The Hilliard University Art Museum is the most important addition to Acadiana's many attractions in the past 20 years ("Museum Meltdown," Nov. 23). I have made several trips to Lafayette from my home in Santa Monica, Calif. to enjoy exhibits of superstar artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Pablo Picasso, along with fascinating Louisiana-based artists like Francis Pavy and William Moreland. I would not have been able to see these exhibits anywhere but in Lafayette even though I live near a half-dozen major art museums in Los Angeles and I travel several times a year to the East Coast, Europe and Japan.

I hope the community realizes that it has an institution that logically should not exist in a city the size of Lafayette and a state as poor as Louisiana. The inspiring building won the prestigious American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Interior Architecture in a nation-wide competition. The exhibitions are planned and installed with the same level of thought and care as at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Chicago Art Institute.

Many young people in Acadiana do sense how extraordinary the museum is. You can see them posing for their wedding and graduation photos in the museum's courtyard, because they identify with the image of the museum, a symbol of optimism for the future, a future of innovation, professionalism and like the museum's wall of glass, transparent governmental processes.

The unique factor that made this museum happen in Lafayette was Herman Mhire's uncompromising vision and unstoppable energy that brought together essential community support. It would be a tragic loss for Acadiana if the museum were to lose Mhire's inspiring vision and meticulous attention to detail. That would result in the institution sinking to the level of some small-town act that no one would travel even 50 miles to see.

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