POSTED Mon. Jun 20, 2016


The Arts & Old Arabi
Cree McCree
Written by CREE MCCREE

Arabi? Where’s that?

“People are always mixing it up with Algiers. They think we’re across the river,” says Studio Inferno glass artist and arts entrepreneur Mitchell Gaudet. “Or they think you have to make some kind of amazing journey to get here. We’re actually two miles from my old studio in Bywater, and just eight miles from Jackson Square.”

They won’t be confused much longer. Gaudet’s putting Old Arabi on the map with an ambitious two-block arts campus on St. Claude Avenue in St. Bernard Parish. Scheduled to open with great fanfare on June 25, it promises to make a neighborhood already simmering with creativity hotter than the blast furnaces of Studio Inferno.

Launched with a $2.4 million grant from the Meraux Foundation, and located within the newly-designated Old Arabi Cultural District, the complex is anchored by Studio Arabi (6707 St. Claude). Housed inside a converted Western Auto store, the spacious, light-filled space holds studios for ten working artists, from painters and jewelers to woodworkers and welders, who’ll invite the public in at the opening bash.

A stone’s throw away, the Valiant Theatre & Lounge (6621 St. Claude) is rapidly taking shape in a defunct bar and lounge. Open for tours on June 25, and scheduled to start performances on August 1, the theatre is helmed by the Old Marquer Theatre’s Richard Mayer, while the lounge will be operated by Mag’s 940 bar owner Paul Chiriaco.

Serving as the gateway to Old Arabi is the property that started it all: Studio Inferno (6601 St. Claude), where Gaudet moved three years ago after escalating property taxes drove him out of his longstanding Royal St. studio in Bywater.

“Old Arabi really reminded me of the same thing you had in Bywater 25 years ago,” says Gaudet, who grew up in Bywater and went to school at Holy Cross. “Mixed use with a lot of industry, fronted the river, lots of cool old bars, population in transition with a welcoming desire for creative things to take place.”

So Gaudet jumped at the chance to relocate his glassworks to Arabi Show, a long-defunct neighborhood movie theatre with a colorful history.

Pretty Baby had a premiere here, which was a huge scandal,” says Gaudet, an old movie buff who proudly displays high leather boots worn by Charlton Heston amid the oddities that line his office. “Then it became a dance club called the Purple Banana, and later a furniture store. When I bought it, it was a beauty supply warehouse filled top to bottom with mannequins and wigs.”

Now it’s filled with glass sculptures created by Gaudet in his on-site blast furnace, where he pauses during our tour to pour molten glass into frying-pan molds for the Paul Prudhomme awards he’s making for a WYES event.

Studio Inferno’s storefront gallery houses Gaudet’s current “7 Deadly Sins” show, a witty tribute to biblical taboos, which has its closing party on June 25. Also on display: “Boeuf Gras,” a plaster cow seated above red glass daggers, which harks back to the Great Slaughterhouse Wars that gave birth to Arabi.

“Arabi was part of Orleans Parish until about 1880,” explains Gaudet, opening a window into a fascinating bit of local history. “And because of a dispute between two slaughterhouses, this whole section seceded from Orleans and joined St. Bernard Parish. When that happened, they renamed themselves after Pasha Arabi, this Egyptian who was trying to throw off British rule. They were like, oh, we’re gonna be Arabi. It’s insane.”

Gaudet pays tribute to that ancestral Pasha every Mardi Gras day, when he and his Arabi Art & Culture Krewe march with the Society of St. Anne, sporting Arabi fezzes. (“I get all these fezzes that say ‘Arabia’ and cut off the last ‘a.’”)

Such rich local lore contributes to the romance of Old Arabi, which is fast becoming not just a place to drive through en route to the Chalmette Battlefield, but a destination in itself.

Beginning with the Old Arabi Bar (6701 N. Peters), a block downiver from Studio Inferno, the area just across the parish line after you cross the St. Claude bridge has spawned a vibrant nexus of coolness with its own watering holes.

For lunch, Gaudet points me to the Kitchen Table (7005 St. Claude), where his recommended fried oyster BLT does not disappoint; I’ll be back for dinner to try the grilled hangar steak.

Across the street is Pirogue’s Whiskey Bayou (6940 St. Claude), run by two former bartenders from Markey’s in Bywater, which boasts its own pop-up kitchen serving some of the best bar food in greater New Orleans.

For hungry night owls, Gerald’s Donuts (6901 St. Claude); open 24/7, it serves up booze and burgers along with the glazed treats, and reminds Gaudet of the late, lamented Hummingbird Grill on St. Charles Avenue.

No hip new scene is complete without its own microbrewery, and Old Arabi has that, too: 40 Arpent Brewing Company (6809 N. Peters) brews lagers, ales, IPAs, stouts and even a Japonica rice beer. And when Tales of the Cocktail opens its “world headquarters” nearby, it will add an experimental cocktail bar to the Old Arabi mix.

All the local players will be out in force for the big grand opening on June 25. Food trucks and tents will line the streets in front of Studio Arabi, where the Old Arabi Neighborhood Association will run a beer bar stocked by 40 Arpent and area shops and arts groups will have tables.

“It’s gonna be a great little vibe here,” says Gaudet. “People can see what all our artists are doing. They’ll also get a good introduction to Arabi and what’s going on down here.”

The June 25 grand opening of the Old Arabi Cultural District runs 5pm-10pm in the 6600 and 6700 blocks of St. Claude Avenue, and features exhibits, tours, food trucks and live music.

Photo by Cree McCree.

POSTED Jan 11, 2019


A New Orleans & Me Guide to Beer in the Crescent City

A New Orleans & Me Guide to Beer in the Crescent City

The beer scene in New Orleans has exponentially expanded since 2010, ballooning from a few beer-specializing bars and one homegrown brewery to a series of brewpubs, microbreweries and…....

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Dec 14, 2018


Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Breaking Down the Best New Orleans & Louisiana Holiday Music

Hey, the weather outside is kind of frightful! About as frightful as it gets down here anyways (also, note that next week temperatures will be back in the…....

Written by ADAM KARLIN
POSTED Nov 27, 2018


Ready for Reveillon

Ready for Reveillon

Just like caroling on Jackson Square, the St. Louis Cathedral concerts, or bonfires on the levee, Reveillon dinners are a beloved Crescent City holiday tradition. This year a…....

POSTED Nov 21, 2017


Pre (and Post)-Turkey Day Times: Some November New Orleans Events

Pre (and Post)-Turkey Day Times: Some November New Orleans Events

Here are a few Thanksgiving you can enjoy in New Orleans. Beyond the below, don’t forget that on Nov 26 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving), some of the city’s…....

Written by NEW ORLEANS & ME

    Our Local Publisher Partners

    • The Arts Council of New Orleans
    • WWNO
    • WWOZ
    • PRC
    • NOMA
    • The Historic New Orleans Collection
    • Southern Food
    • Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities
    The Arts Council of New Orleans

    The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.


    WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at


    WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.


    Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.


    As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

    The Historic New Orleans Collection

    The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

    Southern Food

    The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

    Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.



    was added to your favorites.



    Share On Twitter Share On Facebook