Arts Alive - Feb./March 2019
- story by Denise Jacobs, photos by Ellis Anderson
Mitchell Gaudet, is an internationally recognized glass artist who works with the hot-cast process. His wife, Erica Larkin Gaudet, is an award-winning metal sculptor and artist.
The couple have been powerhouses on the New Orleans art scene for many years, but in February 2018 opened Studio Waveland & Gallery (228 Coleman Avenue) with hearts and arms extended wide. The area arts community has received them in the same spirit.
"Erica and Mitchell's decision to go all in Waveland represents a watershed event in the development of the creative economy in Hancock County,” says Steve Barney, president of The Arts, Hancock County.
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“The secret is getting out," he continued. "Artists from across the country are recognizing the robust environment and community resources we have here to develop, promote and support both established and emerging artists."
The artistic, entrepreneurial Gaudets find community-building through art “inspiring and exciting.”
“This is what we’ve always done,” says Mitchell, founder of Studio Inferno. “We develop distressed or underutilized properties into multifaceted cultural arts centers. This often includes other artists’ studios, a gallery, flex spaces for theatre and workshops.”
Mitchell adds that neither he or Erica are the type to work in isolation. They thrive in situations where their personal studios are buzzing with the energy and creativity that’s a natural payoff from having fellow artists working nearby.
Since February 2018, Studio Waveland & Gallery has opened its space to host glassblowing workshops, bring-your-own dinner parties, gallery exhibitions, yoga classes, and a host of other special events.
In January 2019 alone, Studio Waveland hosted the Hancock Arts Juried Show Deux, an exhibition featuring many talented artists from Hancock County; a coffee and art film screening by Hunter Cole, NOLA artist and scientist; and a black-light Phosphorescence and Fluorescence Exhibition.
The Gaudets say that Waveland Mayor Mike Smith and other public officials have been "super supportive" of the studio. Before they relocated, Smith visited the Gaudets in their Arabi complex and understood the positive impact the couple could have in Waveland. Alderman Jeremy Burke says the city is already reaping benefits from their presence.
"Erica and Mitchell have been powerful drivers of the transformation in the local community by increasing vibrancy," said Burke. "They are bringing a buzz to Coleman Avenue that Waveland hasn't seen before."
For the time being, Erica manages the business and creative side of Studio Waveland. She’s had plenty of experience. In 1991, after graduating with a degree in sculpture from Loyola University, she founded Toulouse Street Studio, where she taught metal sculpture in addition to creating her own pieces and a striking line of furniture.
Studio Waveland is the new home for her studio, where she fabricates and shows her hand-sculpted steel artwork, like the Lines of Strength piece, shown above.
Mitchell continues to work primarily out of Studio Inferno in Arabi, Louisiana. He compares the couple’s working dynamic to a weird multi-headed beast: “There’s me and my Studio Inferno. Then Erica’s career and her artwork. And then there’s Studio Waveland, which is where we hope to crash-land together.”
The vision involves incorporating Studio Inferno, an elaborate art space and glass foundry owned and operated by Gaudet since 1992, first situated in the New Orleans’ neighborhood of Bywater and currently in Arabi, Louisiana.
Moving a melting furnace (that holds 600 pounds of molten glass) and cooling ovens is not something the couple takes lightly, because of the difficult logistics and the enormous investment of time and money involved. Yet the Coleman Avenue building (designed by local firm Unabridged Architecture) lends itself to the couple’s vision.
Mitchell says, “The architecture of the building is perfect. Even though it’s relatively new, it has a rawness that lends itself to what we’re trying to do.”
Also, he adds, “The fact that Erica and I both fell in love with this building is unbelievable. We both have very strong opinions, but we agreed completely on this building!”