A part of town where small, often-edgy art galleries have been proliferating recently is also now home to a new gallery from one of the city’s largest institutions. The University of New Orleans opened its UNO Gallery at 2429 St. Claude Ave., near the St. Roch Market, where it showcases new local artists. It may also serve as a harbinger of more creative redevelopment to come.

“We’re going to highlight emerging artists, the type that don’t often get an audience at commercial galleries and museums,” says Lawrence Jenkins, chair of UNO’s fine arts department, which runs the UNO Gallery.

In addition to monthly exhibits, the gallery will work in tandem with the university’s academic goals, showing work by students in its masters of fine arts degree program and, in the summer, students in its annual exchange program with Innsbruck, Austria. In March, the gallery will host an exhibit of work by UNO alumni. The UNO Gallery was made possible by Dr. Al Merlin, who Jenkins says is a friend of the department and donated a no-cost lease of the building, a former plumbing warehouse. In the future, the front yard of the property may host sculpture and have projection art to draw more attention to the gallery from passersby.

The adjacent Bywater neighborhood has long been a haven for local artists but more recently, the historic but typically downtrodden houses and commercial buildings of the St. Roch neighborhood have proved a magnetic draw for creative locals and newcomers alike. 

“We’d like to be an institutional anchor for this blossoming area of art,” says Jenkins. “The neighborhood as an arts district is entirely a post-Katrina development.”

Art spaces are cropping up all over the neighborhood, and especially around St. Claude Avenue and St. Roch Street, where the UNO Gallery is located. The recently formed St. Claude Arts District names nine galleries within its network, and artists and their supporters frequently host exhibitions and events in other venues. The district hosts a gallery opening night on the second Saturday of each month, when the various venues stay open later in the evening and a welcome atmosphere pervades.

 For information about happenings in the St. Claude Arts District, visitwww.scadnola.com.