“What’s happened is an astonishing burgeoning of galleries every place on St. Claude Avenue,” says longtime New Orleans gallerist Andy Antippas, who’s organizing another collective. The movement started with a handful in 2008, and now there are arguably more galleries run by broke artists on this one-mile strip, per capita, than in any city of comparable size in the United States. Compared with the tepid art market and lack of institutional support for contemporary visual art here, “it’s totally out of whack,” says Jessica Bizer, a member of Good Children Gallery.
In contrast to fancy, blue-chip galleries in upscale areas, the upstarts are bare-bones endeavors, founded by emerging artists in their mid-20s to mid-40s, just as the independent movies are being created by 20-something self-starters. Joseph Meissner, who made an award-winning, low-budget feature film, "Flood Streets," with his wife, sold their house to finance production. “Collectives are the way to go,” he now says. “The old indie credo was do-it-yourself (DIY), but this new idea has emerged of DIWO – do it with others.”
The let’s-get-together-and-put-on-a-show, group-hug vibe is attracting idealistic, artsy young people to the city in droves. Like Seattle in the 1990s, New Orleans is now the hot city. The new energy, stoked by outsiders and mixed with Katrina survivors’ resilience, is rejuvenating the arts scene, jump-starting it into a different rhythm. Kyle Bravo, a founding member of The Front collective, explains: “It was partly the energy of rebuilding post-Katrina and to re-create the city in some way” that inspired him to start a co-op gallery after rehabbing his house and studio.