20100609-livingind-0101Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Written by Walter Pierce

Exhibition celebrates ‘remarkable eye’ of Kent Hutslar.

Memorial art exhibitions have a dark patina. Someone has to die. This Saturday, the Acadiana Center for the Arts’ Side Gallery will host a memorial exhibition during ArtWalk that is at least 15 years premature. We would have been content to wait 20 or more.

Photographer Kent Hutslar died Saturday, March 27, at University Medical Center from complications of pneumonia. He left behind a wife, Gwyn, and numerous children, step-children, grandchildren, friends and admirers.

The 59-year-old spent nearly a week in the hospital with what began as a cough and fever. Few knew that Kent was on a waiting list for a liver transplant — he contracted hepatitis in the early 1980s while working in the oil patch as a nurse. Fewer knew that the artist famed for his hand-tinted studies of flora, his sweeping, immaculately composed industrial photographs, captivating mandalas and breathtakingly panoramic images of our central business district had been a nurse. But most everyone knew the contributions he made to Lafayette’s arts culture.

“I first met Kent and Gwyn Hutslar several decades ago at the Artists Alliance located in the former Lafayette Hardware Store on Vermilion Street,” recalls Herman Mhire, a Lafayette artist and former director of the University Art Museum. “Kent and Gwyn were actively involved, helping to organize and install exhibitions, and doing whatever else was required to keep the doors of this grassroots operation open to the public.”

The Artists Alliance later moved around the corner to 551 Jefferson St. in what is now the office of The Independent Weekly. Throughout the nonprofit’s roughly 10 years in existence, Kent and Gwyn Hutslar were a presence, encouraging young artists, donating their time, setting the group’s tempo.

“I wanted to be involved in the organization of this memorial exhibition to pay tribute to Kent, and thank him and Gwyn for their generous contributions of time and energy to our arts community,” adds Mhire, who donated his time and energy this spring to curate the exhibition, meeting with Gwyn and selecting the photographs, overseeing their preparation, coordinating the event with the AcA.

Mhire had to work fast; the idea for the exhibition started getting batted around in mid-April. Thanks to the help of downtown Lafayette and the AcA, as well as financial contributions from LAGCOE — Hutslar’s industrial photography was primarily done for the oil industry and was the basis for several LAGCOE posters — and other businesses that chose to remain anonymous, the exhibition took form.

“Kent frequently offered his exceptional talent to benefit our organization, capturing the essence of downtown and its vibrancy in his works,” says Jody Nederveld, Downtown Development Authority associate director. “He was an incredible advocate for downtown and a leader in the arts community, and his devotion and enthusiasm for the district will live on in his works and his memory.”

Meanwhile for Mhire, serving as curator for the exhibition reminded him of Kent’s unique talent. “I was struck by the remarkable eye Kent had for light and shadow, for form and pattern,” Mhire says. “Whether he was photographing the oilfield, botanical subjects, or River Road architecture, Kent’s vision exhibited moments of brilliance. Kent was passionate about his subjects, and this exhibition will reveal his passion for the medium of photography.”

KENT HUTSLAR, 1951-2010
June 12 - July 2, 2010
Side Gallery - Acadiana Center for the Arts
Opening reception: 6-8 p.m. Saturday, June 12
All proceeds from the exhibition will go into a special fund for Kent’s family.
A commemorative poster designed by Kate Ferry will also be on sale.

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