Glass artist Mitchell Gaudet stands at the door of a former movie theater on St. Claude Avenue and looks out. To his right, he can see the refurbished Jackson Barracks complex.
Across the way, he notes the two-pump gas station with a tile roof, still in business. And to his left, a block or so away, is Gerald’s Donuts, a favorite haunt. Gaudet is in Old Arabi in St. Bernard Parish and the one-time movie theater behind him is the new home of Studio Inferno.
“I sold the Inferno building last spring,” Gaudet says of the hulking structure that he and his former partners bought back in 1992 to house glass furnaces and artists’ studios. “I’m leasing space there now, but this will be Inferno’s new home. Our goal is to be able to light up the furnaces here by June 1 of next year.”
Bywater without Studio Inferno? The idea seems almost heretical, for when Gaudet bought the building at Royal and Montegut two decades ago, the mere presence of the artful enclave helped launch and then supported the revival of Bywater and its transition into the thriving and colorful neighborhood that it is today.
“My dad told me we were crazy when we bought in that area back then,” Gaudet said. “Now look at it.”
A New Orleans native who grew up in the 9th Ward and attended high school at Holy Cross, Gaudet studied art at Louisiana State University before earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from Tulane University.