By Katherine Hart, Mid-City Messenger
Kelly Boyett noticed the little stucco building on Palmyra Street while exploring her Mid-City neighborhood. She peeked in the curtained display windows, trying to figure out what the century-old commercial building on the residential street was used for.
Now Boyett, a painter, knows its use — it’s slated to be her studio. The City Council last week approved a conditional use to allow an artist’s studio in the residentially zoned (HU-RD2) neighborhood.
Vincent Marcello of Marcello Properties owns the building and a larger building next door at 4518 Palmyra, both with commercial space. The little stucco building at 4516 Palmyra was most recently home to the Main Office Supply Co. The Next Level Barber Shop once served customers in the bottom floor of the larger building, with two apartments above.
The buildings, which likely date from the 1920s or ‘30s, were vacated after Katrina. “Then they changed the zoning,” Marcello said. “So it was easier for me to use it as a storage facility than to go ahead and get all the permits.”
Boyett, known for her bright live-action paintings, had outgrow her studio on the ground floor of her raised-basement house on South Solomon Street. She saw a space for rent on Canal Street and contacted the owner, Marcello.
The rent on that building was out of her price range, but Marcello told her he had another building close by that could suit her needs.
He found a use for his Palmyra Street buildings. “It’s a low-density use that complements the neighborhood,” he said.
The City Planning Commission agreed, unanimously approving the art studio with six standard provisos, and the City Council followed suit, adding a prohibition on short-term rentals in the building. No residents spoke out at the public hearings, and city records do not show any objections.
One resident expressed concern at the Neighborhood Participation Project meeting that a commercial use would further limit the street parking, adding that it’s especially tight at night. Marcello responded that the studio will be primarily a daytime establishment, operating from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A proviso for the property limits the hours to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Marcello also plans to renovate the building at 4518 Palmyra — including removing the 1960s-era brick façade and restoring its original character — for use as an artist’s studio and possibly a gallery.
Boyett said she loves the idea of another artist working next door. “I think Mid-City is highly saturated with artists and creatives,” she said, “and if we can create an artists’ row there — how awesome would that be.”
The creator of this year’s Bayou Boogaloo poster, Boyett said she gets inspiration from her neighborhood. “It is my heart and soul,” she said. “Most of the subjects that I choose are in Mid-City.”
She spends much of her time on paintings of events such as weddings. But her work also includes, for example, a series on Mid-City bars.
“Most of the people I know who live in Mid-City, they are all about it. People really do have a passion for living here,” she said. “It’s just got so much soul, and it’s extremely inspiring to me.”