Art in the Magic Kingdom

May 10, 2016
New Orleans is known for the Music, the Food, and the Art. All three of those go hand-in-hand here in the French Quarter. As a full-time resident, I often find myself thinking about how lucky I am to live in such a unique community. With such rich history and culture, it’s easy to forget that this city is more than just a vacation destination.

But just like tourists, I love the sound of the horses and buggies, and love to listen to the tour guides theatrically tell their stories. It’s sometimes hard to believe that the French Quarter is a living, working community and not a twenty-four-hour adult Disney World.

There are nearly three thousand full-time residents in the French Quarter, and as one of them, I can easily blend in with the tourists when I cruise in and out of art galleries. One thing I often hear is how surprised people are by the quality of artwork that’s available. There are many galleries and artists in New Orleans that support each other, and several artists and galleries that give back to the community.

Stephan Wanger, originally from Germany, immigrated to Chicago in 1990. There he earned a BA in marketing from Columbia College. Having visited New Orleans several times, he felt compelled to relocate here after Katrina. He knew he could actually help the healing process by getting the community involved in an environmentally conscious project. Stephan has worked with and donated to many non-profit organizations to help promote Louisiana. Stephan showed art created out of recyclable material is not only beautiful but also beneficial in many ways. In 2010, he established the nonprofit organization, Bead Town.

Using recycled Mardi Gras beads, Bead Town enlists the help of hundreds of volunteers, mainly students, and together they started creating one-of-a-kind masterpieces. These mosaic creations are engaging and educational, using mostly recycled materials. They help bring awareness to ways to reduce global warming. Instead of packing landfills with tons of leftover Mardi Gras beads, the beads are recycled and reused. Volunteers cut the beads from their strands and sort down to exact millimeter size and to shades of color. Then they are glued, using a strong waterproof adhesive that allows the flexibility needed to place and fill the smallest of spaces until a mosaic is complete.

Bead Town is also a community builder that evokes positive change in communities. Since Bead Town’s conception, Stephan has headed up some of the largest projects on record, with nearly one hundred bead mosaics on display. They are currently working on a new project that, once completed, will be registered with Guinness World Records as the largest bead mosaic. “Life in the French Quarter” will stand eight feet tall and ninety-six feet long. This community project will involve over twenty-five schools and will be sponsored by businesses affiliated with the city of New Orleans. “Life in the French Quarter” is slated to be unveiled on June 22nd, 2016. “Life in the French Quarter” will celebrate the city’s tricentennial, 1718-2018, one bead at a time.

Stephan has several bead mosaics on display at Little Vic’s Gelateria, located at 719 Toulouse Street. For more information on Stephan Wanger and Bead Town, visit or

Juli Juneau is a local artist who has also found a way to give back to the community. She provides comprehensive support services and educational development for underprivileged families through a nonprofit organization she and her husband established. Juli and Stewart Juneau created the Housing and Education Foundation (HEF), a 501c3. HEF operates a Safari Park located in south central Louisiana.

Juli and Stewart have created an innovative way to teach and help others. This nonprofit provides a unique experience through lecture and hands-on education about exotic wildlife and local conservation. Underprivileged children and their families get to explore an African village as well as enjoy other amenities, including a swimming pool, petting zoo, fishing piers, walking trails, and horseback riding on the 1500-acre Safari Park.

Julie has also found a passionate way to create art. She is a gifted and talented glass blower who creates amazing vessels with her hands, a five-foot blowpipe. and a 2,300- degree furnace. She has a large collection of bowls and vases as well as wall art/platters. Her wall art/platters and their deep and mystical hues would enhance any home or commercial space by adding dimension and interest.

Visit Juli’s website to view her entire collection or stop by Adorn Gallery at 610 Royal to see a few of her smaller pieces. & info on Safari Park

There are so many art galleries to visit in this great city. The Royal House Gallery as well as the Foundation Gallery are two of my favorites . Both of these house Louisiana artists, but they are each unique in their selection of works and artists they represent.

Royal House Gallery opened its doors in October 2015. This gallery is dedicated to promoting Louisiana artists. Located at 813 Royal Street, gallery director Jamie Lehr puts in tireless hours promoting the artists she represents. Jamie states, “My mission is to assist them in gaining exposure and to help them promote their work to an international audience through a brick-and-mortar location in the French Quarter.” The quality of art in this gallery is unsurpassed. There is a wide range of price points as well as a tremendous selection of varied mediums to choose from. The gallery houses an eclectic collection of original art.

Besides Jamie, there are three other partners associated with this gallery: Joshua Lee is an acclaimed photographer. Look for his exciting new infrared series, exclusive to this gallery. Joe Brewton, painter with a degree in architecture, has an amazing architectural series that’s very popular with the locals as well as tourists. Thanks to Jacob Williams, also co-owner of Charles Jacob Designs in Old Metairie, the Royal House Gallery offers full framing service to customers or anyone with framing needs.

Resident artists at the Royal House Gallery include Phil Thompson, who teaches at New Orleans School of Art and Craft, and works magic with oil paints. His “Old World” style has been perfected through thirty-five years of experience.

Patrick Parton’s paintings will mesmerize you. He uses vibrant colors and an acrylic pour technique with a resin finish that lends movement to his works.

Kat Ryalls is prolific in several mediums—watercolor, oil, and pen and ink. Her watercolors are fascinating and her extra large tapestries are magnificent.

Tracy Wisehart-Plaisance lives in Cut Off, Louisiana. Bayou living supplies Tracy with an abundance of inspiration. Drawing from the moss in the oak trees to the pirogues on the bayous, Tracy captures Louisiana life with her impressionistic style.

Jeffrey St. Romain’s pointillism style will blow you away. That’s putting it mildly. He has magnitudes of talent and expresses it in several different ways. Whether he’s using a water jet to create amazing frames or pen and ink to produce a masterpiece, the final result is captivating.

Even though the Gallery primarily promotes painters, it does house some of the most interesting photography in the Quarter. Besides Joshua Lee, there are several other photographers that display regularly in this gallery.

Lane Lefort’s photography grabs your attention as soon as you walk in the door. Lane has an ability to capture just the perfect amount of light, which can give the illusion his subjects are suspended in space. No “Photo-Shop” required, only skill and many years of professional experience.

Debbie Willson has an inimitable series of photographs she has transferred to antique mirrors. This process gives the viewer a chance to experience the image from a completely different perspective. The frames are constructed out of old cypress trees, hand-painted and enhanced with gold or silver leaf overlay. Each frame is as unique as each print; no two are ever alike.

Vincente Weber uses a darkroom process to produce his double image photography. With accents of the lush New Orleans landscape layered with French Quarter architecture, he creates an exciting and one-of-a-kind image.

The artists mentioned above show at this gallery on a regular basis; however, there are many others who also rotate their works here.

Royal House Gallery will participate in several upcoming events, including Dirty Linen Night and Royal Street Stroll. Be sure to stop by this extraordinary gallery. You’ll be glad you did.

One more gallery that promotes and continually gives to the community…..

The Foundation Gallery - This nonprofit gallery was established by Lila Heymann of the Heymann Foundation in 2012. Located at 1109 Royal Street since 2014, the Foundation Gallery has created a space for emerging local artists. This gallery not only offers space for artists to showcase their work but also donates 25% of their proceeds to benefit local New Orleans nonprofit organizations. On any given day, the Foundation Gallery hosts over thirty predominantly local artists. Curator Alice McGillicuddy schedules between six and eight shows a year. For more information, log on to their website at

Residents of the French Quarter love their art and love their neighborhood. We hope our visitors will embrace our Magic Kingdom and enjoy all it has to offer