Under a canopy of warm incandescent lights in the even warmer night air, a Frenchmen Street wanderer can find a sprawling art oasis. The Frenchmen Art Market (619 Frenchmen St., 504-941-1149; www.frenchmenartmarket.com) is an outdoor art bazaar that began as a pop-up and now features nearly 400 regional artists.
"I get [notifications] on my phone all night from people checking in on Facebook, and we already have about 13,000 Instagram followers," says Marketing Director Alicia Conforto. "It's really exciting."
Patrons enter through a corridor lined with tables heaped with wares. This corridor opens into a bustling hive of vendors showcasing art that runs the gamut from sculpture, prints and paintings to pottery, blown glass, clothing and textiles. Everyday, exotic and seasonal items are available in a price range that accomodates the casual or serious collector.
Owner and operator Kate Gaar and her team opened a second art space in Bywater. The Art Garage (2231 St. Claude Ave., 504-717-0750; www.facebook.com/theartgarageonstclaude) is located at St. Claude and Elysian Fields avenues, at the foot of the Rampart Street streetcar line. It's a portal to the galleries that pepper the neighborhood.
"Our mission statement ... is that we want to be the beginning of ... checking out the art world in the Bywater and the Marigny," Gaar says. "This is the beginning of the art scene in this area. I want everyone to stop here and see what we're doing before they continue on to the other galleries."
Located in a former auto garage, the gallery's ceilings are dotted with opulent chandeliers. Art installations line its walls and shop fans hum constantly. A massive papier-mache elephant sculpture gets made over by the staff prior to major events. For the Halloween block party, staffers coated the elephant with glossy black paint, covering the crowd-sourced graffiti that has decorated it since August's Filthy Linen Night.
There's no food or live music at the markets — only art. The markets provide places where partygoers can get some downtime and artists can get exposure in a prime location.
"My priority is ... supporting artists [so they are] able to make a living at what they love to do," Gaar says.