The Daily World - Opelousas, La.
Date:Dec 5, 2010
This year's Fire and Water Rural Arts Festival was without fire. Let's just say that, in the fire and water relationship, it was fire's fault.
Nunu's Nightlite and Cafe, home to previous years' festivals, burned to the ground in July. The fire devastated an entire community, especially the artists who lost their works. It also left Frederick l'Ecole des Arts and the Fire and Water Rural Arts Festival without homes.
This year's festival was moved to the open-air, history-rich Singleton Lumber Building in Arnaudville. Christmas lights illuminated the building's interior, while the scents of incense and Cajun cooking welcomed festival-goers and regular cool breezes refreshed everybody. The sensual European sounds of local-area band Rio Luminoso transported people from the present devastation to the hopeful future, to a time when Nunu's would be rebuilt.
Festival attendees and artists agreed the building didn't compare to Nunu's, but its character and historic feel helped."This building has good bones," said Jill Hackney, president of Frederick l'Ecole des Arts. "It is a very welcoming place. It's really gotten things off to a great start."
George Marks, visual artist and co-director of the festival, said this year's focus shifted more towards the artists and locals networking, learning more about one another.
"Basically this year since we don't have fire, we really wanted to showcase and emphasize artists more than we ever have before," he said.
The artistic works displayed throughout the building were as varied as the people who created them. Lacey Dupre presented vintage-styled jewelry made from items she's collected while traveling.Perhaps the most interesting part of her jewelry, however, comes not from other nations, but straight from the waters of Louisiana -- items made from nutria fur.
"My goal is to use the nutria," said Dupre who is part of Righteous Fur, a nonprofit organization aimed at using the pelts of the nutria rats who eat away at Louisiana's coastlines.
A Lafayette native, Dupre heard about the festival and wanted to be a part of it, especially to benefit Nunu's.
"It's part of our culture," she said. "It just kind of brings people together."
Across from Dupre, Sunset resident Jerilyn Guidry LaVergne showcased her color-bursting fused glass art in the form of windchimes, wall art and yard decor.
"Every item I make is one of a kind," she said. "I used to be an RN. Now I do this full-time."
Brenda Mounier came to the festival for La Table Francais and stayed to support the arts and listen to the music. She felt the festival highlighted the area's culture.
"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, in any other region. This is heaven."
Marks said the festival saw more people during its opening Saturday morning than it's ever seen before.
"It's nice to see people coming still," he said. "We're all just kind of recollecting ourselves right now. Next year we'll do a big blowout."
In addition to live music, local food, a French table and art displays, artistic workshops were held throughout the day. The festival and workshops were free and open to the public.
"All of the people and community that come together to keep this alive," Hackney said. "We could not do this without them."
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