Monday, February 13, 2012

New Orleans 2012: Valley Ridge Art Studio, Michael de Meng, and La Fantome Maison

For the second year in a row, I journeyed off to New Orleans, Louisiana, on an art retreat sponsored by Valley Ridge Art Studio.  Led by VR's lovely owner Katherine Engen, the attendees saw the sights of the city and took a workshop with Michael de Meng.  The workshop was called La Fantome Maison which translates to The Ghost House.  Our mission was to build a shrine to lost souls so that offerings can be left to appease the spirit world. 

On Monday, January 30th (Day One), I took off from Milwaukee midmorning to fly to the Crescent City.  I arrived at 4:00 p.m. and headed over to the Ramada Inn on Bourbon Hotel where we are sleeping and doing the workshop. Not sleeping in the workshop--you never nod off in a Michael de Meng workshop. 

The first official event of the trip began in the lobby at 6:00 p.m. where we all gathered to walk to the Voodoo Spiritual Temple located on North Rampart Street.  There we had a ceremony blessing our creative spirit by Priestess Miriam. The temple is filled with cool spirit shrines.

After the ceremony, we walked next door to the Bar Tonique where I drank a Pima Cup.  It appeared to contain every type of alcohol invented by man but it went down smooth.

I cannot remember where we ate that night but it is not because of the alcohol.  (Katherine Engen says we ate on Jackson Square which I don't remember but she also says I ate bacon wrapped oysters which I very much remember and they were great!!!!!)

I downloaded the first day's photos into my laptop and then my laptop crashed and was unusable the rest of the trip.  So that is why it has taken so long to do this blog and why there are no photos from Day One.   If you want to see the bazillion photos that did survive the trip, feel free to go over to flickr at, otherwise enjoy the ones that follow. 

Day Two found the troops on the road in two vans for a city tour.  We hit the highlights of the French Quarter and then headed over to the Ninth District which is the area so famous for the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.  What we saw there was the efforts to rebuild including the rather strange efforts of the Brad Pitt Foundation.  These houses did not look like the kind of place desperate people would want build for them--instead they looked like the set of Woody Allen's Sleeper

St. Louis Cemetery #3 was next.  For a photographer, there is an enormous overload in walking through any cemetery in NOLA.  Here are some pictures from #3.

After the cemetery we refreshed at The New Orleans Botanical Garden (hit the bathrooms).  A dedicated photographer never lets a break interfere with a few snaps. 

The Garden District of New Orleans is gorgeous and it was our next stop on the route.  Our walking tour started with the Lafayette Cemetery.

As we walked through the Garden District we walked past the homes of Archie Manning (the boyhood home of Eli and Peyton) and Anne Rice's former home. 

One of the charms of this trip is that Katherine Engen tries real hard to find cool places to eat including today's lunch stop:  Eat on Toulouse Street.

Walking in the French Quarter is an equally eye-popping experience to a photographer as the cemetery visits.  Check out these cool doors: 

Fully fed, our intrepid band of assemblage artists were ready to go junkin' in the vintage shops around Decatur Street.  We love Gregg's and have visited it each year.  Last year's highlight was an old circus sideshow poster but this year I was strangely attracted to these abandoned Mardi Gras parade relics:

Windows and doorways are an open invitation to frame a photograph in NOLA. 

This night we went to Preservation Hall to hear drummer Shannon Powell and a great line up of jazz musicians.  I think we ate afterward but it is all a bit vague now (Katherine Engen says it was the Royal House which either had great food or food that makes you forget).  I need to take better notes next year. 

For the rest of the story, see the next blog post or visit all the photos from this trip at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, looks like it was as great an event as I had imagined.