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DIY Index: The Front in New Orleans, LA

Patrick Coll, Allison, 2019; digital print on fabric, 16 by 16 in. Courtesy The Front.

The FRONT
4100 St Claude Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
Saturdays and Sundays – 12 to 5pm, excepting opening events on Saturdays – 6 to 10pm.
nolafront.org

Operated by: Cooperatively run by all members.

Opened: Fall 2008

Most recent exhibitions: Patrick Coll, Parasocial (February 8 – March 3); David Bordett, Born to win, Bound to lose (February 8 – March 3); Sex, Death & Visceral Honesty: Artworks and Publications by Independent Women’s Comic Artists from the 1960s to Today (Presented by Good Weather Gallery, January 12 – February 3); Echoes, featuring Leah Dyjak, Nate Nettleton, Jacqueline Dee Parker, Lee Emma Running (January 12 – February 3); Geoffrey Todd Smith, Ruffle Waith (January 12 -February 3)

After Hurricane Katrina, a lot of artist-run and art-centered spaces opened and then closed relatively quickly. Has the cooperative model kept The Front running when others haven’t been able to?

I’m not so sure about lots of art spaces starting and then closing after K. Certainly, a few have come and run their course for whatever reasons. Many of the spaces that were fledgling when we started—as well as a good many that have opened in more recent years—are thriving in their own way.

What I can say about The Front and our longevity is this: it’s really no secret in that the running of the gallery is a true labor of love that takes the collective teamwork of eighteen or nineteen people. Aside from specific month to month programming, all of the other organizational details happen through true democracy; this can sometimes be a slower, messier process—but ultimately it’s what contributes to our almost family-like atmosphere amongst our members. The two other basic facts that I think have kept us moving forward so strongly is the depth of artistic talent all the members possess, as well as the commitment each of us bring to the table.  In some ways the latter is a higher priority in regards to running the space; The Front doesn’t really work well unless each member truly prioritizes the gallery in their own life (and of course, we all have a ton going on: personal practice, day jobs, families, et cetera). It just so happens that all of our members make really thoughtful, interesting work, too.

DIY has been a large part of the post-Katrina narrative about New Orleans. Do you think that narrative is relevant while Airbnb and others have made it so expensive and difficult to live and work in New Orleans as an artist?

DIY has always been a huge factor in New Orleans—it was also a primary mode for many in the immediate pre-Katrina era. In those days, New Orleans was cheap and wild, and there was a sense that if you had a creative idea and a little bit of hustle, you could pull it off.  As you hint at—and this is no secret—the new New Orleans is way more expensive and more transactional now. In fact, I don’t know if I would be still living here had I not been super lucky to buy a home for a very reasonable price eight or so years ago. I definitely couldn’t afford to continue the artistic lifestyle that I’ve been fortunate to ride for all this time much less give so much to a group like The Front.

DIY is still relevant, and it represents one of a very few ways to carve out that artist life here now. The DIY path nowadays has to be really focused and factor in some considerable drawbacks. It’s pretty common for the slightly younger generation of artists to live with three, four, or five roommates—or, in other circles—to get by squatting.  The DIY route is still alive and well now, and there are many exciting projects that seem to be making it—[New Orleans] Airlift’s Music Box comes to mind—but the odds of sustaining energy are more difficult now than ever before.

The exhibitions and events at The Front are wildly different across mediums, styles, and artistic practices. What unites all these exhibitions in The Front’s cooperative vision and methodology? 

One thing that is consistent about all of our shows is that we give complete creative control to the exhibiting artists. We believe that doing so keeps our programming challenging, boundary pushing and unexpected. We promote experimentation and strive to offer something different than what you would see in commercial galleries.


Patrick Coll, Still from BaudrillardBot, 2019; 3-D animation and Markov Chain Chatbot, 1920 x 1080. Courtesy The Front.
Installation view of Sex, Death, and Visceral Honesty at The Front.
Installation view of Sex, Death, and Visceral Honesty at The Front.

 

Leah Dyjak’s installation Moonrakers on view in Echoes at The Front.
Geoffrey Todd Smith, Gopher Bop Recordings, 2018; gouache and ink on paper, 24 by 22 in. Courtesy The Front.

The Front’s new exhibitions open tonight from 6-8 pm at 4100 St. Claude Ave, New Orleans, Louisiana. 

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