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ArtSpark 2018 grants support local artists, mentoring

ArtSpark 2018 grants support local artists, mentoring

ArtSpark 2019 applications to AcA are due by Feb. 22. Apply here.  

Visual artist Lucius Fontenot’s latest endeavor has elevated to art the struggles and wisdom of ladies of a certain age – those 75 and older whose stories were known only to their families or not at all.

Fontenot, whose photos capturing life in south Louisiana have been featured in national publications, is producing a coffee table book in an effort called “The Maw-Maw Project.” The book will be a collection of stories and photographs of the eldest women around. Fontenot and his creative partner, Jolie Meaux, are trying to have it available by Mother’s Day.

Fontenot is one of 10 artists whose work and bios line the walls of an expansive exhibit room at the Acadiana Center for the Arts (AcA), all of them recipients ArtSpark 2018 grants of $5,000 that are allowing their projects to fully bloom.

Together, the Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority offer ArtSpark stipends from $1,000 to $5,000. The program encourages the arts in Acadiana by supporting individual projects and their creators. It also enhances the economic possibilities of each project – and each artist – by offering business classes at the Opportunity Machine, a business incubator that is part of LEDA.

“Artists, writers, musicians, and performers – like any kind of entrepreneur – face the daily struggle of forging a life and career out of pure passion and vision,” said Samuel Oliver, executive director of the AcA. “By providing support to these individuals, we are investing in the future of our region, watering the seeds that can grow into definitive pieces of our life and culture today and for generations to come.”

ArtSpark began in 2014. It has supported the work of 41 artists who collectively have received $190,000 in stipends, said Paige Krause, outreach director at AcA.

“The arts play a significant role in our community, and our partnership with LEDA not only supports the development of individual artists, but recognizes art as a component of economic development,” Krause said. “ArtSpark was designed to give awarded artists career development services through the Opportunity Machine.”

“For years, LEDA has supported efforts to promote local artists because art is a component of economic development, in addition to playing a significant role in our community’s cultural identity,” said Gregg Gothreaux, president and CEO of LEDA. “The creative thought-process that makes our citizens great entrepreneurs is also reflected in the output of our arts community. We want to see our local artist network grow and we support our allies, such as the AcA, who are on the front lines of arts promotions. Not only has ArtSpark advanced traditional art, but the program has fostered development in new media through the program’s emphasis on digital interactive, visual arts, music, film and live performance.”

For The Maw-Maw Project, Fontenot and Meaux interviewed women whose lives were not easy, who experienced the hardship of poverty or racism or both; most of them lacked an education beyond elementary school. The pair sought out Cajun, Creole and Native American grandmothers and great-grandmothers – “women of a certain age,” Fontenot said – in interviews that many times were conducted in a nursing home.

“I think the real art was in the interviews that brought out something more,” he said. “They were self-sufficient. They were loving. They were the matriarch of their family and community.”

With Meaux’s support, Fontenot submitted his project for consideration for ArtSpark 2018. In describing his project to a review committee, Fontenot wrote “There is a beloved archetype in south Louisiana – the Maw-Maw. She is the matriarch of her family and our culture. She spoke French as a first language, she taught you to say your prayers, she taught you to make a roux.

“Sadly, this archetype is quickly passing away,” Fontenot wrote.

Fontenot is featured at the AcA along with nine of his fellow ArtSpark 2018 recipients.

Cheré Coen

Coen writes historical romance and paranormal mystery novels set in historical or modern times. Her characters are Louisianans.

Her ArtSpark stipend enabled her to publish all her novels in paperback, where previously half were published in paperback while the rest were released and read as ebooks. Two books were made into audiobooks, which provided work for two local voice-over specialists, Michelle Marie and Christee Gabour Atwood.

“My inventory increased. And after marketing the new books sales of all books increased as well,” Coen said in her AcA bio.
Mark St. Cyr

St. Cyr is a physician and musician. ArtSpark enabled St. Cyr to produce a suite of songs that tell of devastation and survival. St. Cyr and collaborator Jennifer Cooper, an artist and writer, added spoken words and visual art that took the form of a purse and titled the exhibit What We Carry.

