Thursday, December 11, 2014

"HANGING OUT" IN ARNAUDVILLE

The Poets
Yesterday morning, we took a ride over the "prairie" in St. Landry parish to have lunch in Arnaudville with our good friends, Darrell
and Karen Bourque. It was a chilly December day but the sun was out and as we drove into the small town of 1400 residents, we felt excited to be meeting with our old friends and visiting a town that has become a buzzing haven for writers, artists, musicians, and chefs. Arnaudville has gained recognition as the hub of the French cultural renaissance; in fact, the town received the award of "Cultural Economy Hero of the Year" from the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation in 2013.

We were also excited to be picking up a piece of glass art created by Karen, who had done a wonderful rendering of the pickerel weed, inspired by drawings she had seen of Susan Elliott's art in Vickie Sullivan's book, Why Water Plants Don't Drown, a naturalist's guide to aquatic plants. And, of course, Darrell and I had a chance to "talk poetry." He's a former Poet Laureate of Louisiana and winner of the "Louisiana Writer of the Year Award" presented at the Louisiana Book Festival this year.

The Artist
Both Darrell and Karen, native south Louisianans, contribute much to the Arts and also support writers, artists, and musicians throughout the State. Darrell has become fascinated with, and actively involved in, memorializing Amédé Ardoin, the legendary Cajun accordionist. The Amédé Ardoin Project is raising money to build a public statue in honor of the musician, and an estimated $30,000 to $60,000 is needed for a bronze statue.

Darrell has already memorialized Ardoin with his last book of 14 poems entitled If You Abandon Me, and he's busy working on another book that will include the Amédé poems and poems about other famous Cajun musicians of Louisiana.

We enjoyed lunch at the Little Big Cup restaurant on the banks of Bayou Fusilier, and Darrell took us on a tour of several cottages recently moved into Arnaudville that will be available for artists, writers, and musicians who apply for a few months' stay in the village so they can work on their various projects. He was inspired to take us on the tour because I had said how great it would be to have writing space in a tiny house in an out-of-the-way place like Arnaudville. The cottages near the center of town are situated on the banks of Bayou Fusilier, a bayou that forms a junction with Bayou Teche. Darrell said that artists from around the world visit the area, and some of them take up residence after tasting our Louisiana bayou waters.

We missed the Fire and Water Rural Arts Celebration that took place at NUNU's, but Darrell took us to this Arts and Culture Collective, site of the recent celebration, to meet George Marks, owner of the old warehouse that houses the artwork, books, and products of regional artists. NUNU's will also be the repository for funds raised for the Amédé Ardoin statue.

Amédé Ardoin's story is a sad song in itself. The famed musician who sang of loneliness and heartbreak, performed at a dance one summer night, and a white woman brought him her handkerchief to wipe his brow during the performance. Following the dance he was run over by prejudiced assailants and injured so badly he could no longer take care of himself. He was committed to the State hospital in Pineville, Louisiana where he died in 1942.

Darrell tells this tragic story in the 14 poems mentioned earlier and was inspired to carry out the project to create a statue in the musician's honor. Any home in south Louisiana (or anywhere else, for that matter) that hosts a party and raises as much as $300 toward the Ardoin project will receive a yard sign that says: "Amédé Ardoin stopped here on his way home."

Naan Oven
Birdhouse
Tower
When we took a walk in the yard around NUNU's with George Marks, I spied a unique clay oven that brought back memories of the ovens that baked our weekly naan when we lived in Iran. The oven was another creation of local artists and was fired up continuously during the Le Feu et L'eau (Fire and Water) Rural Arts Celebration last week. Vickie Sullivan snapped photos of the oven and a yard "totem" topped by a birdhouse made of tile that are displayed on this blog.

(Note: Before we left NUNU's, Darrell told us that George Marks will have a "tiny house" on wheels next door to NUNU's available by the Spring of 2015...hmmmm).


We always come away from a visit with the Bourques inspired to write and to support the Arts and are already planning an early January get-together with this talented couple to celebrate the New Year in bayou country.
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