Arabella Proffer

"I hope this experience will help educate me on whether or not it would be beneficial for my art career to become a resident, to move my business to NOLA,…"

Arabella Proffer

Location: Cleveland, OH  /  Category: Arts-Based Businesses

NOLAbound Blog

NOLA Bound, Again!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed on for this program, only that it was one of many coincidences where it seemed Louisiana really wanted me there. I’m probably one the most jaded people you could ever meet, and this was an experience that kept me excited the entire time—frankly, it was amazing. I met people I wouldn’t have otherwise come across, and I have many new friends as a result.

The other participants were from the fields of medicine, science, tech, fashion, film, and education. I can honestly say that I never felt so stupid as I have on this trip; so much intelligence in one group was rather fantastic and makes me wonder why on earth I got chosen! Unintelligent people bore me to death, so it was good to not have that problem! Someone said that New Orleans hates to be bored, and that sounds perfect to me. The camera crew were super nice, even taking us places that were not on the schedule (I’m pretty sure I have the worst potty mouth of the whole group unfortunately, I hope they edit out all my f-bombs), and the organizers are truly passionate about what they do. I’m looking forward to any reunions, and in the meantime do my best to support this group how ever I can. The wonderful thing about the internet is that it won’t truly feel like goodbye.

This was a good opportunity to make connections and get my bearings as far as future trips to New Orleans; anything that wasn’t on our jam packed itinerary (more galleries, a publisher, etc.) I can now do on my own in the future. The future being: 2 days from now! Yes, I’m heading back down already this week with my husband in tow. We’ll consider this part two of an audition as far as whether we make the move. In the end, he makes the final call, let’s see if he drinks the Kool-Aid or not!
The amount of stimulation, events, meetings and so forth are way to much to recount in a lengthy blog post, so instead of writing it all out, I will just make a list of various impressions and points. I love making lists anyway.

- New Orleans had a head start on the recession as opposed to the rest of the country, and it is rebuilding rather fast. The odd thing is what is being built, and what’s not being demolished or rebuilt.

- It seems like it can be a very hard city to live in for a lot of people, however, everyone seems assured it is worth it.

- It can be as sophisticated or provincial as you want it to be.

- There are more people under the age of 25 in New Orleans than anywhere in the country, and the population will double rather quickly.

- I’ve never heard so many people praise their mayor, ever. The guy doesn’t mess around.

- New Orleans historically reinvents it’s industry focus all the time, the shift from tourism (which isn’t sustainable) to other sectors is now happening.

- Film is king and no one is jaded about it, Richard Edlund (for you film nerds, yes he opened a special effects studio in NOLA) said it was like Hollywood in the 1930s.

- Ever heard of anyone getting a building permit within two days? It happened to one business.

- I stood in the middle of a street with artist friends from Cleveland, and as a dance party broke out all while bands in the clubs played (blocking traffic, and the motorists got out and danced) we experienced something special that could only happen in NOLA.

- I must fit in well, because nothing seemed “weird” to me that others have described. Then again, I did go to art school.

- Despite my arts focus, I was really excited about the cancer research center and the new medical complex being built. It might rival Cleveland Clinic.

- NOCCA has an amazing facility for kids studying the arts, and it’s all free. I hope to do future classes there, my kind of place!

- The crime is a real problem; I’ll admit I never felt unsafe, but I was on my toes for sure. I get a good feeling from the police chief though, he has a good aura around him.

- It will take a lot for the city to get back to zero, after being knocked down so many times and all. But, effort is being made, they know they can’t mess around anymore.

- The reforms of the school system have begun, but it will take years to see the how it all unfolds. Charter schools are still a controversial issue.

- I’m thankful I met Alicia, I might not have seen the lower 9th and Make It Right houses on the first day had I not. I felt disrespectful being there almost, but glad I saw it.

- I’m thankful I met Hugh, who took me to Super Sunday and showed me around areas where it looks like the hurricane happened yesterday.

- Speaking of Super Sunday: the police presence was there, but despite liquor being sold on the streets and characters all about, I never felt unsafe or scared. No one was out of control. I can’t say that would happen in other places for this type of event.

- Neighborhoods play an important role, as does neighborhood justice. The sense of community is very strong.

- This is America’s most necessary city, and you never once feel like you are in America. In some ways, you really aren’t!

