Founded in 1976 by a group of ambitious visual and performing artists, the Contemporary Arts Center still keeps in touch with its roots as an artist-driven community organization. The award-winning design of its ever-changing gallery, atrium, and theater spaces juxtaposes the original architecture of a turn-of-the-century warehouse building with newer materials and aesthetics. Within its 30,000 feet of open event space, the CAC hosts a range of events, such as curated contemporary exhibitions, world and local music performances, and special galas such as the SweetArts Bash.
When not coordinating exhibitions and performances, the CAC staff also leads educational programs such as one-day art camps, which expose children and adults to the arts. In these programs, professional local artists train groups in drama, dance, music, visual arts, and creative writing.
With its imposing, slate-gray façade, the 170-year-old U.S. Custom House may be the last building in which you’d expect to hear the delighted squeals of children. But behind the steely columns, the building erupts into 23,000 square feet of colorful displays and fluttering, scuttling insects, courtesy of the Audubon Society and Insectarium. In the Asian garden, hundreds of butterflies dodge shafts of sunlight to alight on tropical ferns and the shoulders of young visitors. And at the Insects of New Orleans gallery, visitors can ogle the pink katydids, cockroaches, and lovebugs that contribute to the city’s heritage.
These bug-filled displays are all part of the insectarium’s mission to conserve Louisiana’s indigenous species and inspire stewardship in its visitors. While adults can sate their curiosity with the vast array of exotic species, curators gear many displays toward young guests by making them lighthearted and interactive: the Field Camp’s entomologist answers questions about how to collect bugs or break up flea-circus strikes, and at Bug Appétit, chefs dole out insect-filled delicacies to adventurous palates.
Offering BYOB art classes in a welcoming, instructor-assisted atmosphere, Corks N Canvas provides a laidback setting for self-expression. Participants will receive step-by-step instruction to craft striking artwork they can take home at the end of the session and place above their mantle, secret trap-door bookcase, or army-men-figurine reenactment of the battle of Pork Chop Hill. Choose among several sessions (click on the address of your chosen location to see a calendar of events) that teach budding strokesters to paint vibrant doggie portraits, landscapes, or abstract-expressionist renditions of the DMV. The creative paintventure may finally spark the dormant artist within that’s been reclusively hiding like Boo Radley since the finger-painting period.
For more than three decades, Save Our Cemeteries has preserved the architectural and cultural beauty of historic cemeteries with restoration work, lectures, photography sales, and guided tours of the city's above-ground coffin repositories. At 10 a.m. from Friday through Sunday, cemetery sightseers can take a gander at the oven wall vaults and stone tombs of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which was founded in 1789 as the burial ground for famous Louisianan revolutionaries, chess champions, and voodoo queen Marie Laveau.
Paddle the river in style on the luxurious Creole Queen, aquatically equipped with heat and air conditioning, modern restrooms, and wheelchair accessibility and replete with old-time accents such as Victorian-style draperies, gaslight-inspired period lighting, friendly ghosts, wooden parquet dance floors, and Louisiana cypress bars and brass railings. Disembark and change out of pedestrian threads and into something more heroic during the 2.5-hour Chalmette Battlefield tour, which includes informative narration on noteworthy landmarks, local river lore, and crock-pot recipes and a visit to the historic battlefield. On the jazz tour, passengers embark on a two-hour cruise filled with peppy live jazz, cocktails, a Creole buffet, and starlit views of the city's skyline. Dinner (though not included with this Groupon) can be purchased on board for $24 per person.