2011 marks the 35th anniversary of the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in New Orleans, which was founded in 1976 by a loose-knit group of local artists and patrons. It was an historical moment in the U.S. as a whole, when cities across the country were discovering the hidden potential of both their downtown neighborhoods and their local artists. The CAC's support of music, theatre, and visual arts in the 1970s and 1980s laid the groundwork for the development of the arts district in downtown New Orleans, evidenced today by the many successful galleries that populate Julia Street--the first of which was Downtown Gallery opened in 1983--as well as the neighboring Ogden Museum of Southern Art, founded in 1994.
Then & Now brings together past and present work of fourteen artists who exhibited at the CAC during the first years of the institution's existence, and continue to develop their work today. While some of the artists included have had more tenuous ties to the CAC in the succeeding years, their artistic evolution is still interwoven with the CAC's history, and, taken together, they have played a key role in the development of the visual arts community in New Orleans. Many of the earlier works in the exhibition date from the 1970s or early 1980s, and the most recent are all from the last decade. By showcasing the individual artistic developments of Wayne Amedee, Lynda Benglis, Douglas Bourgeois, Dawn Dedeaux, George Dureau, Lin Emery, Gene Koss, Martin Payton, Jim Richard, Elizabeth Shannon, Keith Sonnier, Robert Tannen, Robert Warrens, and Clifton Webb, Then & Now reunites artists whose contributions have been integral to the development of a contemporary art scene in New Orleans.