If all went as planned Monday, artist Melissa Bonin was to sign on the dotted line and get the keys to her as of yet named art gallery in New Orleans.

"It'll be something like Melissa Bonin Fine Art or something like that," says Bonin of the gallery which is a duplex located at 3712 and 3714 Magazine St.

Bonin has been represented by several galleries in New Orleans over the years, but this will be her first gallery there.

Usually, when an artist is represented by a gallery, "you're one of many artists in a stable of artists," she says. "In my gallery, I'll be the only artist for now - unless I take on sculpture, or someone else later one - but at first it's going to be my work."

In addition, the gallery owner where an artist is showing gets a cut of the sale of artwork, which is understandable considering rent, mortgage, electric and other bills that go to the running of a gallery.

"Financially, that's the difference there," says Bonin. "But it also means I can do things the way I want to do them and I know how everything is going to be done. Everything will have my stamp on it."

Bonin, a painter of southern landscapes, says setting up shop in New Orleans was the next logical step in her career.

"I have a built in clients there and my subject matter lends itself to that city," she says. "And being, New Orleans already knows who I am, so it was just a common sense next step."

Bonin says the space lends itself to a couple of different options, including a studio and possibly renting one side of the duplex, but it's still early.

"I have a lot of ideas," she says. "I have to spend more time in the space to see exactly what is the best way to do things."

A New Iberia native, Bonin moved to Lafayette six years ago. She sold her gallery in her hometown a few years ago and says she's not yet sure about a move to New Orleans.

"I'm going to be bi-coastal," she laughs. "I have to see how I like spending time there. I love going there over the weekend and for long weekends. And I've spent a lot of time there. I just don't know if its conducive to the way I work to actually be there, so I may have interesting hours at first while fix it up and then I'll figure out where I'll paint and what my schedule will be."

Bonin says the building has "really good light" and tall ceilings, which are favorable conditions for a painter.

"It's a possibility," she says. "Until I do it, I just don't know where I'm going to be more productive."

According to her website, Bonin attended the The University of Southwestern Louisiana at 16 and studied art with Elemore Morgan, Jr., Herman Mhire, Tom Secrest, and William Moreland. She received a BFA cum laude in painting in 1981. Bonin then traveled to Europe to study fine art and the French language in Angers, Paris, and Southern France. Upon returning to the U.S. she received a BA cum laude and continued her fine art education at Bennington College and the Massachusetts School of Fine Art.

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