NOLA Art Bar strives to create a cultural hub for the community

NOLA Art Bar not only gives patrons a space to connect with one another but also provides networking opportunities for up-and-coming creatives. 

by Domonique Tolliver
September 13, 2022

The New Orleans Art Bar serves as the backdrop of an artistic home for creatives and intellectuals within New Orleans. 

The Nola Art Bar is more than just a bar, inside this well designed space you will find…

  • Food
  • Books – Nola Art Bar is a locally owned independent black-owned bookshop
  • Drinks
  • Wine – wine is available by the glass and by th ebottle
  • Community event space
  • Art gallery

Opening days before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the city of New Orleans to go into lockdown in March 2020, the Art Bar is now giving back to the community in any way it can.

NOLA Art Bar owner DJ Johnson said his mission was to create a cultural hub of creativity and intellectual discovery in a space that serves unique cocktails and food. 

“It’s a place where you can come and engage in stimulating conversations over cocktails and discuss some pending political, social and economic issues with a nice atmosphere,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to find those spaces in New Orleans, particularly being Black-owned,” he said.

Want to see more of NOLA Art Bar? Check out this episode of My Amazing Cheap Date, streaming only on the Very Local channel.

A space for community events

NOLA Art Bar not only gives patrons a space to connect with one another but also provides networking opportunities for up-and-coming creatives. 

The bar is kicking off its new initiative “Conversations with Creatives” in combination with Baldwin & Co. These monthly events will take visitors through the lives of successful creatives and celebrities exploring their creative processes and journeys. 

Want to explore New Orleans’ independent bookstores?

Johnson said these events will greatly impact those within the community.

“We’re bringing in individuals from many different disciplines and all celebrities. So that’s something that I think everyone should get excited about. In conjunction with Baldwin & Company, we are making a creative hub for creatives to come and develop a network,” he said.

“Conversations with Creatives” will be a live, unscripted conversation with novelists, artists, comedians, actors, dancers, musicians, composers, filmmakers and screenwriters. 

“We’re finding those connections between having a creative mind and pulling it out of you and cultivating it into a successful habit,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said the Art Bar is also one of the ways he hopes to celebrate art in New Orleans with local cuisine, local visual artists, and live performances including music, poetry, and spoken word. The bar has also received many accolades for its happy hour. 

“Along with our local food, we always have handcrafted cocktails to showcase the art of drink making,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said many local political figures and high-end professionals such as judges and lawyers visit NOLA Art Bar frequently. 

“Because those are the individuals that come into the space on a regular basis, then patrons get to have interpersonal conversations and meet people who are some of the movers and shakers in the city,” he said. 

Author Events & Art Shows

The bar also hosts book signings, author events and art shows. Johnson said the bar is entering into new territory with a magic show coming in September. Johnson said the Black Girl Magic Show performed by magician and storyteller Nicole Cardoza will show the NOLA Art Bar’s unique place within New Orleans nightlife.  

“The environment of the bar helps cultivate those interpersonal conversations that you could have in your living room that push forward your thinking,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said he tells people the bar is not necessarily a “turn up” place where patrons feel they have to be yelling over the bar’s music to communicate with one another. 

“We play music but it’s at a conversational level because we want to encourage interpersonal communication,” Johnson said. “We want you to be able to come, sit down and enjoy a cocktail in conversation with someone. But you can also pick up a book or have a discussion regarding politics and social issues over a really good bite of food and cocktail,” he said. 

The NOLA Art Bar works to provide for the city through its community events such as givebacks. 

“We donate the space to nonprofits a lot for community organizations and that’s a large part of our programming. We want to make sure that we are providing that space so that nonprofits can hold their forums,” Johnson said. “We just want to make sure that we are a cultural hub in our community service.”

Domonique Tolliver is a born and raised New Orleanian that enjoys traveling and yoga. She is currently a student at Loyola New Orleans University and is expected to graduate in 2024. Along with being a leader in her university’s award-winning newspaper, The Maroon, Domonique’s writing has appeared in Gambit Weekly, the NOLA Messenger, and the Society of Professional Journalists. Contact Domonique at [email protected] or @domtollivernews on Twitter.

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