So will I open a business down there (I always have ideas) or just keep doing the many things I do already and change location? I’m still not sure, as there are trade offs. In fact, a lot of the arguments I heard for why to move to New Orleans are the same reasons I moved from Los Angeles to Cleveland, and I have a good gig going here in Cleveland. The larger issue for me is boredom. Wait, didn’t I already say New Orleans hates to be bored? We’ll see what happens.

posted: March 19, 2012

My First Trip to New Orleans

Over the summer, I rented out and sold several paintings to a feature film production that was shooting here in Cleveland. The day I went on set to pick up the remaining paintings, the director saw me and threw me into the movie; he began writing a little part on the spot. While spending several days shooting, I met the charming co-producer who insisted that I needed to go to New Orleans. I forget how the whole thing came about, but she had an apartment in the Quarter, and after seeing my artwork screamed at me, “you belong there!” She put me in touch with several people, a looked up a few of my collectors who kept houses there (everyone agreed that, yes, I needed to come down right away), and thus, the seed was planted. I entered a juried show at the Baton Rouge Contemporary Arts Center—all my paintings sold before the opening—and I began to wonder if this is possibly my next move?

I have never been to New Orleans, but my parents had been several times, and never seem to shut-up about it! So I don’t know why the idea of even visiting hadn’t struck me before. My husband and I have a severe case of wanderlust, living all around the USA and more; we had been debating on the next location, certain it would be somewhere in Europe. I was lucky to be living in Cleveland when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer, one that I cost me several parts of my leg. I am 10 minute drive to the best surgeon in the world for my type of problem, and the Cleveland Clinic as a whole, but if there’s one thing that nearly avoiding a death sentence made me realize, it was that I needed to be a little more reckless and stop getting too comfortable. I moved to Cleveland from Los Angeles because of the potential the city had, because it was easy to be an artist based here, but it disappointed me in a lot of ways. I’m ready for a place with a more sustainable artist community, more vibrance, and some more weirdness in my life. From what everyone tells me, “the weird is normal” in New Orleans. It is the Europe of the USA after all; viewed by everyone as America’s most necessary city.

I’m so grateful for this NOLA Bound opportunity, it is the perfect way for me to have an introduction to a place I am unfamiliar with while getting to meet other like-minded people I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise. This way I can engage better with people in my field who work for institutions and businesses I’m interested in, and not just wander aimlessly like a tourist. Whether I decide to become an artist working in New Orleans, to move my record label, to perhaps start a gallery or other project—that all remains to be seen. But at least this way, I can be better informed about any choices I make. I’m just going to try my best to sit back and take it all in!

posted: March 13, 2012

NOLAbound Applicant Details

In what city do you currently reside?

Cleveland, OH

What do you love the most about where you live?

Cleveland is sustainable as an arts city because you can actually afford to be an artist here. Between out cultural institutions (Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall) and the amount of people starting their businesses, it feels like an arts residency rather than a city that drains you. Abandoned warehouses have been turned into studios, the food scene is booming, and because we have so many small businesses—rather than chains—it feels like everyone knows each other. The side of Cleveland Harvey Pekar chronicled is well and alive, but below the surface it’s a well kept secret for creatives, and there’s always something to do. I moved my record label from Los Angeles to Cleveland.

In what other cities have you lived?

Los Angeles, Boston

What is/was your favorite city and why?

Anyone who knows me is assured that I will find NOLA to be my new favorite city when I visit for the first time, but as far as places I’ve actually been to, I would have to say New York City. The support system and networking in every industry, the resources, and the fact that it can be as crazy or as mellow as you want it to be. Moscow is a close second.

What do you hope to gain from NOLAbound?

I hope this experience will help educate me on whether or not it would be beneficial for my art career to become a resident, to move my business to NOLA, as well as start a new one. I nearly lost my life to cancer last year, and this has pushed me to go out on a limb and live a little more; to immerse myself in other cultures, and experience all I can outside my comfort zone. I’d like to get involved with the arts community and various cultural/business leaders, to see how far things have come since Katrina, what has or has not turned around, and use that as a case study to present to other cities that have fallen on hard times but drag their feet when it comes to potential. Cities that rise from disaster always interest me, but this isn’t any normal city to begin with!

What is your overall opinion of New Orleans?

I have been told by everyone, that for me, it would be a perfect fit. They can never articulate why this is the case, but between the history, the art, the mixing of so many cultures, and the unique nature of the place, it seems they’re probably right. I’m a bit of a history nerd, but I’m also interested in that it seems like no where else of earth. “The weird is normal” I am told, and frankly, I’d like to have some more weirdness in my life. It seems the residents of NOLA take their food *very* seriously, too.

Single most important issue facing New Orleans?

Like any city, I don’t think there is one issue. The economic development, infrastructure, and crime would be at the top of the list, not to mention the management style of city governments. New Orleans should be livable for everyone, not just the tourists.

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