When Hurricane Katrina struck on August 28, 2005, the urban fabric of New Orleans was devastated, including a large number of its arts organizations and historic sites. Along with the physical damage to collections and structures caused by the storm, organizations were faced with the fact that post-Katrina New Orleans would be a very different place, one with a changed demographic and far less tourism, and thus business as usual was not going to be possible. The Getty Foundation was among the first institutions to step in and help, establishing a special fund to revitalize the city's cultural institutions as they recovered from the impact of the hurricane.

The Foundation's Fund for New Orleans provided support in two categories: transition planning grants to strengthen cultural organizations as they responded to the changed environment for the arts in New Orleans, and conservation grants to assess the condition of damaged buildings and vulnerable collections and develop prioritized plans for their preservation. Projects ranged from an archeological dig at the Cathedral's St. Anthony's Garden, which unearthed evidence dating back to the city's founding in 1718 and provided a basis for a new conservation plan, to audience surveys of the New Orleans Cultural Coalition—a group of seven arts organizations that came together to analyze the city's past and present arts audiences as they developed new post-Katrina programming and business plans. In all, 22 grants totaling $2.9 million were awarded to museums and arts organizations of all sizes, from the city's landmark museums to historic house museums and community arts organizations.