Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Lafayette’s creative class weighs in on what makes us a vibrant community. By The Independent Staff
Cool Town. The concept is borrowed from urban theorist and author Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class. The idea is fairly simple: “Cool” cities like Austin, Athens, Ga., Portland, Ore., and Raleigh, N.C., attract creative people — painters, writers, musicians, architects, actors, techies — by embracing things like public spaces, the arts and transit that includes walking and biking. These livable communities, these cool towns, in turn attract entrepreneurs and businesses.
Cool towns aren’t afraid of big ideas. They not only tolerate multi-culturalism, they promote it and cultivate it. They are indifferent to sexual orientation and give no quarter to bigotry and discrimination. Cool towns take chances.
Lafayette is on that trajectory. We’re not there yet, but we’re approaching a critical mass of creative people who will sustain us. We have a Francophone culture that makes us naturally unique, and we celebrate it heartily in our foodways, our music, our sense of family. We make outsiders feel welcome.
A few weeks ago The Independent Weekly staff reached out to a select group of about 50 people — Lafayette’s creative class — musicians, actors, entrepreneurs, artists. We asked them questions about Lafayette and the surrounding area under a few general headings: food, spirits, the arts.
Their votes were surprisingly uniform. Festival International, Blue Moon Saloon, French Press and the Acadiana Center for the Arts were common responses. The locus of cool in Lafayette, it seems, is downtown. And local. None cited a chain restaurant, a chain coffee shop or anything non-local. We like what we have here.
In some categories the responses from our panel were nearly unanimous, but in others we selected the top two or three.
We also wanted to allow the participants whose comments best describe our cool factor to have their say. On these pages are the words of David Egan, musician; Karlos Knott, brewer; Herb Roe, artist; Griff Blakewood, professor; Jason Faulk, environmentalist; Crystall Young, juvenile diabetes activist; Mark Falgout, impresario; Jillian Johnson, musician/deejay/community organizer; Angie Simoneaux, marketing specialist; Lian Cheramie, actor/teacher; John Maak, architect; Travis Gauthier, photographer; Kim Neustrom, marketing specialist; and Louis Michot, musician.
This is by no means an exhaustive “best of” list a la The Times of Acadiana. That’s what they do. (The Times’ “Best of Acadiana,” incidentally, was begun by Independent publishers Steve and Cherry Fisher May when they owned that publication). This is not a popularity contest. Rather, it’s an attempt to figure out and to celebrate what makes Lafayette a great place to live.
Coffee spot with the coolest vibe
Johnston Street Java
America’s Coffee House
Smartest new idea in dining
Home cooking parties/cooking classes
Bartender you would hire for a private party
New restaurant that will last
Best friends from Indiana come to town; where do you take them to eat?
Blue Dog Café
Café des Amis
Most authentic Mexican food
Most stylish restaurant interior
Artist you most want in your collection
(and would get in a bid war over)
Most stimulating art space, public or private
Up-and-coming artist you’d invest in now
Most inventive, unorthodox art in Lafayette
Graffiti on LUS Fiber boxes
Best use of public dollars to enhance quality of life
Most innovative trend in fitness
Pilates Plus Evolution
UL professor you’d most like to (re)take a class with
Most inventive band, musician to watch
Favorite venue to see a show and dance
Festival you never miss
Most creative use of a Sunday morning
Most creative use of a Saturday night
Icon that defines Lafayette
Lafayette Gay Firefighter
Best example of someone who is advancing Cajun/Creole culture
Luke Tullos brings the bartending basics to Lafayette’s dining scene
Whether it’s pouring from his famous (or infamous) absinthe water fountain or teaching the fundamentals of good ol’ bourbon, Luke Tullos is a Lafayette bartender who’s “so good, he doesn’t even need a last name” anymore. While some Cool Town categories secured a wide variety of suggestions from which to choose, the bartender Cool Town responders would hire for a private party is undoubtedly Tullos, the head bartender at Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro.
Tullos, 28, began mixing it up for City Club members in River Ranch roughly five years ago while still a public relations student at UL Lafayette. He moved on to Pamplona Tapas Bar, where he bartended and eventually became the downtown eatery’s general manager. But managing, he says, just wasn’t his style, so he packed up and headed to Austin, Texas, after graduating college to pursue a career in public relations.
A PR professional by day and a bartender by night in Austin, Tullos learned quickly that there was more to bartending than jiggers and pouring pitchers. “I saw that there are people out there interested in the craft, and I liked bartending a lot more than I liked a day job,” Tullos says. “I had to make this a viable profession, so I started doing research. The old methods [of bartending] were kind of lost during prohibition, the style of bartending, where hospitality was key. They were kind of the consummate host; we’ve kind of lost that. So I just started toning my craft.”
Tullos has since returned from his short stay in Austin, and spends his nights on what he calls a “customer concentrated” profession that doesn’t rely on one or two specialties. His pours are dependent on the palates of his patrons, who obviously appreciate his method of mixing and vast knowledge of spirits.
