By Todd Ragusa
The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation has commissioned a series of eight murals to beautify and visually connect a collection of its buildings along St. Claude Ave. within the Old Arabi Cultural District. The public art project is part of a new wave of development the Meraux Foundation has planned for the area, which includes the creation of a state-of-the-art outdoor event space next to the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (6621 St. Claude Ave.) and the purchase of the former Tales of the Cocktail headquarters (7220 St. Claude Ave.) for charitable purposes to be announced.
These new developments are part of the ongoing Creative Placemaking Initiative the Meraux Foundation began in 2016 when it first invested over $2 million to develop a two-block stretch of vacant and underused properties along St. Claude Ave. into an “arts campus” that now includes studios, galleries, and a theatre. Borrowing from creative placemaking approaches, the Meraux Foundation is leveraging arts and culture as a driver for economic development and enhanced livability in St. Bernard Parish.
“A growing body of evidence shows that fostering creative activity is an effective way to invigorate communities. And we’ve seen it firsthand since we began this initiative, seeing the area blossom with the addition of new stores, shops, restaurants, and lounges,” said Rita Gue, the president of the Meraux Foundation. “With this success, we’re doubling down on our investment to further nurture the area’s growth into a thriving artistic center.”
The first two murals have been painted on a building (7143 St. Claude Ave.) that the Meraux Foundation recently acquired and renovated to house the Community Center of St. Bernard, a charity that provides emergency food assistance to local families.
The Meraux Foundation partnered with the NOLA Mural Project to identify the artists and manage the project. The organization has facilitated dozens of murals, including some of the region’s most recognizable and several along St. Claude Ave. in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans.