Tuesday, April 22, 2008

not the usual

This is a little out of the ordinary for us here at Live from LRMA, but Cole Pratt was a good friend of the museum and an essential member of the arts community in New Orleans and the Gulf South. He was a Mississippi native, too.

Cole Pratt, 53, art gallery owner
Monday, April 21, 2008
By Doug MacCash
Staff writer

Cole Pratt, the affable owner of Cole Pratt contemporary art gallery on Magazine Street, died Saturday at Touro Infirmary as a result of a heart attack April 13. He was 53.

Born in Greenwood, Miss., Mr. Pratt was a lifelong art lover. His mother, Rita Pratt, recalled that "when he first picked up a pencil, he started to draw." Though Mr. Pratt studied studio arts at Delta State University, he never considered himself talented. He once jokingly told his longtime companion, Roy Malone, that after five years the university agreed to "give him a degree if he promised not to paint."

Instead of creating art, Mr. Pratt's talent lay in selling it. After working at Bryant Galleries in Jackson, Miss., and New Orleans in the 1980s, and Wyndy Morehead Fine Arts in New Orleans in the early 1990s, Mr. Pratt struck out on his own, opening a gallery in a corner storefront at 3800 Magazine St. in December 1993.

The space was small, but sunny, with a welcoming, neighborhood feel -- a contrast with the cooler tone of many Julia Street galleries.

"Cole consciously chose not to be on Julia," said Erika Olinger, the director of Cole Pratt Gallery for 14 years. "He believed Magazine was a great shopping street. He wanted the gallery to be amidst other stores. He didn't want art buying to be intimidating. He wanted an environment where the average customer could be walking by the store and be enticed to come in."

Mr. Pratt dedicated his space exclusively to Southern artists, but he did not restrict the style of art he showed. Everything from the traditional plein air paintings of Phil Sandusky to the illusionistic abstractions of Richard Johnson was welcome.

Artist Randy Asprodites said that Mr. Pratt was unusual among art dealers in that he made himself an authority on each artist he represented.

"The first day he wanted to know everything about me," Asprodites said. "It was rare. He asked real questions about my work and me as an artist."

Collector and friend Jim Lestelle said that Mr. Pratt's interest in his individual artists was matched by his interest in individual clients.

"He was good at recognizing what your interests were," Lestelle said. "He would show you art that you'd like and would be meaningful to you."

Cole Pratt was one of the first art galleries to reopen after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mr. Pratt sold a painting to a collector on Oct. 8, while there were still National Guard patrols in the streets. He was among the first to recognize the unexpected art-buying boom that followed the storm, making 2006 his best-selling year.

Mr. Pratt is survived by his mother, Rita Pratt. Memorial arrangements are pending. Contact Cole Pratt Gallery at (504) 891-6789 for information.

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Click here for the original link to Doug MacCash's obituary.

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