Lt. Gov, Jay Dardenne, far right, presents a Culture Connection Award to George Marks and members of the Deux Bayous Cultural District Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

The Deux Bayous Cultural District in the small St. Martin Parish town of Arnaudville was among eight Louisiana organizations honored this week for their promotion and preservation of arts and culture. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne was on hand at the Capitol Park Museum Wednesday to bestow the award on organizers of what’s become known as "the NuNu-Arnaudville Experiment," a rural art initiative begun in 2005 that is a participant in the Mayor’s Institute on City Design Creative Placemaking study under the umbrella of the National Endowment for the Arts in concert with the United States Conference of Mayors and American Architectural Foundation.

It sounds complicated but it’s really about a small town in Cajun Country redefining — and celebrating — itself as a nexus of arts and culture

Straddling the confluence of the bayous Teche and Courtableau — hence the name of the cultural district — Arnaudville has undergone a cultural renaissance over the last several years, earning a cultural district distinction from the state in 2008, which allows for the sale of art that is exempt from the state sales tax. (Downtown Lafayette is also a state-designated cultural district.)

But Arnaudville may also be called Phoenix on the Bayou. A fire tore through NuNu’s Town Market — the district's locus of activity operated by artist George Marks — in July 2010. But the artists in Arnaudville banded together and rebuilt, and the Deux Bayous Cultural District is thriving, host to exhibits, symposia, art classes and cultural conclaves.

Bravo, gang! Read more about NuNu’s battle back from the blaze in our Sept. 8, 2010 cover story, “Rising from the Ashes.”

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