With ties to the original settlers and an abiding devotion to Acadian and Creole furniture, cabinetmaker Greg Arceneaux sets up shop for the first time at Festivals Acadiens et Creoles. By Walter Pierce
Greg Arceneaux traces his family history back to Le Grand Dérangement — the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia by the British in the mid 18th century — and a land grant in St. James Parish. An apocryphal tale in the Arceneaux family says the oak trees at Oak Alley plantation were planted by his ancestors.
It’s little wonder the master craftsman would be drawn to a style of furniture that originated in colonial Louisiana and nearly fell extinct as the march of modernity and mass production washed over Bayou State culture a century or so ago.
After graduating from LSU with a fine arts degree — Arceneaux lived for a time in Lafayette in early ’70; he met his wife at the famous Jay’s Lounge and Cockpit in Cankton — he decided that art for art’s sake wasn’t his style. Acadian and Creole furniture were.
But he had to make do at first.
“I wanted to combine utility with beauty,” Arceneaux recalls. “I wanted to give my creations purpose beyond aesthetics and allow them to connect with people’s daily lives. I am basically self-taught because in the early 1970s there was very little training available for aspiring furniture makers in our area. I moved to Lafayette and managed to acquire some basic tools to practice woodworking techniques using recycled and found wood from demolition sites, houses being torn down as well as motorcycle and music store crates.”
Arceneaux’s awakening coincided with another renaissance in Lafayette: Cajun pride, roughly speaking.
“We began learning the Cajun French language that was being lost to the older generations, we started paying attention to our uniqueness and clinging to it before it disappeared,” the 60-year-old says. “I started visiting antique shops and collectors. There was a show in The Cabildo which also came to Lafayette of traditional Louisiana colonial furniture; pieces all made by Creole, Acadian and Spanish Louisiana native cabinetmakers. It was the first show of its kind as there are not very many examples of this style of furniture that have survived.”
The simplicity and elegance of the style caught Arceneaux’s eye. Furniture became a way to express himself artistically, to commemorate his cultural heritage and to make things that celebrate form and function with equal aplomb. His shop in Covington turns out everything from $10 roux spoons to $30,000 custom conference tables, but most of his business is from regular folks who appreciate the austere beauty of traditional Acadian and Creole furniture, and who simply want a solid piece of elegant furniture in their home. Arceneaux works with traditional Louisiana woods — cypress, poplar, walnut, Spanish cedar, cherry, pecan — that are locally sourced.
But the eye for detail doesn’t end there: “We use traditional techniques to ensure that these pieces will endure for generations just like the originals that inspired them,” he adds.
As a member of the Louisiana Crafts Guild, Arceneaux’s work is available in Lafayette year-round at Sans Souci Fine Crafts Gallery located adjacent to the eponymous park downtown. But he returns to Lafayette this weekend to join other crafts people at Girard Park during Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, a most appropriate venue for his Acadian and Creole creations.
“The decorative arts and furnishings are a tangible part of our culture just like the music, food, dance and language,” he adds. “What sets us apart is that once the last note has been played, the last dance danced, last bite of Granma’s delicacies consumed, my furniture is still there. What makes them similar is just like the recipes, lyrics, language and instruments, my furniture can be passed down generations.”
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
C & C Technologies, HIT Fitness, R3 Sciences, the Acadiana Symphony Association and the United Way of Acadiana recognized for innovation.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra has decided to end its traditional Independence Day spectacular known as Red White & Boom.
Under the deal, Teche shareholders would get 1.162 shares of IberiaBank for each share of Teche stock.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The must have pieces this season
Dave Perkins, LCG Comp Plan honored along with local architects and designers at the 2014 INDesign Awards
Greg Manuel’s Lafayette-based residential development company is taking advantage of exponential industrial growth in Lake Charles.
Longtime Lafayette retailer ventures online.
It’s not how aggressive or conservative you are — it’s planning for risk that matters most.
Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.
Regional bank bids farewell to Downtown May 30
ABiz takes a look back at the most noteworthy moments for the local banking industry over the last year.
Most experts say short-term interest rates will be unchanged through 2014, but long-term rates are inching up.
Largest recruitment event in Acadiana returns May 21 to the Cajundome Convention Center
A lawyer’s ad should only be a starting point, as there is much more to consider when seeking quality representation.
Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.
The annual juried competition recognizes excellence in architecture, interior design and historic preservation in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.
Cypress Bayou GM hosts open house.
New hires, promotions, transfers in Acadiana business
The scion of a landmark Four Corners restaurant climbs back into Lafayette’s culinary scene as franchisee for a popular burger chain.