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Rich heritage, culture of New Orleans’ Bell School at center of 8-year renovation effort

Arts & Culture

Bell Artspace Campus in New Orleans

The newly renovated Bell Artspace Campus in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood.

For more than a century the Bell School campus in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood was a hub for education, music training and social activities, with a history boasting one of the nation’s most significant African American cultural districts. Vacant and abandoned since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the campus fell into disuse and disrepair.

Last week it reopened as the Bell Artspace Campus featuring 79 units of affordable housing and work space for artists, cultural workers and their families. It also features incubator space where trainings and other opportunities are available to community members, greenspace for local events and activities, and the restoration of a chapel and the celebrated band room of Bell School – which launched the careers of many well-known New Orleans musicians.

Arts & Culture Program Managing Director Regina Smith (right) speaks with Osh Ghanimah, founder and CEO of Broadway for All, and Caitlin Strokosch, president and CEO of National Performance Network/Visual Artists Newtork, during a visit to the Bell School campus.

Arts & Culture Program Managing Director Regina Smith (right) speaks with Osh Ghanimah, founder and CEO of Broadway for All, and Caitlin Strokosch, president and CEO of National Performance Network/Visual Artists Newtork, during a visit to the Bell School campus.

The endeavor was an eight-year process of planning, community input, and funding support from the city, developers and philanthropy including The Kresge Foundation, which supported Artspace’s work on the project.

Regina R. Smith, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Arts & Culture Program, said the project aligns with the program’s aim of integrating arts, culture and community-engaged design into community development and urban planning for disinvested communities.”

“The Treme neighborhood’s rich history and traditions were at the center of this effort, which brought together partners from multiple sectors around a shared vision,” said Smith. “It is heartening to see the campus come to fruition with community members at the center of it.”