Starting in the late 1940s and into the1950s Dusti Bongé maintained a small apartment in New Orleans, and became increasingly involved in the city’s local art circle. This circle included Paul Ninas–whom she had already befriended years earlier when Archie was still alive–Fritz Bultman, Ida Kohlmeyer and Will Henry Stevens. She also became good friends with Hazel Guggenheim McKinley. In fact, she did several portraits of Hazel during those years.
In the early 1950s Dusti joined a group of artists associated with the 331 Chartres Street Art School, which formed the center of the New Orleans avant-garde art scene. At 331 Chartres Street she met many artists of note such as Robert Helmer, George Dunbar, Jean Seidenberg, and others. These artists and their work eventually were the foundation of the Orleans Gallery, the first truly contemporary gallery in New Orleans that was showing work on a par with that of New York galleries.
One young artist Dusti befriended at 331 Chartres was Jack Robinson, who was to become a major photographer in the years that followed. They both attended painting classes at the school, sometimes with live models. Jack took photographs of his various friends at 331 Chartres, including several of Dusti. Here is a photo of Dusti painting at the easel in the studio. Jack Robison had a real talent for capturing people as they were, candid and without any pretense or affect.