The Joan Mitchell Foundation Has Invested $20 Million in New Orleans

The Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. Photo: Courtesy the Joan Mitchell Foundation.

Though it’s less well-known than, say, the Warhol Foundation, the Haring Foundation, or the Rauschenberg Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation has been doing big things in the Big Easy. In the nearly nine years since Hurricane Katrina, the New York-based Joan Mitchell Foundation has pumped some $20 million into New Orleans, including spending $12.5 million developing its campus on Bayou Road, the Times-Picayune reports. The late painter’s foundation has been buying up property and putting up new buildings, creating the Joan Mitchell Center just north of downtown New Orleans, where it hosts an artist residency program.

The foundation, which doesn’t receive any state or federal funding, doesn’t solicit donations, and doesn’t even accept gifts. But that hasn’t limited its ambitions for the New Orleans campus, situated on Bayou Road near Broad Street. Currently underway at the site is a new $4-million studio building, while five small nearby homes are being renovated to serve as apartments for visiting artists.

“If you can say, 20 years from now, that we helped bring national and international artists to New Orleans and that we bring the artists of New Orleans to a broader audience, then I’d be thrilled,” Carolyn Somers, director of the $60-million foundation, told the Times-Picayune.

And the foundation’s contributions to the revival of New Orleans’s cultural life extend beyond the Joan Mitchell Center’s campus. In 2010 it brought a major exhibition of Mitchell’s work to the city, so major in fact that it had to be divided up between three museums—the Contemporary Arts Center, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Newcomb Art Gallery at Tulane University.

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