St. Cyr performed at the Martin Luther King Multipurpose Center to an audience that spanned the socioeconomic and racial strata.

“More valuable to me than the stipend was my increase in confidence and creativity I experienced as a recipient of ArtSpark,” he said in his bio.
Sean Bruce

Bruce is a Lafayette singer/songwriter/musician whose influences include American folk music and word/lyrical stylists Leonard Cohen and Ray Bradbury.

Bruce’s project allowed him to gather some of Lafayette’s best musicians to record a collection of songs that in early 2017 “came to me at once, like nausea.”

He said the ArtSpark stipend enabled him to promote his work and expanded the time he and the other musicians spent in the recording studio. “We had time to relax and time to create art in a true spontaneous form,” he said in his bio.

JeLlyn Morvant

Morvant, a wife and mother, is a metalsmith who usually designs and creates jewelry using gold. Her creations reflect the two places she’s lived: south Louisiana, where she was born and raised and lives now, and southern California, where she spent her 20s.

For her ArtSpark project, Morvant worked with other artists and integrated a different material into her creations: American Turquoise.

“The ArtSpark project has given me an avenue to share my process as an artist with the community to maybe inspire others to step bravely into new journeys they dream for themselves which ultimately will empower,” she said in her bio.
Eric Hitt

Hitt credits his ArtSpark creation, a contemplative rope and knot and metal piece that takes up a small showroom at the AcA, to his childhood.

“Growing up I spent a lot of time by myself, and during this period I would build environments and make stories to help escape,” he said in his ArtSpark bio. “This meant I could exist in my own little world where I controlled everything and had a connection with something.”

Hitt used almost two miles of small-diameter rope and metal bars for support. “The end result is a space where everything exists as a singular part, as well as contributing to the piece as a whole.”
Eric Breaux

A longtime broadcast videographer and freelance filmmaker, Breaux has received numerous television news awards, produced music videos for music greats including Zachary Richard, and is a board member and technical director for Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival.

Breaux’s ArtSpark project, a documentary on the Williams family and their familial ties to Zydeco music that go back generations, is a made-for-TV piece that he plans to pitch to networks as a reality show.

With the ArtSpark stipend, “I was able to afford a film crew to gather key pieces of the project and cover crew expenses and purchase some equipment to help with the production,” he said in his bio.

Whitney Hebert

At age 4 Hebert enrolled at the Morgan Street Dance Company in Broussard. She’s been involved in ballet ever since, as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer.

In fall 2018 Whitney was the artist in residence at the AcA and is currently a member of the Basin Dance Collective.

Hebert’s ArtSpark project was producing a work of modern dance. She said the stipend helped pay for the dancers, set design, lighting design and the original score.

“While the medium of dance may not require more than the human body, the production of an hour-long evening dance performance becomes costly due to the reliance on so many other artists and mediums coming together,” she said in her bio.

Hannah Gumbo

A multimedia artist, Gumbo captured the attention of residents and visitors alike in Eunice, where she lives and works. Gumbo painted a big and bold mural that covered an entire side of a formerly drab brick building downtown.

Gumbo partnered with public school children of all ages to gather input, and she incorporated those ideas in the mural.

“The (ArtSpark) funding provided the supplies, training, and assistance necessary to create a large-scale public mural on an unsightly brick wall. … The wall faces oncoming traffic of a one-way street, welcoming citizens and visitors alike to this historic area,” she said in her bio.

Sue Schleifer

A leadership coach, Schleifer became a playwright when she turned a life experience into a stage drama: an old boyfriend’s wife dropped off a box of letters that Shleifer wrote to him in the ‘70s, before life sent them on different journeys.

Schleifer turned the letters into a play – Take Down the Letters – that ran in September at Cité des Arts in downtown Lafayette, with production paid for by the ArtSpark stipend.

“What does it mean to be a creative person? How do we communicate? What do we choose to express and what do we hold close to our hearts? … These themes are explored in Take Down the Letters,” Shleifer said in her bio.