Lori Anselmo began her working life as a private nanny and preschool teacher many years ago while her children were still young.
After her children started school, she started painting murals in her house and quickly realized she was talented. Little did Anselmo know that a few simple murals in her home would transform her life over the next 20 years.
Today, she is recognized in Slidell and throughout Louisiana, having worked on various art projects both on the North Shore and in the areas south of Lake Pontchartrain.
In recognition of this artistry, the Slidell Cultural Center at City Hall is celebrating the last 20 years of Anselmo’s career with a free retrospective showing some of her work.
“There are few artists as deserving as Laurie Anselmo (few artists) who have given back to the community like she has,” said Alex Carollo, Slidell’s director of cultural and community affairs. “Her artistic philanthropy has raised almost $250,000 for local organizations. Her heart is as big as her talent, and I’m so excited for audiences to be able to see this exhibition.”
But how did Anselmo get into art?
“I just like nice things,” says Anselmo. “I didn’t have a lot of money growing up and I would see a lot of art – beautiful art – things that I could never afford because I didn’t have money.”
So Anselmo began creating art for himself on the walls of his home and garage, and the beauty of the resulting murals was not lost on visitors.
One morning at a garage sale, a woman saw one of Anselmo’s murals in her garage and asked who painted it because she was looking for artists for her cafe.
After a brief discussion, Anselmo was quickly offered a spot as a featured artist at Evangeline’s cafe. This offer was the first leap towards becoming a professional artist.
When Anselmo arrived at Evangeline’s Coffee, there were several artists painting chairs and tables. She saw an opportunity to expand her art and accepted an offer to paint tables and chairs with other local artists.
One thing led to another and the next thing Anselmo knew she was being asked to paint a mural on the side of the building.
Lori’s first painting at Evangeline’s Coffee was a picture of a French Quarter door with flowers above and on the side of the door. The man who bought it paid for the painting with wads of change and wads of dollar bills. He was able to raise $75 to buy the painting.
After the painting was sold, it continued to hang on the walls of Evangeline’s Coffee because the buyer, an older gentleman, had nowhere to hang the painting. He was homeless.
The owner let him hang the painting in Evangeline’s Coffee so he could come in, have a cup of coffee and enjoy the art he bought.
“I don’t know what it represented to him,” said Anselmo, “but it might have represented home.”
To this day, Anselmo still keeps one of her $1 bills to remind her of the first painting she sold.
Giving back to the community
Early in his career, Anselmo wove a way to give back to the community through his art.
From auctioning off a signed Beatles piano to helping a non-profit build a house for a veteran to participating in the Young Leaders Council’s Bead Dog Project to raise money for the ASPCA, Anselmo creates art with a mission.
Since 2006, Ansleno has created the Christmas Village Cottages for the City of Slidell. Anselmo has always been great at decorating and managed to make Christmas 2006 (and every season since) magical.
“People were numb trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas, and I wanted to give something back to the community.”
Every few years, Anselmo adds another building to the Christmas display, and this year she is working on adding a Nightmare Before Christmas house to the collection.
Anselmo’s popularity skyrocketed in 2016 when she casually painted a poppy flower mural on her fence. She casually posted the photo on her personal page, then decided to take a break from social media.
Within days, the mural went viral.
People from all over the world asked Anselmo to come and paint murals on their fences and buildings. In response, Anselmo has created more than 50 custom fence panel designs that customers can mix and match to create their own fence murals.
“Everyone has an ugly brown fence they’re sick of looking at.” There are fences all over the world that they don’t like. Flowers are international – everyone loves flowers, colors and everything.”
Lori’s Art Depot is located in the old train station at 1827 Front St. in Slidell, where, although she is no longer a preschool teacher, children remain a big part of her business. It offers a variety of activities for kids for an art camp, weekly sessions with homeschoolers and Saturday classes for aspiring young artists.
Over the past 20 years, Anselmo’s art has evolved, changed and expanded because she believes you can’t do one type of art as an artist—and having multiple ways to express her craft has helped Anselmo’s art and her business stay alive and healthy.