New Orleans is a city surrounded by art. There’s an art to the way food is cooked and displayed. There’s art in the way music is performed. Art is vibrant everywhere: from the rare sightings of cobblestone architecture to the city’s original street signs. There’s nothing more enticing than the colorfully decorated homes and the eclectic style in which locals dress. You can find artistic talent on just about every corner of the city. Many talented local artists set up daily, lining the French Quarter with art, from the galleries on Royal Street to the gates of Jackson Square. Other artists occupy streets such as Frenchmen Street, where the infamous Frenchmen Art Market is located. There you can find everything from handcrafted jewelry to sculptures, T-shirts and experimental art.
While art is everywhere in New Orleans, the Warehouse District is its mecca. Nicknamed the “SoHo of the South,” the Art District houses a collection of art galleries, performance spaces, restaurants, bars and museums such as the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the National WWII Museum. From the CAC (Contemporary Arts Center) to Julia Street, the Art District of New Orleans has something for every art aficionado.
White Linen Night finds its history centuries back, when travelers adorned lighter clothing to brave the August heat.
While art walks are held on the first Saturday of each month in the Art District, one event in particular consistently brings out the masses. Whitney White Linen Night (WLN) is an annual art walk that includes four blocks and over a dozen galleries along Julia Street. Free to the public and closed to vehicular traffic from 6 to 9 pm on August 1, the 300 to 600 blocks of Julia Street will be filled with masses of people decorated in their best white linen outfits. Guests stroll along Julia Street, partaking in the arts, art auctions, live paintings and private parties. There will be three music stages featuring entertainment by Johnny Angel and Helldorado, Danny and Charm Taylor. As well, food and cocktails will be available from several of New Orleans well-known establishments, including SoBou, Nirvana, Boucherie, Marti’s, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant, Mellow Mushroom and more.
WLN is a night of the arts, but its interesting history dates back centuries when the excruciating August humidity couldn’t be cured by air conditioning. Those who dared to brave the outdoor summer weather realized that when it came to traveling by foot, carriage or horseback, less is more and lighter is better. It was then that white linen became a common summer outfit. This style of dress remained a common cooling mechanism for decades until air-conditioned motorized vehicles became a popular means of daily transportation.
The first WLN was held in 1994 and followed the summertime tradition of dressing appropriately for our steamy summers. The event became hugely successful, with the crowd growing consistently each year. Sponsored by Whitney Bank, WLN does not require white linen attire but, due to history and tradition, it is strongly encouraged.
The CAC will host an exclusive reception from 6 to 11 pm, featuring several local artists exploring the city’s artistic evolution throughout the past decade. The CAC is also home to WLN’s official after-party, featuring a MOD dance party and food and drink provided by Baker Maid Products, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant and Mellow Mushroom.
Dirty Linen Night & Other Art Walks
Following suit, Dirty Linen Night (DLN) is held on the second Saturday in August (August 8 this year). Located along Royal Street, on this night the galleries extend their hours to host patrons in what is considered a more casual art walk. Guests are encouraged to wear the same linen they wore the previous weekend at WLN, “stains and all.” DLN began in 2001 and has drawn a steady crowd for the past 14 years. Live music and food also line Royal Street, and it is common for galleries to serve classic dishes like dirty rice and DLN’s traditional cocktail, the dirty martini.
Art walks in New Orleans are frequent. Other streets filled with galleries have created their own art walks. The St. Claude Art District holds an art walk on the second Saturday of every month. The rise of local art in this neighborhood has been huge, and vibrant street art is also common in this part of town. Art for Arts’ Sake is another art walk held annually in the Warehouse District and on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans.
Museums in the Art District
Contemporary Arts Center is located on Camp Street and is the city’s most recognized venue for contemporary art.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art is devoted to representing the culture and history of the American South through art.
The National WWII Museum offers an in-depth exploration of World War II through photos, letters, artifacts and memorabilia.