Take brick-paved Bayou Road past Rocheblave Street and the Shotgun house sculpture, toward tree-lined Esplanade Avenue, and you will reach the Joan Mitchell Center. An old bed and breakfast–and before that an indigo plantation—the large main house, neighboring event venue, and backyard cottages, garden space, and pool, now serve the center in its artist residency program. A large porch, wide stairway, light blue paint and dark blue shutters, and several tall wooden doorways along the front wall create a striking entrance to the main house, which artists and visitors enter on a brick walkway through a tunnel of Queen Anne palms.
The Joan Mitchell Center began working in New Orleans in 2007, when the center offered an exhibition of Joan Mitchell's work and began working with the Contemporary Arts Center and Tulane University, Director Gia Hamilton said. After Hurricane Katrina, they offered emergency grants and organizational support for artists as support for the healing city. The center targets visual artists, specifically painters and sculptors, for its programs, but part of the categorization is based on how each artist self-identifies. Artists are nominated by arts organizations and are chosen through a nomination and jury process. One recent awardee was Darryl Montana, a Mardi Gras Indian Chief, for his work designing and creating Mardi Gras Indian costumes.
Since moving to the 2.5-acre campus on Bayou Road in 2010, the center has functioned as an artist residency program and has provided ongoing programming for artists and the community, Hamilton said. The Artist in Residence program has housed 24 Joan Mitchell Foundation award recipients for about a month at a time over a six-month period. Artists lived on-site and worked at the 10-12 studios the center rented on Rampart Street. The center also houses artists and arts administrators, including curators, writers, and critics, who are visiting New Orleans, in order to promote understanding of the city's rich cultural history and arts practices. The goal, Hamilton said, is to create a reciprocal relationship with artists and administrators who are bringing their skills to New Orleans.
In addition to the Artist in Residence program, the center hosts a program for local artists called the New Orleans Local Artist Studio Program (NOLA Studio Program). Through the program, artists have full access to the center's studios on Rampart Street, as well as professional development opportunities and stipends. Artists engage the community and show their work through an intimate open studio process and artist talks about their body of work and process.
The center has a full kitchen, space for community dinners, an intimate business center for meetings, cottages for resident artists, and an event center, called Indigo, for larger events. The space at Indigo is also available for use by community groups, and the Joan Mitchell Center has partnered with more than 30 groups in offering use of the space. In September, Community Book Center on Bayou Road will host some of its 30th anniversary events at Indigo. Site use applications are available for use of the space until the end of the year, when the center will start renovations and construction of a new studio space, Hamilton said.
The center will also be engaging the community this fall through 'community coffee' events at Indigo, beginning Wednesday, September 11. The events will be in the morning so that neighbors can stop by on their way to work, have breakfast, and meet the staff at the Joan Mitchell Center. A series of happy hours will begin September 18 for those who can't make it out in the mornings, and will include networking, food and drinks, and presentations by local artists. Neighbors are encouraged to stop by, have some food, and get to know each other and the center, Hamilton said.
The Joan Mitchell Center is located at 2275 Bayou Road in New Orleans.