January 18, 2012
Ten young artists with ties to Acadiana portend a bright future for the Hub City’s art scene.
By Anna Purdy Photos by Robin May
ArtWalk has been going for 15 years in downtown Lafayette’s galleries, bars, restaurants, retail and service industry shops. The masses mingle, mulling art to buy. Downtown Development Authority has been the major propagator of ArtWalk, but like all good ideas it’s evolved into more than that.
“The Downtown Lafayette Cultural District serves as the center of the arts scene in Lafayette — with a large concentration of galleries, arts venues and cultural events,” says Kate Durio, DLU’s marketing manager. Downtown, Durio adds, is an incubator for artists and the art they create. “The arts are a vital part of the district — local art is found in over a dozen galleries downtown, allowing for easy access to patrons, which creates a fiscally supportive and vibrant concentration of creativity for artists and art enthusiasts alike.”
This is what Jeffery McCullough is counting on. McCullough is the mind behind The Lounge Gallery’s show titled “Under 30: Louisiana’s Fresh Crop of Talent” that premiered Jan. 14 for the first ArtWalk of 2012. He curated the show, seeking out young artists he believes are the ones to watch.
|From left: Jacob Broussard, Forrest Montgomery,
Erin Jagneaux, Cayla Zeek and Ryan Cormier
“When selecting artists I look at an entire body of work before selecting any pieces,” McCullough says. “I need to see that the artist is consistently strong,” he continues. “I look for artists who can be successful and well-received in any city.”
A native of Claxton, Ga., McCullough is a graduate of Georgia Southern University Interior Design School. Since forming his self-titled design firm in 2003 he’s worked across the country, including New York, where in 2007 New York Spaces magazine named him, by coincidence, one of the top “10 under 40.” His work has been featured in several national design magazines.
McCullough also works as a representative for several artists, including some in this show. He’s been curating shows for Gallery at City Club for two years and chairing The Big Easel in Lafayette since 2009. The next Big Easel, a juried outdoor art show, takes place May 5 in River Ranch’s Town Square.
“As a curator and agent my mission is always to give good exposure to artists,” McCullough says. “Whether this is accomplished through a show that I put together or through a blog post that I write, I hope the ‘right’ person sees it and thinks, ‘Wow, I have to have that’ and will seek out the artist to see all of their available work and make a purchase.”
To McCullough and other like minds art isn’t simply lovely conversation starters or something to cover up that crack in the wall — it’s an investment.
One collector I spoke with who wishes to remain anonymous bought a piece by George Rodrigue in the 1980s for “maybe $200” and sold in the late 1990s for nearly $10,000. If a person knows what they are doing and is careful, a sculpture, a painting, a photo or any visual art can offer a staggering financial return. And in the meantime, instead of money accruing in a bank, a beautiful piece of art hangs in your home and makes you happy.
“When people ask me what kind of art to buy I ask them one question: Do you like it? You have to live with it so you’d better like it,” says Gwyn Hustlar, an art administrator. In other words, collecting art means a marriage of your pocketbook and your eyes. It isn’t entirely a left- or right-brained decision. It’s gut and heart and what you can afford.
And just like our main cultural exports of food and music, visual art is important to who we are. It’s estimated that approximately 5,000 people on average flood Jefferson Street every ArtWalk. These people not only buy art, they eat in downtown’s restaurants and drink in its bars and take in the theater. “Tourism drives a large part of our economy,” Hutslar says. “Why do you think people come here? It sure ain’t for the great roads! They come here for the food, the music, the art and the culture. The arts drive the tourism economy of this state, plain and simple.”
Gerald Breaux of the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission echoes the sentiment: “Lafayette has, I think, gained a reputation as a creative community,” Breaux says. “We have a wonderful reputation for our food and music. It is a natural extension that we also have creative visual artists and crafts people that are here. All of this ties together to make our city a better destination to visit.”
“Under 30: Louisiana’s Fresh Crop of Talent” runs until March 2012 at The Lounge Gallery at 410 Jefferson St.
Meet the Artists of ‘Under 30’
Everyone needs a place to hang his artistic hat, a megaphone for his voice.
We need to provide places for young artists to make some noise and put their name out there while meeting and being nurtured by some of the folks who have been around the art block a few more times. This is why shows like “Under 30: Louisiana’s Fresh Crop of Talent” are vital to our very way of life. These are the next Melissa Bonins, Francis Pavys, Robert Daffords and George Rodrigues.
