…the renaissance on Dryades Street, now named O.C. Haley Boulevard (OCH) after Louisiana civil rights, women’s rights and human rights activist Oretha Castle Haley. A glimpse into this important historical figure’s life and achievements is inspiring and worth looking into, although I am not familiar with any books to refer you to.
Anywho, there is plenty of activism happening on this urban main street on the rise. Now is the time to visit this neighborhood so that you can say, “ I remember when this was a street filled with blighted buildings, wonderful architecture and history, and a community committed to remembering the past and moving toward the future”. Alright, a little sappy but somewhat true.
There are so many interesting storefronts in this former Vogue District, that I get surprised when I realize how much is still waiting for renovation, preservation, and inspiration. So spend a day and / or an evening on the up and coming Central City strip.
In the day time, start your outing with a sugar rush from Adrian’s Bakery in the completely renovated Franz Building at the Jackson Avenue end of OCH. Then move on to the anchor of the O.C. Haley Renaissance, the Ashe Cultural Center. At Ashé their mission is to use art and culture to support community development. And the facility is constantly engaging the community with weekly programs, special events and performances. Drop by to view the art work on display on the first floor and to sample the energy of this vibrant incubator in the ‘hood.
Afterward, stroll down the street to another stalwart in the ‘hood, Café Reconcile. As you stroll, take time to see new murals, old murals, youth programs and more. Café Reconcile is open for lunch M- F 11:00 AM – 2:30 PM and is a hotbed of young mentees learning ALL the trades of the food and beverage business. Support them.
On down the way from Reconcile, there is an art gallery featuring Daniel Jupiter and soon the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and Library. The building the museum is renovating used to be the Dryades Street Market. So here it is again, history and progress teaming up together to rebuild the Crescent.
Continue on to the other end of the Boulevard admiring the progress, and see the future. Such as the old
Gator’s will soon be the home to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and a suite of services. Stop in at Velvet, the hip new coffee house with superfine afternoon delights…pastries and espresso. Finish up the walk all the way to Calliope so that you can see the old school building under renovation to become an organic grocery with other suites available.
Now, O.C. Haley has plenty going on at night too. And has been. Zeitgiest Multi Disciplinary Theater has a full calendar of events EVERY week. And of course they will be jumping this week with the film fest in full swing and their usual avant-garde presentations.
Plus the “big ticket” item that drew me to O.C. Haley this week is the Ashe Cultural Center’s presentation of “Songs in the Key of Life”. Yes that is Stevie Wonders masterpiece from the 1970’s. The Times-Picayune’s C.P. Mahne says of it, “…in transforming Wonder’s 1976 classic concept album into a work of theater, John Grimsley has created a work that is far removed from being a mere jukebox musical. It is a form unto itself, but could rightfully be described as an opera.
The milestone recording by Wonder is a standout, even amid the superstar’s impressive legacy of music – topping the charts with more than 30 songs over the years and earning 22 Grammy Awards in the process. “Songs in the Key of Life” was not only a best seller, it was one of Wonder’s most critically acclaimed works; Rolling Stone named it high on its list of the greatest albums of all time.
Grimsley brings the purest vision of musical theater to the songs, creating a story of a family whose lives undergo a sudden change. Presented without dialogue, the story is told entirely through the songs and the exquisite interpretations by the singing actors.
Mahne finishes his glowing review by saying about he perforance, “you can fell it all over”.
So top this with a magnificent meal at the newest hidden gem of OCH, Casa Borrega. A lovely home transformed into restaurant and residence by husband and wife team, featuring fine dining, live Latin American jazz, and innovative cocktails.
Every thing lovely,
Out and About is a weekly blog by Leslie Compton of Every Thing Lovely, a special event and creative consulting team, and is sponsored by Key to NOLA Properties, a full service real estate brokerage firm specializing in furnished rental properties in New Orleans, Key to NOLA Properties and Every Thing Lovely have joined forces to provide a full array of services for travelers’ ( and locals’) personal and professional needs while in the Crescent City.