1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
New Orleans, LA 70113
ASHÉ CULTURAL ARTS CENTER is an effort to combine the intentions of neighborhood and economic development with the awesome creative forces of community, culture and art to revive and reclaim a historically significant corridor in Central City New Orleans: Oretha Castle-Haley Boulevard, formerly known as Dryades Street.
Ashé is a gathering place for emerging and established artists to present, create and collaborate in giving life to their art. For those who felt compelled to choose more mainstream existence at earlier points in their lives, Ashé is a reclaiming harbor that welcomes them with open arms. Ashé is a magnetic force that first attracts and then activates the artistic, creative and entrepreneurial possibilities available in our community.
We work to involve the entire community, from children to elders, in our planning and creative efforts. We celebrate the life and cultural traditions of the community, and then we immortalize them in our art. Storytelling, poetry, music, dance, photography, and visual art all are a part of the work we do to revive the possibility and vision of a true ” Renaissance on the Boulevard.” Our name ASHÉ – a Yoruban word that translates closely to AMEN – So let it be done – The ability to make things happen, bears testimony to our commitment and intention to accomplish our goals.
The Ashe Cultural Arts Center was established in 1998 as a permanent home for nonprofit Efforts of Grace Inc. of New Orleans. The center’s purpose is to present art exhibits through which African-American artists can show and sell their work. Ash also regularly presents theatrical performances, educational seminars, workshops and lectures that focus on the city’s African-American and Caribbean communities.
Ashe, operating on a $200,000 annual budget, partners with the arts and cultural organizations it represents to fund most projects. Funding also comes from the state as well as corporate and individual donations.
The center also helps artists, actors, poets and dancers find work by encouraging area businesses and organizations to commission their projects.
Last year, Ashe artists were commissioned to paint a mural at the Brown’s Dairy building at 1300 Barrone St. to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary.
Interesting an entire community in the arts is tough, so Bebelle makes sure the center’s exhibits and performances speak to the entire community — not just art lovers — by presenting educational and performance art.
“Performance art is a more populist art form,” she said. “We also have photographs, quilts and Mardi Gras Indian (costumes and photographs). We want people to feel they have the capacity to interpret what is going on and we try to make sure they can see the artist’s intent.”
Earlier this year, Ash presented “Blue Lights and River Songs,” a dramatization of poems about New Orleans by the late playwright Tom Dent. The center also works with a Central City neighborhood organization to present the annual “Holiday on the Boulevard” event, which features music, activities and a parade.
(From: New Orleans CityBusiness, June 23 2003)
Ashe Cultural Art Center is located on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, formally Drydas Street, a somewhat empty street surrounded by crumbling buildings AND a significant amount of renovation projects, churches, community gardens and a playground. Undoubtedly the center could be given some of the credit for this dichotomy, the re-introducing of positive cultural elements back into this neighborhood. Frankly, Ashe has tons of stuff going on: music, theatre, dance, visual arts, meetings, lessons, conversation groups, focus groups and fundraisers. Today, I had the pleasure of meeting Luther Gray Community & Cultural Programs Coordinator and Karel Sloane-Boekbinder, Assistant Coordinator for Theater, two personable and committed Ashe teammates.