on the upper floors.

Just a short walk from Jackson Square along North Peters Street is the New Orleans Jazz National Park. The park provides information about the history and people involved in the evolution of Jazz. There is also an indoor and outdoor stage for live performances.

Further along North Peters St is the French Markets, which has existed since 1791, and is one of the oldest markets in America. The markets have a lot of locally made jewellery, but you will find many other things as well such as paintings and clothing. It is also a great place to buy spices or fresh vegetables from the local farmers.

There are many great bars and restaurants around the city, but to limit yourself to the nightlife on Bourbon Street would mean missing out on the beauty and historical significance of one of the oldest cities in America.

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