If there’s one thing New Orleans isn’t short of, it’s culture. Wherever you go in the city, you’ll find art and artists on every street corner… not least at the corner of One Collins C. Diboll Circle, where you’ll find the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). Housing almost 40,000 pieces of art, a varied line-up of events, a stunning sculpture garden, and some of the most magnificent examples of French, American, African and Japanese art, photography and glass in the country, it’s a fine place to spend an afternoon. If you need any more convincing, read on.
1. You can take a free tour
If you want to get as much out of your visit to the New Orleans Museum of Art as possible, a guided tour comes highly recommended. Not only will it ensure you don’t miss any of the key attractions, but it’ll also give you the benefit of the tour guide’s extensive knowledge and experience of the museum’s history and collections. Each tour lasts one hour and takes in either the permanent collection or special exhibitions, depending on which you prefer. Best of all, all tours come free with admission, so there’s no extra charge to worry about.
2. There’s a great gift shop
What museum is complete without a gift shop? Not the New Orleans Museum of Art, that’s for sure. Whether you’re looking for a memento of your visit, or just killing some time browsing the aisles, you’ll find plenty on offer at the NOMA shop. From silk ties to scarfs, tank tops to crew necks, linen notebooks to postcards, and backpacks to home accessories, if you can’t find at least a few trinkets that tickle your fancy, you’ve probably wandered into the wrong room by mistake.
3. There’s a stunning sculpture garden
Even if you’ve visited the New Orleans Museum of Art in the past, you might want to make a follow-up visit, if for no other reason than to pay the newly expanded Besthoff Sculpture Garden a visit. Occupying around 11 acres of city parkland adjacent to the museum, the garden homes more than 90 sculptures (most of which were donated to NOMA by the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Foundation). The garden has more than doubled in size this year and now features an additional 27 works by such artists as Johan Creten, Katharina Fritsch, Frank Gehry, Jeppe Hein, Georg Herold, Thomas Houseago, Shirazeh Houshiary, Baltasar Lobo, and Fred Wilson. As part of the expansion, three works have been specially commissioned to celebrate the opening: a 60-foot-long mosaic wall created by Teresita Fernández, a glass bridge designed by Elyn Zimmerman, and an installation by Maya Lin inside the Sculpture Pavilion.
4. You can take an art class
Every Saturday, NOMA turns into a fun-packed, kid-friendly art studio. Each week, kids get the chance to learn more about the world of art (and the world at large) as NOMA gives them a guided exploration through different cultures as they pick up inspiration for their own projects. They’ll also get the opportunities to try out a host of different artistic styles, with every class focusing on a different medium and technique. Come summer, NOMA offers young and old alike the chance to get creative at the Summer Art Camp- a great place to develop your skills in both the visual and performance arts.
5. It’s great for teens
Anyone with a teenage child will know the struggle it can be to drag them away from their screens, but NOMA offers a great opportunity to do just that. The range of teen-friendly programs on offer include Teen Squad (a good way for teens to get involved and help influence the teen programs at the museum); Teen Pass (free admission for anyone between the ages of 13-19); and the Taylor Scholars Program, an opportunity for students to experience the collection as a reward for academic achievement.
6. There’s a book club
The NOMA isn’t all fine art and sculptures. Every month, it hosts a regular book club, an informal gathering of likeminded folk that meets to discuss a literary work that bears a connection to art, artists, art museums, NOMA’s collections, and exhibitions. In addition to the monthly gatherings, the book club also offers curatorial programs, field trips, and Meet the Author receptions.
7. LA residents get free admission
If you’re an LA resident, look forward to a cheap day out this summer. As temperatures rise, NOMA’s admission is dropping. To help overheated city folk keep their cool, NOMA has once again teamed up with The Helis Foundation to offer free admission on any day the temperature tops 95 degrees. “Summers in the South can be grueling—so we wanted to again offer a chance for Louisiana residents to cool off with their friends and families, while enjoying some of the region’s premier cultural institutions,” Jessie Haynes, managing director of The Helis Foundation, says. “The Helis Foundation’s mission is to help advance access to the arts, and ‘Art & AC’ is a fun, unique way to open these museums to all Louisiana residents.”
8. You can rest your feet at the Café NOMA
After a few hours browsing the collections, you’ll likely want somewhere to rest up, grab a coffee, and revive yourself before heading back out. At the Café Noma, you can do exactly that. With floor to ceiling windows offering great views over the surrounding parklands, a menu packed with fresh, seasonal, and local produce, and a bright, cheerful interior, it’s a great place to relax and unwind.
9. It’s a unique space for private events
If you have an upcoming launch, meeting, film screening, lecture, reception, or even a wedding, the NOMA is a unique and opulent venue to hold it. With the combined interior and exterior space offering room for up to 1200 guests, and a variety of spaces (including the charming 1900 square foot Freeman Courtyard and Booth-Bricker Courtyard, the magnificent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, and the exquisite Freeport-McMoRan Great Hall) to choose from, you’d struggle to find a better spot in the entire city.
10. Friday Nights at Noma
Every Friday night sees NOMA round off the week with a lineup of exciting programs, including movies, children’s activities, live music, and more besides. The lineup changes on a weekly basis, so be sure to check out the official website for upcoming events.