News6August 1, 2012
By Walter Pierce

AOC’s demise spelled doom for a community art project.

When the Acadiana Outreach Center collapsed in a heap of financial mismanagement last year and downsized its operations, it left behind a collection of historic buildings at the edge of downtown.

 

 

August 1, 2012
By Walter Pierce

AOC’s demise spelled doom for a community art project.

News6When the Acadiana Outreach Center collapsed in a heap of financial mismanagement last year and downsized its operations, it left behind a collection of historic buildings at the edge of downtown. But the center also left behind a tangible reminder of its restorative mission: colorful mosaic murals of glass, mirror and tile decorating walls of the main building, known as The Well, and an adjacent structure. The murals were a collaborative, community-art project erected in late 2005 by clients of AOC along with art education students and professors from UL’s Building Institute.

But in January of this year as its financial woes became insurmountable, AOC sold the downtown property to the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority, the state-sanctioned nonprofit created in 1979 and tasked with reversing urban decay, facilitating affordable housing and a host of other interests. By spring the group, under the direction of the Louisiana Office of Historic Preservation, began renovating the buildings in an effort to restore them to their early 20th-century character.

The colorful murals were unceremoniously scraped away.

“No one involved with AOC or the campus contacted me at all after the sale about anything, and they left quite a bit of materials and stuff there,” says LPTFA Chairman John Arceneaux. “And after attempts to have AOC finalize everything and remove anything they wanted including their signage, we went ahead and started hauling away approximately five or six dumpsters of stuff left in the warehouses...”

One of the warehouses is already on its way to becoming artists lofts, and Arceneaux says the former Well building will likely become LPTFA’s new administrative office. (The group currently has no brick-and-mortar office.)

Arceneaux says The Well building especially was layer upon layer of shoddy construction and unsafe conditions requiring a lot of rehab, but he also admits that he didn’t realize during the renovation that the mosaic murals might have some community significance. “I really just considered that part of the signage,” he says. “I know now it had some sentimental meaning, but it wasn’t historic and nobody from AOC or any other stakeholders tried to contact me to deal with it or preserve it.”

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