In the days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as residents and businesses in New Orleans faced the overwhelming challenges of assessing their losses and rebuilding their community, a larger question loomed: Do we have a future here?

While the world read the stories of tragedy and loss in New Orleans, those whose livelihoods were tied to the city’s tourism economy wondered if New Orleans would ever again have the same appeal. During those troubling days, Jack Pruitt, 
The Historic New Orleans Collection’s (THNOC) Director of Development and Community Relations, began formulating an idea.

It started with a visit to his friend Jeanette Feltus’ in Natchez, Mississippi, and a discussion of antiques that included the Natchez Antiques Forum, which Jeanette and the late Wendell Garrett had created many years prior. Pruitt, who not only worked in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter but also lived there, wondered if there was potential for a similar event in the area’s historic setting. He asked for input from his neighbors, many of whom operated businesses devastated by a plunge in tourism after Katrina. They responded with cautious optimism, and a consensus formed that an antiques forum would help the most during the historically slower summer months. THNOC’s executive director Priscilla Lawrence and board of directors quickly approved Pruitt’s proposal.

Antiques Forum participants on one of the annual day trips. Photo by Keely Merritt, The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Jack Pruitt, The Historic New Orleans Collection’s Director of Development and Community Relations and force behind the forum. Photo by Keely Merritt, The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Under Pruitt’s leadership, the 
New Orleans Antiques Forum has become one of the city’s leading summer events for cultural tourism and one of the nation’s premier events of its kind, attracting attendees from all over the country. Last year’s forum sold out in less than a day. The event’s success tracks with the resounding comeback of New Orleans, which was recently named the New York Times’ top destination in the world for 2018.

Held at THNOC’s Williams Research Center, the event features presentations by the nation’s foremost decorative arts experts, and places attendees just blocks away from world-renowned antiques shops, galleries, and restaurants—including 
Arnaud’s, which hosts a jazz brunch for registrants. Pruitt has taken a particular interest in empowering the next generation of museum leaders, incorporating a young scholar presentation sponsored by the Decorative Arts Trust. Young museum professionals, ages 21–30, will receive a special rate at registration.

It Really Works! Utilitarian Objects: Beauty and Facility, the 11th annual New Orleans Antiques Forum, will be held August 2–5, 2018. For information, call (504) 523-4662 or visit

This Highlight was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Antiques & Fine Art magazine, a fully digitized version of which is available at AFA is affiliated with Incollect.