From creative iconoclasts to adventurous foodies to the religiously devout, all sorts have found a home in the Historic Commercial Center District on East Sahara Avenue since it opened in 1960.
Led Zeppelin played the Ice Palace in 1969, and the Rat Pack would grab sandwiches at the Commercial Center Deli. Today, the plaza houses popular restaurants like Komol, Arawan Thai Bistro and Sausagefest, various churches and services catering to different ethnicities, the Badlands Saloon and swingers club the Green Door. It’s also home to New Orleans Square, an enclave of nonprofits and businesses.
Anchoring the creative arm of the Square is artist, gallerist and curator Nancy Good, who runs Core Contemporary gallery. With the help of New Orleans Square owner Ron McMenemy and his daughter, property manager Chelsey Kelly, they’re bringing even more creative energy to the space with Mural Mecca, a three-day arts festival focused on community building.
The first iteration of Mural Mecca will include the installation of four new murals from October 11-13, with more mural-painting festivals planned for the future, Good says. The idea is to have all the walls of New Orleans Square eventually covered in vibrantly colored art—all done by local artists.
“How do we curate murals, how do we look at murals?” Good says she asked herself when brainstorming the event. “Sometimes they’re urban, they’re street, they’re covert. We get conflicting views on the value of them, so we wanted to treat this like it has value,” she says.
Good is now reviewing artist submissions—the deadline for the festival is September 1—and she says the muralists have plenty of freedom to express their messages. “We’ve tried not to put any restrictions, besides [keeping it] family-friendly … but you can still be fairly edgy and be family-friendly,” she says, “The artists that have submitted so far walk that line really well.”
Four participating artists will be chosen by September 12. The block-party like festival will also feature food trucks and vendors. “It’s drawing attention to the property, the nonprofits and supporting those making a difference in the community in a way that’s fun and creative and hasn’t really been done,” Good says. “We’ve got mural things that are happening, but not specifically a Las Vegas mural festival like Reno has been doing.”
Good, whose gallery has been in the building since May 2018, hopes more creatives will see New Orleans Square as a viable option once they experience their first Mural Mecca. “There’s going to be people watching artists paint and be part of that process and the mystery of how art brings people together—and it does,” Good says. “Especially when it’s public, like this.”
Mural Mecca October 11-13, free. New Orleans Square, 900 E. Karen Avenue, muralmecca.com.