Bywater is home to hidden resources

By Skip Henderson
- Bywater News, July 1999

For those who still question the extent to which Bywater is becoming the center of New Orleans' visual arts community, I suggest that one simply consider the fact that Bywater is the home or ]'he New Orleans Conservation Guild.

Blake Vonder Haar ... organized and opened the NOCG and moved to the corner of Burgundy and Mazant Streets in April, 1998. In that short duration, the NOCG has grown from two professionals and a staff of zero, to a team of eleven professionals, four apprentices and two administrative staff members.

Professional members of the NOCG hold degrees in Fine Arts, Art History and Design, and advanced training received from programs in London and Florence. The NOCG, by virtue of having a professional staff of this level, continues to grow and draw on the best talent that New Orleans has to offer. Vonder Haar notes that she recently received sixty resumes for a single advertised apprentice position.

Guild professionals are currently working in the areas of painting restoration, paper and book restoration, glass and crystal repair, furniture restoration, porcelain and ceramic restoration, and frame restoration and custom manufacture. Cofounder Vonder Haar laughingly calls the NOCG the "Shopping mall of fine art restoration..." because of the number of disciplines, and the depth of talent available under one roof at the Guild.

When asked to give examples of some recent Guild work, Ms. Vonder Haar pauses momentarily, then casually mentions the call she received in April from frantic members of' the New Orleans museum exhibition staff concerning two entries in the upcoming (then only a few days away) Degas presentation. It seems that both the $40 million masterpiece "the Cotton Market", and "The Invalid", both centerpieces of the exhibition, needed attention for damage in transit and other minor touches. The NOCG under Ms. Vonder Haar directed the necessary restoration and production of "Degas in New Orleans" which opened on time to national acclaim.

Other clients of' the NOCG include the Historic New Orleans Collection (restoration and preservation of historic documents), the Louisiana State Museum, and numerous public and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, and Africa.

The New Orleans Conservation Guild, hosts an annual reception for the community in early fall. Having attended last year's event in October, I can say without reservation that it is both an amazing glimpse into both the work being done there, and a revelation that Bywater is home to an establishment of undeniable world-class caliber.

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New Orleans Conservation Guild, Inc.
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New Orleans, La. 70117

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