So as you may well know by now some of us have decided to do a bit of travelling to experience the art talent across the water in the hope of making new international arty friends to exhibit and collaborate with. We have got started in New Orleans, an incredibly vibrant and creative city. We stayed in the French quarter, where the streets are lined with art galleries and the sound of jazz from buskers and the many live music venues fills your ears as you sample what the area has to offer in terms of the arts. Many of the galleries are admittedly filled with work aimed at tourists, vibrant fleur de lis and trumpet paintings in colours to match the sofa of any buyers’ living room. However if you look a little harder the more interesting stuff is plentiful. We were very excited to find the amazing works Chris Roberts at the Antieau Gallery (www.antieaugallert.com). The pieces were just stunning to view in person, beautifully executed and incredibly moving. We would have loved to have met this artist but got a great sense of her through her interesting use of the space. We loved this little shrine to her current favourite things. No rest for the wicked and after a quick breakfast beignet and a few distractions due the the amazing architecture and the general eclectic eccentricities of the quarter, we stumbled across this little gem. The Tresor Gallery (www.tresorgallery.com) represents many amazing artists and we enjoyed chatting to Rachel at the gallery about Sweet ‘Art and the works we enjoyed. So much great work but we particularly liked these pieces and passed our details on to the artists. Cindy Wynn We also really enjoyed the memorial show of Louisiana artist George Rodrigue who’s Blue Dog paintings came to be seen as internationally iconic images. Rodrigue has been the subject of twelve books published nationally and internationally and many of his own books where available to peruse in the exhibition. We loved the beautiful Blue Dog Love (available at http://www.georgerodrigu.com). We also discovered that Rodrigue also raised 2.5 million dollars through sales of his prints for post Katrina New Orleans which really moved us as some of the aftermath of that devastating time is still visible in many areas of the city. We were also privileged to squeeze in a visit with Iranian born artist David at his studio. David’s works, that he describes as progressing over a twenty year period are haunting and intriguing to view in person. I was struck by the artists intuitive use of scale in the delivery of meaning in his works and this contributed to what for me felt like a powerful conveyance of emotion. David spoke of seeking refuge in the US without family at an early age and for me his works portray a harrowing struggle with and challenging of a sense of personal identity and a very internal experience. David’s works can be seen at the Harouni Gallery (www.harouni.com) So we loved New Orleans, made some great new friends and were sorry to leave but back on the road we go still nursing hangovers, we are definitely going back for Mardi Gras! Next stop Austin Texas where we are running a little late (ok this country really is big!) to meet with director of the a Little Pink Monster Gallery known as Central Texas Annie (www.centraltexasannie.wordpress.com). Warm welcomes are big in Texas and I’m left feeling like I’ve met a new best friend in Texas Annie. I feel even more impressed and inspired as she takes us around the beautifully intriguing little space in a less privileged residential area of Austin, a city with a real creative and hip feel in comparison to other parts of Texas. Annie explains to us that she realised the space as a place to bridge the gap between the arts and the local community and sites gentrification of such areas as being a very hot topic at present in Austin. We can of course recognise a parallel with parts of London and Annie explains her process of setting up the gallery and a consultation with the locals in the form of a barbecue that I can only imagine was a welcoming and inclusive affair. Let’s be frank, Annie is awesome. I find my self excited and inspired within seconds of meeting her and my usual (healthy?/unhealthy?) one hundred ideas a minute multiply but even I struggle to keep up with this gals creative pace and passion! The space is awesome too. The very fabric of the place reeks of care and creative refuge and this is a word Annie thanks me with surprise for using in relation to the gallery but as she describes her vision I can’t help but think in these terms. The space acts as part gallery, part studio and has a cosy artists flat at the back that we were generously offered as accommodation, if only we had more time! Annie and her team act as mentors for artists seeking support with their creative process and provide the space in any way it can accommodate to contain and facilitate this. I do mean in any way, as Annie spoke of plans to create a forrest through the space by one artist! Annie spoke fondly and excitedly of the talent of another artist Andrew Scaturro who in his 50’s is an incredibly talented artist yet has struggled to find a place to feel creatively nurtured. He has been taken under the wing of the Pink Monster and it is clear that Annie really values his work and on viewing some of his pieces it’s easy to see why. This piece called ‘last known whereabouts’ Andrew created in honer of a woman who image he found on a photograph in the street. The words written on the back inferring this to be the last picture taken of this ‘lost’ woman clearly resonated with the artist as he has continued to recreate this image over and over, defying with dignity the idea that someone can or should be ‘lost’ to the world. There is something incredibly moving yet unspoken in his imagery that really struck me. Annie spoke of him using his painted canvases to block holes in his roof during a particularly hard down pour of rain and this acted as a metaphor that was striking and poignant for me. A sense of this work having a very practical protective purpose for the artist, acting as a bridge between self and other but also as a life line, something that acts as shelter. It may be this need that Annie sees in the artists she selects to be nurtured and nourished by the Little Pink Monster, one of her many projects, saying that she is drawn more to those that waver in their confidence and focus than those who have a clear creative intention. Annie emphasises the element of community in her vision and she speaks of the popularity of the venue for musicians with recent events attracting the interest of musicians from all over the world as well as the local blue grass band that that live opposite the gallery and play every evening on the porch. This is so not London! She also introduced us to Joe Bones who has built the Bone Yard skate park (www.skatetheboneyard.com) just up the road with a little help from his friends. This guy is clearly an up-cycling, engineering genius with tattoos and he excitedly showed us around where he lives, works and plays. We are blown away and on leaving promise we will be back, we have to go back for longer! We take one final look around the gallery and say goodbye to Annie and Grover the dog with us both (Annie and I, not the dog) apologising profusely for just not having more time, but I think this may be the story of both our lives! Despite this we part determined we will make time for transatlantic collaborations and future visits and I leave buzzing with ideas about how to get started. Watch this space! Annie tells us we can’t leave without popping by the local shop The Wet Whistle (www.thewetwhistlemlk.com) to stock up on some healthy snacks, quite hard to find in the rest of Texas believe me! She explains to us that in some areas where there is some economic deprivation food stores do not open in the fear of not making enough profit. This results in some communities feeding their children from food bought in petrol stations for a lack of other amenities which results in the obvious physical and mental health concerns for whole communities. The Wet Whistle, opened by one of the artists involved in the gallery, seeks to provide good quality, healthy food for the community in one of these ‘food deserts’ at a risk of making little profit. They do sell the very best healthy snacks, incredible coffee and if needed will provide nutritional advice for preparing family meals as well. Amazing! I’m left with a feeling that this is a place where those who most need it will get ‘fed’, whether literally, emotionally or creatively and we really hope to be back to be more a part of it one day.