Published February 20th, 2012 ACCESS PRESS KIT & LOGOS

Pursuing the Art of Carnival Recovery at NOMA

By Ian McNulty, MyNewOrleans.com

You’ve done Mardi Gras right, so today, on Ash Wednesday, the last thing you want is some report about nightlife. You want snooze alarms, a nice scouring shower and a strong penchant for absolution. You’ve had enough of drinks and music and socializing.

Great. But how long does such stoic resolve usually last? Can it carry you through Lent? Until St. Patrick's Day? How about just through one quiet weekend? I didn’t think so.

Fortunately for those pulled between borderline exhaustion and the compulsion to participate in the life of their city, there are some calmer, perhaps more contemplative, distractions here and a great one is coming around again this Friday.

That's when the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) resumes its weekly Where Y'Art series after a brief Carnival-time hiatus. Started last spring, Where Y'Art is NOMA's equivalent to happy hour, when from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. there's live music, cash bars and food.

Of course, there's some solid educational and cultural bona fides built in each week, with film screenings or lectures from art experts and other guests (see this week's programming schedule here; for Where Y'Art next week NOMA will be unveiling its new exhibit "Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial").

But there's no obligation to participate in anything formal, and for me part of the appeal of these nights is the chance to wander the museum's collections afterhours, to unwind after work or after Carnival and slip back to the great hall for a glass of wine and some music. This time around, local folk-rock band the Acadias performs.

Café NOMA, the in-museum eatery run by the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (of Ralph's on the Park and the Red Fish Grill fame) stays open late on Where Y'Art nights too, serving cheese and meat plates, flatbread pizzas and bruschetta.

The progressive local nonprofit KIDsmART provides art-making activities for the kids while the music plays and the adults socialize. Of course, the museum's collections can prove sufficiently fascinating for young visitors all on their own, and sometimes in unexpected ways. The last time I visited for Where Y'Art, for instance, I noticed a boy and his mother admiring an 18th century portrait of Louis XVI by Antoine Francois Callet. The boy, I soon surmised, was fascinated to see that the French sovereign's outfit was decorated with the same fleur de lis pattern that adorned his own Saints jersey. You never know what will strike a chord here.

The museum's standard $10 admission ($8 for students) applies, while admission to the Sydney and Wanda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is free, as usual, and the garden stays open late for Where Y'Art too. Thanks to our mild winter this year, the irises are already blooming around its grounds.

One of the amazing, though potentially exhausting, things about this town is just how much there is to do, and how we no sooner reach the peak of one celebration or event when we begin planning for the next (your Jazz Fest visitors begin arriving in less than 10 weeks, remember). Events like Where Y'Art are good places to catch your breath without completely leaving the game.

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