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"The Fabric of New Orleans": Two Great Local Icons, Unite to Support The Arts
Keeping cool in 1895 this Louisiana gentleman beats the heat in a white linen suit. Two centuries later the summer fabric is celebrated at the annual Whitney White Linen Night in New Orleans. Photo Courtesy of Louisiana State Museum.

NEW ORLEANS, LA.- Whitney White Linen Night is more than the city’s premier summertime cultural event. The annual art walk and outdoor celebration sponsored by the New Orleans Arts District represents the weaving together of two proud city symbols: Whitney National Bank and the elegant white cloth, a staple in wardrobes all over town.

White linen is, of course, the traditional uniform worn across the South in the hot summer months. During the 19th and 20th centuries much of the linen was imported from Ireland. New Orleans, with its thousands of immigrant Irish, was a primary destination for the fabric. More breathable than wool or cotton, the beige fiber, bleached to the trademark snowy white, became a seasonal harbinger.

“You could always tell the coming of spring and summer in New Orleans when the white linen suits came out, and bankers would appear in them.” says Wayne Phillips, Curator of Costumes and Textiles at the Louisiana State Museum. “Linen was used in a variety of clothing: pants and jackets for men; dresses and beach wear for women in the days before swim suits were deemed suitable for ladies.” The outfits for both sexes could be purchased at the city’s great department stores such as Godchaux’s, Maison Blanche and D.H. Holmes.

The rise in white linen’s popularity in New Orleans paralleled that of the Whitney National Bank. Founded in 1883 by a Louisiana-based shipping family, the Whitney is now one of the Gulf Coast’s premier financial institutions. Through the years, the trademark “Whitney Banker” has played a key role in creating the Bank’s unique brand, and the South’s development. Progressing from servicing customers on horseback to those in today’s online world, the Whitney commitment to its clients and communities has never wavered. The Whitney remains committed to offering its personalized expertise in commercial and business banking, customized wealth management and online banking that’s both convenient and secure.

“The Whitney Banker in white linen was an iconic image in town,” said Whitney Senior Vice President Regional Market Manger Duane Abadie. “And while we don’t always appear in white linen today, the Whitney’s certainly proud to be part of the fabric of New Orleans, and to support our communities and the arts with our sponsorship of Whitney White Linen Nights.”

Created in 1994 by Warehouse District Arts Association’s Donna Perret (Galerie Simonne Stern) and Wyndy Morehead (Wyndy Morehead Fine Arts) to lure visitors from the region to come to New Orleans in the summer’s heat, Whitney White Linen Night -- now in its 16th year -- has become a fixture on the New Orleans arts scene and an important fundraiser for the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).

"We're thrilled to work with the Whitney," says CAC Director of Communications Lindsay Ross. "It's the bank that symbolizes New Orleans’ history and traditions. We hope New Orleanians will embrace their heritage, too, and wear their white linen August 7th for a night of art and fun!"

The CAC is leading the transformation of New Orleans’ downtown Warehouse District into the vibrant cultural hub it is today. The neighborhood’s anchor since 1976, CAC is home to bold experiments in painting, theatre, music, performance art, dance, photography, video, sculpture and more – all celebrating the art of now. The center boasts 30,000 square feet of turn-of-the-century warehouse spaces, including the award-winning architecture of its sleek modern galleries, atrium, theaters and studios. Renovated in 1990, the building (a historic 1905 warehouse) mixes the timelessness of New Orleans’ historic architecture with contemporary material, open spaces, and site-specific works by local and internationally known artists. Multi-disciplinary programming, presented year-round, includes world-class visual arts exhibitions, cutting edge performing arts shows, unique education programs and fabulously festive celebrations. Rotating visual arts exhibitions, spotlighting unique and eclectic works in all mediums by local, national and internationally renowned artists, are displayed in a 10,000+ square foot space, illuminated with natural light. Performances range from urban dance theatre to legendary jazz master series to avant-garde classical and everything in between. The CAC’s educational programming delights the young and young at heart with a children’s gallery, creative art workshops and summer arts camp.

New Orleans Arts District | Wayne Phillips | Whitney White Linen Night | "The Fabric of New Orleans" |

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