Tonight from 5 to 8 p.m., electric trikes and chariots will be weaving through the streets of the St. Roch neighborhood during the Frightening Fun Parade And Party. It’s free and brought to you by the Art Klub and the Faubourg St. Roch Improvement Association.
“There’ll also be lots of drum kits and you can join in all the festivities,” says Reese Johanson, Art Klub’s founder and executive director.
It’s exactly the kind of project she dreamed about creating when, in the Spring of 2015, she discovered what would become the Art Klub space on the corner of Arts Street and North Johnson.
“I was instantly inspired by the building’s potential and the warmth of the neighborhood,” she says. “I wanted to establish a hub that would foster creativity and create a network of resources for artists and the community.”
Johanson went all in to create her labor of love by selling her house and devoting her life to making the space a reality.
In 2017, after a massive renovation, this former grocery store, body shop, bakery and residential home was transformed into Art Klub NOLA Inc., which features a 2,600-square-foot performance/exhibition venue, two 750-square-foot residences and a sizeable outdoor space full of potential.
“We had huge community support, with people volunteering, helping and donating everything from chairs to lights,” she says. “I am so grateful for the overwhelming support and input we got from the community.”
Johanson is a producer, choreographer, performing artist, writer and director whose experience in theater and stage production spans 30 years. According to her website, “The Reese Johanson Collective is a multidisciplinary performing arts company with a mission to challenge artists to work outside of their comfort zone, encouraging them to engage with artists whom they might not normally and collaboratively create works of performance that are innovative, poignant, risky and human.”
For years her company moved from location to location.
“And while that offered a lot of opportunities to do site-specific projects being locked into a permanent performance space is so much easier,” she says.
The first year Johanson and her board were open to experimenting with all kinds of projects.
“Then we sussed it all out to find what works and tried to focus on sustainability and came up our anchor programs,” she says.
The first anchor program is Spoon, an international artist residency exchange which will welcome artists from around the world to stay in the on-site apartments and work on a project to present at the end of the residency.
For the first residency, the Art Klub is partnering with Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art from Winnipeg to present Canadian cast glass sculptor Sacha Kopelow.
“She’s coming on Nov. 2 and we will be hosting a cocktail reception on Nov. 8th from 5 to 7 p.m. to welcome her,” says Johanson.
Next up is F* – Female Filmmaker Festival. This annual event screens New Orleans-based female directed short films. It will happen March 8 in conjunction with International Women’s Day. Showings will include short narratives, documentaries and experimental films.
The Solo Dance Festival, re: FRAME is a platform for choreographic work. This is a year-long incubator type project, that gives local choreographer’s space and a stipend to develop a new piece.
“We will have four local and four out-of-town artists perform new solo works set to open in November 2020,” Johanson says.
Finally, there is Xenos — programming devised to offer experience in the theater process for tween and teen youth. Participants will produce, write, compose, choreograph and create all the costumes, sets and props. Teaching artists and professionals in their fields will guide the kids through the whole process from start to finish to produce a full-length play.
Along with these anchor programs, the Art Klub welcomes other artists and the community to use the space for everything from staged readings to parades. They ask only of artists that: “While using our facilities you strive to include all people of color, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation and economic background in your company, artist collective, cast, production, team, audiences, and sponsors.”
“These past two years have been so gratifying and satisfying,” Johanson says. “We’ve seen so much success and we are doing well. We’ve offered so many grassroots programs that are gritty and full of juicy creativity.”