Turmoil at the Contemporary Arts Center | New Orleans

Charles Maldonado reports on the CAC: high-profile departures, membership woes and New Orleans artists in open revolt

The Contemporary Arts Center’s website (www.cacno.org) advertises 30,000 square feet of event space, including 10,000 feet of gallery space, but the vast majority of that was unoccupied on a Wednesday in late May. Shortly after 11 a.m., five men who appeared to be European tourists entered the four-story building at 900 Camp Street in search of New Orleans’ cutting-edge art.

They made their way through the first floor (now showing NOLA Now Part II: Abstraction in Louisiana, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures from the CAC’s archives), then walked up a winding oval ramp to find what’s left of the second floor exhibit. That exhibit — Spaces — couldn’t be more aptly named. There was some art on the walls here and there. But just as often, small white markers — with artwork titles, artist statements and biographies — were affixed next to empty wall space.

Elsewhere on the walls, in place of artwork, there were letters of protest addressed to the CAC’s board of directors. A handwritten note from Antenna Gallery co-founder Bob Snead and Good Children co-founder Stephen Coller was taped to a tarp. It begins, “This piece has been altered in protest for many years of mismanagement and lack of direction.”

These notes are now what greet visitors at the museum, which described its mission in 2010 tax filings: “to provide public access to contemporary art.”

Later that day, the CAC announced the resignation of Jay Weigel — the museum’s executive director and a prolific film composer — in a three-page press release. Weigel was in China at the time.

Weigel’s was the third major departure at the CAC in less than a year and a half. The museum lost two visual arts curators in less than 14 months. Amy Mackie, who came to New Orleans in January 2011 from the New Museum in New York, resigned in March.

One of the artworks remaining at the CAC's current exhibition Spaces. - Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Photo by Cheryl Gerber
One of the artworks remaining at the CAC’s current exhibition Spaces.

If this is an example of what they had to offer, I can make them some more.  But then it would be “Best of Central Louisiana”.


One response to “Turmoil at the Contemporary Arts Center | New Orleans

  1. Pingback: Walk over me: Stepping over Balkan performance artist Igor Josifov is both a work and a walk of art « in the theater of One World