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Saint Claude Index

2013—
Self-Initiated Ongoing Project
See the Catalogue Project

Staff— Nate Martin, Sophie T. Lvoff, D. Eric Bookhardt and
Ylva Rouse


64 pages + Map
4.5 x 6 inches
Initial Edition of 8000

Offset
Saddle-stitch binding


Financial Support— St Claude Main Street and NOTMC
Printed in Canada by Prolific Group

Typefaces— Nexa, Letter Gothic,
Graphik and U8

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Introduction Excerpt

As the birthplace of jazz, and of equally original strains of cuisine and architecture, New Orleans' longstanding flair for cultural innovation is well established. It has always been a place where life and art have been unusually interwoven, but only in relatively recent times has its visual arts community become a hotbed of experimentation as the historically seedy thoroughfare that is St. Claude Avenue— and the colorful neighborhoods it traverses just past the French Quarter— have become home to a fertile if low profile community known as the St. Claude Arts District. Made up of dozens of galleries, pop-up art spaces, studios, theaters, clubs and multi-use venues that blend in with their surroundings and are mostly operated on a collaborative or co-op basis, it's a place where creative expression and experimentation seem to exist almost for their own sake. If this efflorescence of what is often designated the largest artist-run arts district in the nation if not the world sounds improbably serendipitous if not utopian, it may well be, but came about partly in response to challenging circumstances at a time when the city's very existence was called into question.

When Hurricane Katrina's storm surge smashed through the federal flood wall system that surrounds the city, some 80% of New Orleans was catastrophically flooded and the prevailing conventional wisdom was that there was no way it could ever fully recover. With that idea in mind, nationally famous urban planners proposed abandoning neighborhoods in low lying areas and converting them into "green space." In a city where people still identify strongly with their home















 

turf it was an idea that instantly enraged the citizenry, and the resulting backlash ushered in what may be the most militant do-it-yourself rebuilding effort of any American city in modern times as local civic associations lobbied successfully for neighborhood self determination.

Although the Marigny, Bywater and St. Roch neighborhoods that comprise the St. Claude district were mostly spared the worst of the flooding, that spirit of participatory democracy proved infectious as artists, long a major component of the area's demographic mix, began to play a visible role in the rebuilding process. In a broad sense, the rebuilding of the city had come to resemble a collaborative creative process guided by each neighborhood's history and identity. Dating to the earliest years of the 19th century, the neighborhoods that comprise the St. Claude district were historically mostly working class enclaves punctuated with occasional grand mansions as well as often ornate churches that catered to their diverse French, Creole, German, Sicilian and Irish ethnicities. Like old port-related enclaves elsewhere in the world, their tone was international and industrious, yet there was always a pronounced whimsical streak that dated back to the area's founder, a flamboyant planter named Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville who, over two centuries ago, began selling off parcels of land to cover his gambling debts. St. Claude's iconic mix of whimsy and grit was eventually immortalized by artists and writers including Tennessee Williams, whose legendary play, Streetcar Named Desire, was set in the area.

—D. Eric Bookhardt

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Saint Claude Index, 2013
Neighborhood of Marigny / Bywater, New Orleans Fold-Out Map

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