When Tammy Mercure heard about her friend Elana Schlenker’s pop-up art shop in Pittsburgh, she knew she had to bring a version of it to New Orleans. Schlenker had asked Mercure to sell some of her photography at the Pittsburgh venue, a space that features the work of women artists in a range of media.
But the Pittsburgh project was not simply a new collective gallery. Named 76<100, it implemented a unique pricing structure for the art. Women, transgender customers and others who identified off of a binary gender definition were only charged 76 percent of the listed price, to draw attention to the wage gap, which in Pennsylvania saw female workers earning only 76 cents for every male worker’s dollar.
The wag gap in Louisiana, as reported in early 2015 by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, is much worse. Louisiana women, on average, earn about 66 cents to a man’s dollar — and that’s what they pay at 66<100, the shop Mercure and her colleague Rebecca Diaz have run since early November at 1612 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
“When you see that difference” at the cash register, said Mercure, “it’s a great way to make it make sense.”
She’s seen parents walk out of the shop talking it through with their children. One featured artist, she said, explained the concept to a barista, only to be rung up for 66 percent of the cost of her drink.
66 The Platforms Fund is supported by the literary Press Street group, the contemporary visual arts-focused Pelican Bomb and the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, the community organization and performance space a block away from 66
For the holidays, the store is currently taking orders for Thanksgiving pies and cakes from the local bakers Cakes by the Pound; orders can be picked up on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. All proceeds from these sales go directly to the more than fifty featured artists and artisans, about half of whom are New Orleans residents, Mercure said.
The curation process, she said, was like “following a trail.” Mercure moved to New Orleans a year and a half ago, after participating in the annual PhotoNOLA festival.
Some artists she knew recommended others who would dig the idea. Others connected more serendipitously, like the woman who wandered into the store carrying the drawings she’d made for a canceled art market.
“It was a really natural progression,” Mercure said.
Programming at the shop, since it opened in early November, has included events tied explicitly to its mission, like a workshop on salary negotiation (which will repeat during the pop-up’s final days, the weekend after Thanksgiving; check lessthan100.org for details).
Visitors to the shop can take home a poster printed with information on the wage gap in Louisiana and its impact, as well as suggestions to combat it in the workplace and the voting booth. They’ve also hosted low-key parties, like a small showcase of female-fronted local bands, and a gathering and presentation by Electric Girls, a program run by two female audio engineers that teaches programming and electronics to girls between the ages of 9 and 14.
“We wanted it to feel very accessible, very open, very approachable,” said Diaz. “It should feel like a place where you can come and learn something, give to a cause and shop locally, to feel all of that in one space.”
Diaz and Mercure recently gave the Australian project organizers a Skype tour of the Central City space for inspiration.
And based on the pop-up’s success, the organizers said they’ve begun to think such a project would be welcome in New Orleans in a more permanent way. Most of its customers, during the project’s short tenure, have visited more than once.
“We knew people would come in, we just didn’t expect this many,” said Mercure.
A closing party is tentatively scheduled to take place during the shop’s final weekend. Visit lessthan100.org for details.