On the top floor of the Ogden Museum of Art, is the first rate exhibition “Preservation Hall at 50,” which tells the story of the young couple Allan and Sandra Jaffe. The Jaffe’s, with the encouragement of local gallery owner and entrepreneur Larry Borenstein, opened Preservation Hall in 1961 on St. Peter’s Street in the French Quarter, dedicated to the preservation (hence the name) of New Orleans jazz. Defying conventional wisdom, the Jaffe’s decided not to sell liquor or provide tables and a dance floor, the setting was more like a professional performance space than a jazz club with everyone’s attention focused on the musicians and music; a formula that has worked successful for the last fifty years.
Into this mix of famed traditional jazz musicians Sweet Emma, Dee Dee and Billy Pierce, the Humphrey brothers and many more, was added the recent French Quarter transplant, painter Noel Rockmore. Rockmore, who had garnered recent awards and accolades in New York City, ventured south to New Orleans and became part of the local bohemian world of artists and writers in the 1970s. For his art gallery, Borenstein commission Rockmore to paint the portraits of the legendary jazz musician who played nightly. Rockmore would often set up his easel and paint amidst the patrons capturing the musicians as they played. Included in the “Preservation Hall at 50” exhibition are about a dozen of Rockmore’s engaging musician portraits and paintings that chronicle the lives of Allan and Sandra and their sons. The talented Rockmore created works of art that document a moment in time in the city and jazz.
Amidst the Rockmore paintings, are vintage photographs, a wall of albums and instruments, including Allan Jaffe’s tuba and a striking display case of his mouthpieces with a small Rockmore painting of him holding an infant son. There is the delightful work of local folk artist Sister Gertrude Morgan, whose colorful naïve religious infused drawings and paintings were sold at Borenstein’s gallery and at her booth at Jazz and Heritage festival. At several intervals throughout the gallery, you can slip on a pair of head phones and listen to the music.
“Preservation Hall at 50” is on its final week and is scheduled to close on July 15th. So go to the Ogden, escape the heat and enjoy the delightful exhibition while you can.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (www.ogdenmuseum.org) is located at 925 Camp Street, in the downtown museum district that includes the National World War II Museum (www.nationalww2museum.org) and Contemporary Art Center (www.cacno.org). The phone number is 504.539.9650 and email for additional information is [email protected] Hours are Wednesday through Monday from 10 am to 5 pm with Thursday’s popular Ogden After Hours from 6 pm to 8 pm. The admission fee is $10 and for free for Louisiana residents on Thursdays. Parking is available on the street or at neighboring parking lots.