“Where else can you nibble on our city’s finest cuisine, partake of craft cocktails, dance, visit with friends and make new friends, all among beautiful art and under those majestic oaks?’’
That rhetorical question is asked by event Co-chairwoman Charlene Baudier of this year’s “LOVE in the Garden’’ gala party Friday, Sept. 26, in the Walda and Sydney Bestoff Sculpture Garden. It’s the 10th such fundraiser for the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.
This year’s garden party honors New Orleans Center for Creative Arts on its 40th anniversary, spotlighting five artists with NOCCA connections: alum Jennifer Odem, who works in mixed media; alum Brandan Odums, who is a prominent graffiti artist; faculty member Mary Jane Parker, who works in printmaking and mixed media; alum Ersy Schwartz, an honored sculptor; and faculty member Michel Varisco, who works in and teaches photography. The NOCCA Jazz and Vocal Ensembles will perform.
Baudier and the other co-chairwomen — Nancy Matulich and Lynda Warshauer — along with some 60 committee members, have put together an event even bigger than those in the past. Baudier, a native Orleanian who’s been a NOMA member for 30 years and a volunteer for 10, said she and many others have been spending hours every week working out all the details.
“We’ve become friends, and it’s a good thing, because we spend so much time together,’’ she said. “I’m hugely proud of NOMA; I think the Sculpture Garden is a unique and special place day or night and that ‘LOVE in the Garden’ is a unique and special event.’’
The Sculpture Garden, established in 2003, covers more than 5 acres and displays 64 pieces by artists from all over the world. The design for the iconic “LOVE’’ sculpture, by Robert Indiana, originally was created for a 1964 Christmas card published by the Museum of Modern Art and later became a popular postage stamp.
The first sculpture, in Indianapolis, was made in 1970, and since then, versions made in several languages can be seen across the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. NOMA’s “LOVE’’ is one of 17 on view in the United States.
George Rodrigue’s “Blue Dog’’ is familiar to almost everyone in south Louisiana, and art lovers will recognize works by René Magritte, Henry Moore, Pierre August Renoir, Ida Kohlmeyer, Isamu Noguchi and Claes Oldenburg.
Pathways meander beneath graceful oaks over more than 3,200 linear feet, and there are three bridges crossing City Park Lagoon.
There also is a Cascade Garden Pool and numerous terraces offering different views of the gardens and lagoon.
Carefully chosen native land and aquatic plants enhance the artwork, as does professional lighting.
There are benches throughout the garden, giving visitors different views of the art and setting, where they can rest and let the beauty sink in.
Admission is free, and the garden is open seven days a week except legal holidays. Weekday hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Bestoffs, both New Orleans natives, established the Sculpture Garden and donated most of the works. They were abroad in the weeks leading up to the party but assured everyone that they’ll be back in town for the event.
At the garden party, guests may taste the wares of purveyors as diverse as Broussard’s and Frankie & Johnny’s, Galatoire’s and the St. James Cheese Co., and Patois and Mona’s Café. And Allison Gouaux, NOMA communications manager, said this year’s event has added a Late Night Party, which includes a cocktail competition, a third set of music and a food truck roundup.
Entertainers will include the Yat Pack, a locally based band that plays big band swing as well as New Orleans R&B and traditional jazz, and the jazz band Mario Abney & the Abney Effect.