COOL TOWN QUOTES
The food smells the way the music sounds, the way the dancers sway, the swamps and prairies lay. All the generations, all the ethnicities and walks of life dance together to the same groove. All is so clearly and brilliantly integrated. No mortal could have planned it. One contemplates Lafayette the way the Buddha contemplates a rose. We are one, baby! — David Egan
The love of plate lunches announces our community’s commitment to small business. Each Styrofoam box of rice and gravy also is a reminder of how important home and family, our agrarian heritage and our unique cuisine are — even with our increasingly hectic and urban way of life. — Karlos Knott
I’ve made many of my best friends in the world here. Locals, transplants, transients, I’ve met so many cool people here over the years, I’ve seriously lost count of them. A place is not cool without cool people, and we have the coolest, hands down. — Herb Roe
Where else can you find children playing music with their grandparents? — Griff Blakewood
All in all, Lafayette is poised to become the Austin of Louisiana. Now if only those old liners can learn to embrace the weird! The weird will save us from becoming too much like the rest of America. — Jason Faulk
When my wife and I lived in Europe a German lady told us that “Americans live to work, Europeans work to live.” Lafayette’s [and Acadiana’s] residents trend toward the European view of the relative values of work and leisure. — Karlos Knott
Lafayette is cool because until you move away, you don,t realize how much you miss it. - Crystall Young
Music, REAL music — the fact that my kids’ (ages 2, 4 and 5) three favorite bands are Feufollet, Horace Trahan and GIVERS. They wet their lips on these bands before drinking the Disney or Nick Jr. Kool-Aid. They see these musicians around town and talk to them about anything from music to Spiderman. Great tunes from real people. It would be like me as a kid walking into Raceland Supermarket and running into Jagger, Plant and Neil Young at the check out. The bands might not be as big, not yet, but their influence will endure. — Mark Falgout
One innovative fitness trend I wish would catch on is people using their bodies to learn basic skills they can apply to help other people: digging holes, planting trees, swinging a hammer. It’s all good exercise, and you can totally use these skills to help others and help yourself to become a more self-sufficient person. We as a society seem to be losing these basic life skills that are the foundation of sustainable communities. I would encourage anyone interested in fitness to get out of the gym and into your neighborhood, or a neighborhood in need. It’s good for the body and good for the soul. — Jillian Johnson
We take care of each other. When something bad happens, to anybody, people here jump in to help. Don’t matter if they know you or not. — Angie Simoneaux
In Memphis last night, I watched Terrance Simien across the table — with his beaming charm — gently tell some Memphis musicians what the trail rides are all about — the strutting horses, the three-day process of music, food, merriment, community. The Memphians were stone-knocked-out-mesmerized, and made it their missions to come and witness it for themselves. It was so brilliant and beautiful. Imagine all the places Terrance goes, and the random stories he might happen to tell. Multiply that by the scores of great musicians and other folks who travel, spread the music and the love, and tell the stories. — David Egan
I can mingle with all types of artists over wine at ArtWalk and then walk myself down to the Blue Moon Saloon and dance my butt off. — Lian Cheramie
Best example in North America of white people who actually adapted to the land. — Griff Blakewood
Outskirts of town destinations — I love to drive out of town for the adventurous events: Café des Amis, Whiskey River, Lakeview, etc. — John Maak
It is an open-minded town. People here are generally willing to listen to, try, encourage new things. Other towns are all about keeping up with the Joneses. Well, the Joneses live HERE. — Angie Simoneaux
I’ve traveled quite a bit, but have never been anywhere where they support the arts of all stripes quite as much as here. Festivals, gallery openings, public art, free concerts, food events, you name it, we got it. — Herb Roe
‘Scuse me, but when you say “artist” I think normally in terms of music. We could talk all night about that. We could say Feufollet, but they aren’t up and coming. They were paying dues when they were 11, and now they’re like international stars. Let’s say Vagabond Swing. I’ve seen a lot of young swing groups like this that turn me off — all campy, jive, playing dress up. But Vagabond Swing swings apart. Really intense, great players, great singing, and they’re in it for more that just some hustle or angle. These guys found each other. They draw you in and make you feel it. There is a strong work ethic. These guys yearn to know music and dedicate themselves to knowing music. But the basic thing that can’t be taught or learned — they know how to swing. I wish I could buy them a van. — David Egan
It’s an unusual thing to say, I know, but here in south Louisiana, everything we’ve learned that means delicious is about meat. For me, the true gauge of what’s really tasty is when one can accomplish an amazing meal without meat. — Jillian Johnson
Lafayette is cool, but the little towns surrounding it are what make it truly special. You can drive 20 minutes in any direction and find something magical. — Katie Frayard
You can’t walk up Jefferson Street without running into a musician, actor, director, playwright, dancer, choreographer, graphic artist, etc. This “creative class,” as it’s called, shares a pride and privilege to help drive the economy, to help make our special little village a destination, and to make it more interesting for our fellow villagers. Where else can accordion players be rock stars? And the new Theater at the AcA — Lafayette’s Living Room. — David Egan
Festival International has been the jumping off point for major changes in the way Lafayette thinks about arts and culture. — Travis Gauthier
70506 The Saint Streets: The heart of town, walking distance to downtown, UL, Festival International and Festivals Acadiens and the Cajundome and Cajun Field. — Mark Falgout
Nice folks, live oaks, KRVS, short winters and you never have to change gears when you’re riding your bike! — Jillian Johnson
For Mardi Gras Day, I drove out to Savoy for the Faquetigue Courir de Mardi Gras. The week before I drove down to New Orleans to meet some friends from Cincinnati for some NOLA Mardi Gras, and my options for next weekend are limitless. It’s a quick hop to Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth for a museum trip or even Austin for SXSW or out to Avery Island for some sunshine and quiet time at the Buddha pagoda or wander down to Lake Martin to check out the trees and alligators. Too much cool stuff to do it all. — Herb Roe
We aren’t territorial about our coolness! We love embracing visitors and showing them around this place we love. This is evident in the amount of transplants who have visited our community for a festival, event or conference and realized they absolutely must live here. We all know a handful of people who experienced a generous dose of Acadiana hospitality and promptly headed home to pitch a “for sale” sign in their yard. — Kim Neustrom
Even though week days are crowded and hectic, Lafayette still feels relaxed and empty on weekends. Plus we have Festival International and Festivals Acadien et Creole, and more and more live oaks are being planted and protected. And local foods are becoming more available. — Louis Michot