The University of New Orleans celebrates the formal donation of the UNO St. Claude Gallery, an off-campus fine arts gallery that houses many student, faculty and alumni exhibitions. The gift solidifies the University’s foothold in a flourishing and avant-garde arts district and allows a permanent exhibition site for the UNO community to show their work, University administrators.
Dr. Alvin Merlin, a Metairie resident and UNO Foundation board member gifted the gallery to the UNO Foundation last month, signing closing papers to transfer the property to the University. Acceptance of Merlin’s gift solidifies institutional support for the gallery and University arts programs, said Susan Krantz, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. The signing of transfer papers demonstrates that UNO plans to continue to provide both its students and the greater New Orleans community with a venue to exhibit high quality art from exciting young artists, she said, noting that permanent gallery ownership underscores a greater official effort to make the establishment and its surroundings successful.
“The significance to the arts at UNO and in New Orleans is manifest,” “In accepting Dr. Merlin’s generous gift….UNO recommitted itself to the importance of art for both its campus and its city.”
The UNO St. Claude Gallery, located at 2429 St. Claude Ave. “is located in the exciting and developing St. Claude Arts District, which grew up along St. Claude, St. Roch and their environs starting in 2008,” said UNO Fine Arts Instructor and alumna Kathy Rodriguez, who believes ownership of the gallery “sets UNO apart from all other local institutions We’re the only local University to maintain an off-campus gallery presence and our site is highly significant.”
Merlin leased the gallery to UNO’s Department of Fine Arts in 2008, with an agreement that he would eventually donate the gallery to the University. That fall, opened to the public Prospect 1, a citywide art exhibition. “Payoff,” a faculty group show, was the inaugural exhibit. Since then, the exhibition space has honored faculty and M.F.A. alumni accomplishments and showcased the University’s annual Center Austria Art Exchange, bringing international attention to the University, its programs, and the arts.
The University’s Fine Arts Department uses the gallery as the exhibition space for Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibitions, said Rodriguez. She believes the gallery has great potential as a collaborative space and could be used by other UNO arts departments to host musical performances, film screenings, literary readings and other cultural activities.
“It gives graduate students an excellent stepping-off point for their professional exhibition careers outside of school,” Rodriguez said. “I think the opportunities this donation opens are almost limitless.”