NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) announces the opening of the Lapis Center for the Arts. The newly renovated cultural space will serve multiple functions, including film screenings, lectures, theater and dance performances, and much more. The renovation, begun in January 2020, features state-of-the-art surround sound and theatrical lighting, and accommodates seating for up to 360 people. Advancing the museum’s aspirations as a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, the Lapis Center will serve as a platform for interdisciplinary arts experiences and provide opportunities for expanded as well as new community partnerships.
“With the opening of the Lapis Center, NOMA is furthering our commitment to making the arts accessible to our community,” said Susan Taylor, Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of NOMA. “This inspiring, flexible space provides opportunities for the visual and performing arts, allows the museum to expand our offerings, and underscores the role that art has in helping us reach across cultures and mediums to connect with others.”
Generously funded by the Zemurray Foundation, the Lapis Center for the Arts provides a space where the arts can be explored and experienced fully. The Latin word lapis has several meanings— including stone, marker, slab—embodied in the space. Created for the broadest possible expressions of the arts, it serves as a gathering space for many communities and partners where the arts in their myriad manifestations can inspire the imagination and expand the definitions of creativity and inquiry across diverse fields.
Lining the walls of the Lapis Center is Enrique Alférez’s monumental plaster relief mural, Symbols of Communication. One of New Orleans’ most influential artists, Enrique Alférez completed the mural in 1967 for the lobby of the New Orleans Times-Picayune Building. Symbols of Communication celebrates the universal desire to share stories through language, an expression of the humanity and power of the written word. The mural has been given generously to NOMA by partners Joe Jaeger, Barry Kern, Michael White and Arnold Kirschman, where they want it to be enjoyed and viewed for generations to come.
Situated within the Lapis Center is the Azby Fund Stage established in honor of the distinguished attorney and patron of the arts Thomas B. Lemann. Adjacent to the Lapis Center is the newly remodeled Dathel and Tommy Coleman Courtyard. Bathed in natural light, the versatile atrium features glass walls that slide open to transform the space, connecting the Lapis Center for the Arts and the recently renovated Café NOMA, operated by long-term NOMA partner Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group.
The dedication ceremony for the Lapis Center for the Arts will take place on April 27, 2021. NOMA hopes to begin programming in the new spaces in early summer, pending COVID restrictions.
The Zemurray Foundation generously provided the lead gift to support the Lapis Center for the Arts. The Zemurray Foundation’s significant contribution to this effort is the latest in a long history of generous gifts dating back nearly 60 years. The foundation has supported many aspects of museum operations, from capital projects, to conservation and acquisition efforts, to funding curatorial positions and exhibitions. Notably, in 2017, NOMA created the Zemurray Fund for Curatorial and Scholarly Advancement, an endowment that supports research by the Doris Zemurray Stone Curatorial Fellow, and advances scholarship on topics related to NOMA’s permanent collection. The fund supports the research activity of emerging scholars and adjunct curators, with a special focus on collaborations with local and regional institutions of higher education.
Additional support for the project comes from Dathel and Tommy Coleman, Ralph and Susan Brennan, the Azby Fund and Robinson Lumber Company.
NOMA thanks our partners for the auditorium complex renovation: EskewDumezRipple, Broadmoor, LLC, Dupont LeCorgne, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Solomon Group, and AOS Interiors.