“As long as we have young artists coming up and wanting to express themselves, the visual arts will continue to thrive in south Louisiana and throughout the United States,” says Rodrigue. “Thankfully, there will always be new young artists with fresh ideas. The arts factor into our economy as a unique slice of this part of the country. Not only the artists but also their collectors help to preserve our cultural economy and heritage.”
This from the young artist who once doodled his dog and hoped he might someday make a living.
Aymond is originally from Saint Amant. He now works at the Acadiana Center for the Arts as assistant to the curator after receiving a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from UL in 2010 with a concentration in painting.
Begnaud is now living in New Orleans but grew up in Cecilia. She graduated from UL with a concentration in printmaking in 2008 and is teaching art classes and applying to an art therapy master’s program. “I love Louisiana and its natural beauty,” she says. “Lots of our landscape was used to create my prints and informs my painting and work in general. I’m proud to call this state my home and be a part of this exciting show. New Orleans is a beautiful, exciting city, and I love being inspired here by the architecture and people, music and art. But Acadiana will always be my heart and home.” View her work at cestjoliestudio.etsy.com.
Broussard is only in his second year at UL studying painting and printmaking but has Old World influences. In 2010 he placed fifth in the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts contest. His influences are his own Cajun heritage and culture, the Enlightenment era and French portraiture style. Find Broussard’s work at artistjakeup.com.
“Drawing and painting and blending the two is really what I’m focusing on now. My technique is a fully realized drawing and blending the [two].” A graduate of St. Thomas More, Cormier is 28 years old and expecting his first baby. His work was hanging in Tsunami when McCullough noticed his talent and brought him in as part of the show.
After graduating from UL with a bachelor’s in printmaking in 2005, Jagneaux went on to get her master’s degree from Massachusetts College of Art and Design last year. Since returning home, her work has hung in Gallery 912 and she’s also led workshops at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. “I came back because Lafayette is my home base. I have friends and family here. I love to travel and experience new places and cultures, but Lafayette is a place I can come back to and instantly feel reconnected,” she says. About smelling Gulf air, Jagneaux says, “Boston for me was a theory-heavy art scene. I learned a lot and was pushed to make art outside of my comfort zone. However, my art is about Louisiana and the struggles we have experienced here in the past couple of years. I always felt that in Boston, it made people feel sorry for me when I made work about my home, but here in Lafayette, people are tapped into the raw emotion of it. They feel it. It evokes something in them that stays with them. And while both cities gave me great feedback, I feel like Lafayette can feel that the art, however abstracted it is about home.”
After graduating from Lafayette High in 2009, McManus went to Brown University where he’s currently a junior. He’s also taking classes at the Rhode Island School of Design through his university. His work hangs at Agave Cantina in downtown Lafayette as well as Cena and Soho. “My work is inspired in the relationships between art, nature, music and architecture.”
Montgomery’s art career began as a child when he built his own pinhole camera. “I would develop the film in my bathroom. My fascination for design and detailed structure ultimately led to my chosen major of mechanical engineering.” Still a student at UL, Montgomery says, “I enjoy using photography as an escape from the mathematical monotony that is engineering.”
Page is a Lafayette native who now lives and works in the Arts District of New Orleans after attending St. Thomas More and LSU. She has hung work along the Gulf Coast up through North Carolina. Page’s work is extremely popular in Seaside, Fla., and can be seen in the living room of a desperate if not actual housewife on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
“Art, simply put, should be fun.” This is Rabalais’ take on what sort of emotion he wants his work to bring out of the viewer. “My art is meant to rejoice simpler times, back to a time when the most complex of emotions could be expressed with little commotion.” Rabalais now lives and teaches in Pineville. He took part in Lafayette’s Big Easel 2011.
Zeek is 20 and majoring in art education at UL. “It was not until my first art class in high school when something clicked and I realized I can make art — I have to make art,” says Zeek, a Lafayette native who placed sixth in the 2010 George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts contest. “I work mostly in watercolor and pen and ink. My work is often illustrative content as I strive to tell a story with characters in each piece. I’m so thrilled with the exposure of this show in the Lounge Gallery. This gallery is up and coming in Lafayette.” — AP
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