5) UNO’s New Art Gallery
This week marks the launch of the University of New Orleans’ new St. Claude Gallery, which is opening with a show celebrating 30 years of the school’s master’s of fine arts program. The exhibit, on display this week through the end of March, is part of UNO’s 50th anniversary events and features work from 18 alumni of the MFA program. The gallery is located at 2429 St. Claude Ave. in a cluster of other new art spaces sprouting up in the neighborhood.

4) Earth Fest at the Zoo
Audubon Zoo will host Earth Fest on Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22. The event, themed “Party for the Planet,” features representatives from nonprofit and government groups and businesses involved with environmental issues, craft-making activities for kids, music and food and art vendors. Regular zoo attractions are open during the event, and admission is included with regular zoo admission. Visitors who bring a dozen Mardi Gras beads to recycle during Earth Fest or a new CFL bulb in its packaging will receive discounts on admission. For more information, visit www.auduboninstitute.org.

3) Hands On New Orleans Day
This Saturday, March 21, has been dubbed "Hands On New Orleans Day" by the nonprofit service group HandsOn New Orleans, which coordinates volunteer projects, houses out-of-town volunteers and trains volunteer leaders. The group is organizing a series of volunteer projects throughout the city on Saturday and seeking interested locals to help out. Examples of projects to be undertaken include gutting flood-damaged homes, planting a community garden, cleaning out a school classroom and clearing a lot for an elderly citizen. For more information, go to www.handsonneworleans.org.

2) St. Patrick’s Day
Green is the theme as the area celebrates St. Patrick’s Day this Tuesday, March 17. Parasol’s Restaurant & Bar will host its legendary St. Patrick’s Day Block Party at 2533 Constance Street in the Irish Channel, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club, the same group that put on Saturday’s Uptown parade, hosts a benefit block party to support St. Michael’s Special School at 1522 Chippewa St. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Downtown Irish Club will march Tuesday, beginning at 6:30 p.m., from the corner of Desire and Burgundy streets in the Bywater and wend through the French Quarter.

1) Budget Battles Begin
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been in the national spotlight for his high-profile vow to refuse portions of the national financial stimulus package, but this week legislators in his home state will begin parsing Jindal’s own plan for spending in Louisiana. The governor last week proposed a $26.7 billion state budget for the next fiscal year, which includes substantial funding cuts to health care services and public colleges despite the influx of billions in new federal funding Jindal has decided to accept. The proposal for 2009-10 cuts about 10 percent from the state’s current budget while the state faces an estimated $1.3 billion revenue drop this year.

Ian McNulty is a freelance writer in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at imcnulty@cox.net.