New Orleans Jazz and Heritage CenterNew Orleans, LA
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is the non-profit owner of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The Foundation directs revenues from the Festival and other fund-raising activities into the cultural economy of southeast Louisiana. Its biggest project to date is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Center, a 12,500 square foot building that will house a music school, performance hall, and meeting room for community activities. The 19th-century building will undergo complete renovation – historic details will be preserved where possible and upgrades will be made for safety, sustainability, and energy efficiency. ArtPlace spoke with Executive Director Don Marshall about the best thing to happen during the grant period.
ArtPlace: What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant?
Don Marshall: One of the most rewarding accomplishments we’ve had during the ArtPlace grant cycle is a relatively recent development: we are just now finalizing the building’s official name. After a lot of thoughtful work by our Board Members, staff and architects, we have decided to name the building the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center.
Why George Wein? He’s the father of Jazz Fest and the founder of the modern festival era. Mr. Wein produced the first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959. He was hired in 1970 to design and produce a unique festival for New Orleans. He managed to create a single event that brings together the food, music, and art of New Orleans in a way that does justice to the city’s rich culture and history. His expertise helped to grow Jazz Fest into one of the most well-known festivals in the world and the template for many of the country’s biggest festivals – including Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Lollapalooza. He also helped to establish the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation as the non-profit owner of the Festival. This ensures that Festival profits benefit the New Orleans community and help to nurture local culture throughout the entire year. We owe Mr. Wein so much, and we are delighted that his name will go on the front of the building, which embodies the work that he did so masterfully and selflessly.
ArtPlace: How did you decide on the naming of the Jazz & Heritage Center? Was it a challenge to get all of the pieces to fall into place?
Don Marshall: The biggest challenge to naming the building after George and Joyce Wein was getting the Historic District Landmark Commission to agree to the display of the name on the exterior of the building. Since it’s a historic building in a historic neighborhood, we do need to get approval from several bodies before architectural plans can be finalized. I’ll be meeting with the final group on April 23rd to gain approval for the design. Other than that, the name made so much sense and was such a good fit for the building that it wasn’t a difficult choice. Our past Board President Nancy Marinovic deserves special recognition for presenting the idea to Mr. Wein and getting him on board. There will be a special event recognizing Mr. Wein’s role in the history of the Festival and Foundation and announcing the naming of the building on Friday, May 3rd. Shortly thereafter, construction will begin. We are so excited for the eventual opening of the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center and the many ways it will carry forward the work of its namesakes.