POSTED Thu. Jan 30, 2014
It's a good time to be in New Orleans
Adam Karlin
Written by ADAM KARLIN
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Last night was a good night in New Orleans. I checked out the Sunken City premier party at the Freret St Publiq House around 8pm. A good sampling of some of the city’s most talented, creative and ambitious individuals was on tap.

Actors, writers, community organizers, managers, business owners and the like – within 15 minutes, I had chatted with a program coordinator at the Arts Council, a self-starting Tulane MBA who was managing her own consulting firm, a local comedian working on his own sketch show and the creators of What the Sleepy Animals do at the Audubon Zoo, now in its third printing. Alexis and the Samurai played a great set, including a cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ that was frankly better than the original.

After the show, Sunken City co-creator and co-star CJ Hunt (pictured above, singing with Sunken City crew and cast) chatted with me. I congratulated him on the party, and we marveled at the crowd of impressive New Orleanians. CJ put it well; it felt like an almost critical mass of, and I’ll paraphrase here, ¬_good_ , was building in the city. The trick, I thought, was keeping said good within the city. What happened when talent was recognized and some headhunter tried to poach it to New York? And yet, I thought, it seemed so much skill was purposely choosing New Orleans over those other places. The internet age means you don’t have t be in Manhattan to make a splash. And some – certainly myself, and many transplants and natives who have returned home – have decided an affordable home, a caring community and a sense of civic engagement are a decent tradeoff.

Anyways, I think I was especially in love with New Orleans last night, although I will note, now and on the record: last night’s crowd represented one relatively affluent slice of the city, and all the good I note doesn’t mean much unless it can accessed by the region’s population as a whole. Anyways, here are some other things to be happy about right now.

The Audubon Nature Center is coming back
It’s a little criminal this New Orleans East institution has remained off the map since Katrina, but we’re glad it’s coming back home. Understanding a city begins with understanding the natural environment that birthed said city; this sort of knowledge is even more useful when the city in question is particularly at the mercy of the elements. The new center will include, to quote their press release, “a planetarium, an 8,500-square-foot Exhibit Pavilion, a glass and steel greenhouse Botany Center, classrooms, interactive educational exhibits, a network of trails and covered boardwalks and extensive landscaping.” That sounds amazing – a perfect resource for kids and adults, and an excellent, urban-adjacent way of accessing the unique wetlands that our homes are built on and around.

More food, better food
The city’s culinary profile continues to outstrip all standards for a town of this size. And while good food is coming to the places you expect – word is Butcher is going to expand by three sizes (rather like myself after having the Buckboard Bacon Melt – it’s mainly arriving in residential areas. Places where tourists are far outnumbered by locals, if tourists are present at all. Take Mid-City, which just received Mopho, Ye Olde Bake Shoppe and Biscuits and Buns on Banks. Broadmoor got the Laurel st Bakery. The list goes on.

God, the arts
Our profile is growing like my hunger after reading the above paragraph. Authors are all around; on my reading list, Peter Ricchiuti is hitting Maple Street Books next week (Feb 6) to speak on the economy in the charmingly accessible way that makes him such a feature on WWNO’s Out to Lunch. The Whole Gritty City is getting national acclaim. Queen of Bounce has been renewed for a second season.

We’re engaged
Don’t let anyone let you believe this city doesn’t care about its future. The Bagneris/King/Landrieu race has some teeth. We have one of the finest outlets for local investigative journalism in the country. And however you feel about local sound ordinances, we’re not shutting up about the music. Hell, some of us are making it a central issue of the next election.

OK, it’s not perfect
Of course it isn’t. My gripe this week? The ridiculous delays surrounding the Crescent Park. At this stage, the project is two years behind schedule, and somehow they’ve only just figured out the soil in the damn place was contaminated. Get it together, City Hall, or let the residents of the Bywater sort the issue out themselves. They did so with Markey Park and Clouet Gardens – another example of how in this town, the grassroots regularly out-grow and out-perform the top-down.

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    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

    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 WWNO.org.

    WWOZ

    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.

    PRC

    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.

    NOMA

    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.

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