It could be said that a city’s culture can clearly shine through the art and activities of its residents, painting a portrait of what they value and their very way of life. Louisiana is no stranger to this, containing what could be considered some of the most culturally rich cities in the country. While these pieces of local art are very important to the state’s identity, many aren’t given enough exposure to a wide range people to appreciate them. Well, one city on the Westbank has been looking to change that for quite some time.
The Gretna Art Walk, which is held on Huey P. Long Avenue in beautiful Historic Downtown Gretna, is an open-air market that brings together artists from all over Southeast Louisiana to show off and sell their wares to the general public. According to Gretna Farmers Market and Art Walk Coordinator Denise Ponce, the art walk began in November 2005 as an offshoot of the Gretna Farmers Market, which itself began in October 2005.
“It was the first farmers market opened after Katrina, but it was also Gretna’s first farmers market,” Ponce said. “The committee, who were the volunteers who initially began the farmers market, decided that they could do an art walk to enhance the farmers market periodically.”
The art walk, which is held on the second Saturday during March through May and September through December from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., gathers together usually 25 to 30 different kinds of artists who are all skilled in different types of artwork like painters, photographers, and sculptures.
“We have various types of paintings like we have two watercolorists who are amazing,” Ponce said. “We have several people who do oils. We have a potter who comes and she does all of her own original pottery. We have photography, and the subject matter for the photographers is each different. Our one photographer from Bay St. Louis focuses mainly on other cities and also golf coast art of wildlife. He’s just recently started doing lots of photos of Historic Downtown Gretna. Our other gentleman tends to do more of landscapes. So, that’s a nice variation. We try to change it up a bit. We have somebody who does birdhouses, people who do some yard decor, and a fine jeweler. She does all of her own metal smitings and all is cast by hand.“
The art walk also has some fine craft vendors, but Ponce said that the committee tries limiting a number of crafts in the market so that there is an adequate balance of different types of art that people can be exposed to.
“The job of the committee is just to balance the market properly or appropriately so that we don’t have too much of one type of art,” Ponce said. “We generally try to keep the balance equal, interesting, and unique at the same time.”
The market is always welcoming new artists, as long as they follow the rules of the art walk: the product has to be made by the artist, there’s no resale, no t-shirts, and the artist or crafter has to be present at the market. Ponce explained that any local artist could easily sign up for the Gretna Art Walk by going onto the city of Gretna’s centralized web page, gretnala.com, and going to the art walk section of the website to submit an application.
“The application is very short: name, address, contact number,” Ponce said. “We do ask for a description of their product, and it might take five minutes to fill that out. They’re to submit that, and then we ask that they send in a couple of photos of the actual work that they are planning on showing and selling, as well as price points. Then the committee meets and we usually have an answer for them within a week to let them know if we have space for them or not. If they are accepted, it’s $30 to participate, which is relatively cheap. As I always say, ‘For a shingle for four hours, that’s pretty cheap rent.’”
Ponce stated that the art walk is free of charge for the public to attend and that people are encouraged to bring their entire families along to enjoy the sun and the sights.
“Children are more than welcomed because we always have a kid’s activity that’s free of charge at the art walk,” Ponce said, “Pets are also allowed as long as they’re leashed, which draws more people to the market because people like to bring their families when they go out for the day.”
The ultimate goal of the Gretna Art Walk, according to Ponce, is definitely to broaden an awareness of all of the different types of beautiful art that are out there and to give people the chance to just look at the talent and the time that these people put into it. She also explained that the art walk helps to enhance Gretna’s downtown area, because Gretna is deemed a Louisiana Cultural District, which helps to draw in truly talented artists that go there to show their original artwork.
“I think that really the goal is to show people what’s out there,” Ponce said. “The really good thing is that when people come, they get a chance to see the artists in action. It gives them a chance to talk to the artist and to ask them questions, and it also gives kids a chance to see it in a different type of environment where they can almost touch the artwork. I think that with the farmers market going on at the same time, it truly brings together a sense of community, education, art, talent, fresh and local goods, and just a place to come hang out on a Saturday morning and get some nice and unique items.”
Make sure to check out www.gretnala.com for upcoming Gretna Art Walk dates.