Lafayette photographer Kent Hutslar has died. An integral part of the local arts community and a founding member of the Artists Alliance, Kent passed away early Saturday morning at University Medical Center. His cause of death was pneumonia. He had been hospitalized since Sunday, March 21.
“If there’s anything lucky for me in this, it’s that it happened the way it did because if he had been killed in a car wreck or dropped dead of a stroke or something like that, it would have been horrifying for me — not that it wasn’t horrifying — but, you know, you get real with yourself,” says Kent’s wife, Gwyn, sounding remarkably composed Monday morning. “I was sitting there talking to him and holding his hand the whole time. It was very peaceful and very quiet, and he just finally got to go to sleep. He needed to rest, so now he’s getting his rest.” Gwyn adds that the outpouring of grief and well wishes from family and from Kent’s many friends and admirers has sustained her over the last few days. “I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do when I go to ArtWalk and I don’t see him standing over there in the corner with his beret on.’”
Kent had a long history of liver disease after contracting hepatitis while working as an industrial nurse in the oil patch in the early 1980s. In 2008 he underwent a complicated procedure to receive a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt — designed to hold over liver patients until they receive a transplant. Kent was on a transplant waiting list at the time of his death. He had been admitted into UMC with a fever and cough, which developed into pneumonia over the course of the week. Last Thursday night doctors placed Kent in a medically induced coma and even then hoped he could be stabilized. By Friday, hopes of Kent’s recovery began to dim. Gwyn was at his side during the final days of his life in the intensive care unit.
Born Feb. 15, 1951, in New Orleans, Kent Hutslar moved with his family to New Iberia when he was 7 years old. He graduated from New Iberia Senior High in 1969 and earned a nursing certificate from the Charity Hospital School of Nursing in New Orleans and furthered his nurse training through a four-year stint as an Air Force flight medic stateside during the closing years of the Vietnam War. Kent spent another eight years in the Air Force reserve while working as an industrial nurse in the Acadiana oil patch.
In 1983 he turned his lifelong interest in photography into a career, going to work for himself as a corporate industrial photographer, mainly for the oil industry. But Kent’s talents were wide ranging, from traditional 35 mm photography and hand-tinting film to digital photography. Many know him through the captivating black and white photos of musicians that long graced the walls at Grant Street Dancehall, and his credits include several notable album covers for which he served as both photographer and designer. But Kent remained a professional photographer on retainer with commercial entities until the end, working most recently for designer Michael Henry. His love of music also kept him close to the action, booking bands for the Sunday brunches at Blue Dog Café.
“Kent was always an encyclopedia of photographic knowledge and absolutely loved to talk shop with other photographers,” says fellow Lafayette photographer Travis Gauthier, who as a fresh-faced kid out of art school in the mid 1990s was encouraged by Kent to pursue his craft. “The first time I had a print accepted into the Southern Open exhibition,” Gauthier recalls, “at the opening I talked about my print with many people, but it wasn’t until Kent said he liked it that I truly thought of it as a success, because I respected his opinion over any other.”
“He was such a kind and generous man,” says photographer Robin May, an Independent staff member. “He helped me on many an occasion when I was under deadline for some project or another, taking my numerous phone calls, giving me tips and advice until late at night. He never let on once how obviously annoying I was. I will miss him.”
"In three words," adds Philip Gould, "Kent was there. Whatever was happening, be it Clifton, Zach, Dickie Landry, festivals and other momentous occasions, you name it, Kent was photographing. His documentary contribution to Lafayette and the culture here was pervasive. He, his work and signature beret will be missed by all of us who photographed with him."
A memorial service for Kent Hutslar will take place at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in the next few weeks; details are still being arranged. In the meantime, a PayPal account has been established by friends to help Gwyn cover the staggering expense of Kent’s illness; simply designate
as the beneficiary and make a donation using a credit card.
Gwyn remains surrounded by family and friends at the home she and Kent shared in Lafayette. They were married on New Year’s Eve 1986, each bringing three children to the union to form what Gwyn calls “the Lafayette Brady Bunch.”
“As hard as it was for me to tell him it was OK for him to go, I had to tell him that because he was tired, and I could see that he was tired,” Gwyn says of Kent’s final hours. “I just wanted him to know that I was going to be OK — I would be OK — and it was OK for him to go. And he’s with me, I know he’s with me. I can feel him all around me, I absolutely can feel him all around me.”
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.