The Bell School Campus


Funding Received: 2012
New Orleans, LA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
April 17, 2013

In partnership with artists, politicians, neighborhood and philanthropic leaders, Artspace is working to convert the six-building, two-block Bell School campus in the heart of the historic Tremé neighborhood into a vibrant, multi-faceted arts facility. What today is vacant and dilapidated space will be re-animated by artists and creative people as a catalyzing community asset.

ArtPlace asked Artspace Project Manager Joe Butler to discuss the rewards of working on the Bell School Arts Campus.

ARTPLACE: What has been your best event or the most rewarding experience you have had during the course of your ArtPlace grant?

JOE: Several things that have been especially rewarding—all of them borne of the strong partnerships we share with artists, arts organizations and the community. In the last three months we have held two forums with other ArtPlace grantees in New Orleans. The first was as part of the New City partnership, for which 60 people attended a facilitated-panel conversation regarding place-making grants award winners—all located in an adjacent up-and-coming neighborhood. In addition to Artspace Projects, the grantees that participated included the Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation, The St. Claude Main Street Association and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

The second forum Artspace hosted took place during a visit to New Orleans by the Kresge Foundation. A group of 12 artists and arts organizations discussed the needs of the indigenous artists within the Tremé community, the changing landscape of affordability for artists and arts organizations in NOLA. We also discussed the value of a critical mass of artists and arts organizations co-located in a creative hub. Among Katrina’s impacts has been the increase in rental housing costs in neighborhood traditionally accessible to artists for living and working space. Tremé has been especially hit by higher costs of living and the loss of community-based practice and performance space. Co-location to leverage human and physical resources was a key theme within the conversation.

As we move this project forward, we keep in mind that we are working to affect positive change on several levels. One of our potential partnerships will help support traditional building trades that have practiced their crafts in New Orleans for generations. As a part of the Bell School project, Artspace is working to partner with The New Orleans Master Crafts Guild to restore the chapel next to the Bell School. The Guild, led by Jonn Hankins, is an organization which seeks to revive and strengthen the city’s traditional building trades, including carpenters, plasterers and metalworkers. If we preserve this chapel while at the same time building economic development and sharing new skill sets, and the end of the day the product is an affordable place for living, working and presentation of the arts, that’s a pretty big triple net win.