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Can art take hold on Tulane Avenue? : A P3+ invasion

Editor's Note: Prospect 3 Plus offers more than 60 local art installations and events taking place alongside the international Bienennial Prospect 3. NolaVie and its cultural partner, WWNO public radio, are taking a look at some of them in a series to run during the exhibition, which continues through Jan. 25.

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Gastropub Treo brings art to Tulane Avenue.

Pauline Patterson, along with her husband Stephen, has, on occasion, been known to exhibit artists’ works in their Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, one of New Orleans’ quintessential sports bars. Not exactly what one might expect to encounter in a Mid-City watering hole. But, then, Pauline, a graduate of the Art College of Belfast, a part of the University of Ulster, is not your typical tavern entrepreneur.

Being the risk takers they are, Pauline and her husband took on an additional challenge in February 2014; this one located on one of the city’s major trafficked avenues. It’s not just any four-lane artery that the Pattersons have moved in on; it’s the often-sad, currently shabby Tulane Avenue.

Less than a couple of blocks from S. Carrollton Avenue, the second business the Patterson opened is a different kind of watering hole. They call it Treo and they have very deliberately aligned it to Prospect 3 Plus, the satellite project of New Orleans’ P3 citywide art biennial.

“Treo is actually an Irish word,” Pauline explains. “It’s supposed to be pronounced 'Trow' but nobody will ever get that. So we don’t mind it being called 'Tray-oh',” she continues with a smile.

Pauline says the word means direction. “Treo’s a different direction from Finn’s, a direction we would like Tulane Avenue to take because it’s on the cusp of being something.”

And because Pauline worries that Tulane Avenue could veer in one of two directions -- a Veteran’s Highway or a Freret Street -- she’s doing her part to add art and a place for locals as well as those from other neighborhoods to gather, since we can all figure out which direction she prefers.

There are two gallery spaces in Treo: one in the downstairs bar area and the other on the second floor. It’s obvious, Pauline says, which visitors are new to viewing art as soon as they descend from the second floor.

“Sometimes people will come down and you’ll know they don’t know that much about art, or they’re just stunned by what they’ve seen,” she says. “But they talk about it, which is really good. It’s what we wanted to happen.”

The downstairs bar area has its own unique artistic statement in the iconic ceiling design, the vision of Pauline and a group of four recently graduated architect friends. Made of repurposed woods and materials left over from Treo’s renovation, the design is a collaborative effort to fulfill Pauline’s idea for a 15 by 22-foot fixture that would reflect the geography of the surrounding area.

“There’s the crescent of the river and the wards of the neighborhood with the main light fixture looking like an upside down Superdome,” Pauline says. “Only one of the four architects got a job at that time; the other three had to pedicab. But when they were finished, you could see that the Superdome light fixture was made out of pedicab rims, their homage to their occupations at the time. You just have to see it. It’s just stunning”

To find out more about the current P3+ exhibition and for information about upcoming art installations and events, visit [email protected].

This series on Prospect 3 Plus artworks is made possible by a generous grant from the lawyers of the Lugenbuhl firm, with offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houston, in support of art in the Gulf South.

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]