Many people credit the 1984 World’s Fair with revitalizing the then run-down Warehouse District, but the transformation of the old neighborhood from warehouses serving the port to what is now called the Arts District began in 1976 with the opening of the Contemporary Arts Center.
Founded by a passionate group of visual artists at a time when the movement to tear down the walls between visual and performing arts was active nationwide, the CAC began as an artist-run, artist-driven community organization in the nearly empty arts district of New Orleans. As the burgeoning arts district grew, so did the CAC, evolving to meet the increasing needs of a diverse audience and artist communities.
Renovated in 1990, and donated to the CAC in 1999, the CAC’s building mixes the timelessness of New Orleans’ historic architecture with contemporary materials and usable open spaces. Throughout the CAC’s 40 years, the center has remained active in the visual & performing arts and arts education communities, continuing to represent an era of creative freedom and multidisciplinary expression.
In September 2017, the CAC completed a landmark capital project in partnership with The Domain Companies to develop The Shop, a creative co-working space on the under-utilized third and fourth floors of the CAC’s 100,000 square-foot building (including two adjoining warehouses). This project triggered an essential full-building update, with approximately $12 million in significant renovations and systems upgrades. Notably, the CAC doubled the size of its first-floor galleries and upgraded the security and climate controls and transformed its raw warehouse space into a more functional, efficient, and ADA-compliant open space well-suited for visual arts, performing arts, and special events.
Today, the CAC is one out of a handful of nationwide arts organizations that have remained solvent and successful while serving a truly multidisciplinary mission. Currently dedicating two floors, about 10,000 square feet of gallery space, on the four-story building to rotating exhibitions throughout the year, the CAC is home to artists’ bold experiments in painting, theater, photography, performance art, dance, music, video, education, and sculpture.
The CAC’s education department engages over 10,000 children and adults annually, including those with special needs and those from economically deprived backgrounds. The CAC’s education and outreach projects offer intimate arts education settings where students, most for the first time, work together with artists, generating a greater impact through more personal, interactive experiences. The CAC’s significance and role in the cultural community of New Orleans has and always will be cemented in its broad community-based programs and initiatives.
The CAC is located on Camp Street between Andrew Higgins Drive and St. Joseph Street in the Warehouse Arts District, one block from Lee Circle and the Saint Charles streetcar line. Gallery Hours: Wednesday–Monday, 11am–5pm