Keepin' On

New Orleans artists find refuge -- and studios -- in Houston

As for Guidry, he received word that the top floor of his studio building had collapsed but that the ground floor, where his studio was located, seemed intact. His ex-girlfriend e-mailed him a picture of it. His apartment was located in the back of an old home in the Garden District, an area that suffered relatively little damage. A friend drove by and reported that it looked like the front door had been kicked in. When I talked to him, Guidry said he was planning to go back in two weeks with a truck. A buddy has a store on Magazine Street, and they both wanted to haul out what they could.

I remarked that it must be hard, waiting to see what's left. "It's incredibly stressful; just in the last five days have I actually been sleeping," he said. "I'm trying to be as positive as I can about this thing. Potentially I could have lost everything. But I am so fucking lucky, lucky that I got out, lucky that I'm not living in poverty and stuck at the Superdome. And people here are so damn nice. It's still the South."

The New Orleans Museum of Art sustained little damage and still paid him for a while, but then laid off almost all its employees, including Guidry. He doesn't think he'll be moving back anytime soon. New Orleans "is going to be a ghost town for a long time," he says. "I don't know how many people are going to move back and who is going to move back. I think it will take years and years for it to recover. I think it will be a miserable place to live for a long while.

Michael Guidry's studio, after Katrina
Michael Guidry's studio, after Katrina

"Now I'm feeling a little bit more settled; I'm anxious to get my life back on track, work in the studio, being productive, not living in somebody else's place with borrowed silverware and borrowed towels." When asked if he's applying for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's Katrina Artists Trust Fund (see "What You Can Do"), Guidry sounds upbeat. "Well, I'll see what the studio is like, see what I can salvage. If I can, I probably won't apply for the Katrina fund." He says there are probably artists who will need it a lot more.

Driving home from our meeting, my cell phone rang. It was Guidry. "Hey, I have something else for your article," he said in a strained voice. "My ex-girlfriend called from New Orleans. My studio's been bulldozed."



Houston has absorbed, by some estimates, a quarter of a million evacuees from New Orleans. In that mix are a lot of people from the New Orleans arts community, and members of the Houston arts community rushed to extend an enthusiastic welcome -- to whomever they could find. The Cultural Arts Council of Houston/Harris County has set up a public forums bulletin board on its Web site ( to facilitate connections and to act as a clearinghouse for information.

Katrina Artists Trust Fund

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston has started a grant program for artists affected by the hurricane. "What these people really need most is our goodwill, our sympathy and our financial assistance," says CAMH director Marti Mayo. The museum is covering the overhead for the fund, and a panel will be set up to select recipients for the grants, which will be extended to Gulf Coast artists affected by Hurricane Rita. Mayo describes the determining criteria as not based on the type of work or whether it comes from an established or emerging artist but whether it evidences a serious commitment to the work. Mayo wants recipients to use the money for "whatever you need most; it's hard to paint on an empty stomach. We don't know what you need, but you do. We couldn't solve New Orleans' problems or fix the levees, but we can give a little bit of help to people who need it now." You can contribute to the fund at

Project Storm

On Saturday, October 8, at the Eldorado Ballroom, $150 could get you a $6,000 painting. For each $150 ticket you buy, you receive a number. Numbers are drawn at random, and the ticket holder has two minutes to pick out any piece of art he wants. Texas luminaries contributing work include James Surls, Luis Jimenez and Sharon Kopriva. But according to Project Storm organizer and self-described cat-herder Gus Kopriva, the project is receiving donations of art from all over the world. Sponsored by numerous arts organizations and galleries, the event will run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will benefit the American Red Cross. You can scope out which works you want to nab from noon to 6 p.m. at the Eldorado Ballroom, 2310 Elgin. For more information, call 713-850-8527 or visit

Bringin' Back the Big Easy

This Saturday, October 8, event isn't just a music showcase (see Urban Experience). An art auction is scheduled, and New Orleans food and drink will be served. Event benefits New Orleans artists and musicians.

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