If these walls could talk.
From the descriptions below, the art space and wood shop at 1201 Mazant St. in New Orleans has quite the history and definitely many a story to tell. Currently for sale, I can think of many an idea for this building: An art-house cinema, a library for niche books & zines, a workshop/gallery for up and coming artists, etc. Spacious, precious, and most compelling.
Tim Wolff has been operating the building for some time now, producing art projects and more out of it. He’s a filmmaker, a wood-worker, and an activist of sorts too. He’s exactly the kind of guy you’d meet in the Bywater who’d be happy to go over the ghosts and spirits of the area over a drink.
We may not have met at a bar, but we did talk about his documentary The Sons of Tennessee Williams, his work, and his time at 1201 Mazant.
Who knows what wonders this building holds for future occupants. Who knows what artists will be found and made here:
Bill Arceneaux: What has your time at 1201 Mazant St. been like?
Tim Wolff: It’s been a dream and a couple of nightmares since 2012. It was a pleasure meeting so many artists throughout the years. We created an under-the-radar sanctuary for each other. Our artists understood the challenges of renovating a 100-year-old building without the help of a bank loan, which at the time, it would not have qualified for. The post and beam construction, with massive scissor joists overhead, is made from the densest heart pine I have ever seen. Two-inch diameter iron turnbuckles span the interior for extra stability. It’s a 13,000 square-foot monster, ready for just about anything from commercial to residential.
BA: Can you go over the history of the building (previous owners, businesses, etc)?
TW: I understand from some research that the building was built in 1918, originally called The Gardeners and Shippers Ice Factory. It served the industry of truck farms, railroads, and shipping in the neighborhood. I’ve spoken to a woman who grew up on Marais st. She recalls going to the ice factory as a young girl to cool off and slide around on blocks of ice. There is still a wall painted with the prices of ice in the 30s. Then at some point in the 60s I think, the building hosted a refrigeration school. It was donated to a church at some point in the 90s and I purchased it from from the church in 2012. It was a gutted 13,000 square-foot Pigeonaire with an open door.
BA: What kind of work with wood do you do?
TW: I’ve spent most of the past 25 years making reproduction windows, doors and other millwork for the historic districts of New Orleans. We have a 2400 square-foot woodshop in the building at the moment. This has been my day job.
BA: You made a documentary called The Sons of Tennessee Williams, telling the story of the New Orleans drag balls that originated in the 1950s. How has that community progressed in the years since making your film?
TW: The Krewe of Armeinius’ membership really changed after Sons came out. I believe the krewe has the mandated maximum of no more than 69 members currently and most of those are under 40. The krewe founders were concerned about the dwindling membership post-Katrina at the time of their interviews. I’d like to think we helped. I see most of the LGBTQ krewes of New Orleans as strong and on the rise.
Sons of Tennessee Williams had a two year Netflix contract starting in 2012. I always love hearing the stories from cast members who had been recognized in public.
In 2013, I started traveling for the U. S. State Department with The Sons of Tennessee Williams. The movie had been accepted by the Beijing Queer Film Festival. This is a bi-annual festival that had attempted to occur for 12 years. Every year the festival was to happen, the police would raid the theater and shut it down on opening night. The U. S. Embassy in Beijing found out about the screening of Sons, decided to host the event and invited me to attend. I’ve done ten trips now for the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, documenting LGBTQ communities in Asia and Central America. If anyone is interested, my latest feature is called I’m Moshanty. Do You Love Me? This documentary tells the story of the late Papua New Guinea music legend and transgender activist Moses Moshanty Tau. I just returned from India and several screenings of Moshanty, where I was able to meet the third gender individuals who are the subject of my next movie. This is what my day job makes possible.
BA: The studio is currently for sale. How can interested parties reach out?
TW: Rob Van Meter at Berkshire Hathaway: Cell # 504-906-1146, Office # 504-799-1702, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And Reed Wiley: Office # 504-288-4100, Cell # 504-236-7816.
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. Follow him on Twitter: @billreviews