Discovering The Public Art Of Lafayette, Louisiana

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Lafayette in Louisiana is a vibrant city, steeped in history and culture. Part of that culture is the public art of Lafayette, the colourful murals and other artworks that adorn the city streets.

Lafayette, A Cultural Hub

Lafayette is sometimes known as Louisiana’s “Hub City” because of its central role in the region’s oil and gas industries. But, as a university city with diverse cultural roots, it is famous for its live music, traditional cuisine, and festivals that celebrate the best of its Creole and Cajun Heritage.

I saw this for myself when I visited Lafayette. The living history museum of Vermilionville brought the city’s diverse history to life, and at the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, I enjoyed an extravaganza of food, music and traditional crafts. Then there was the public art, the projects that have breathed new life into the city with brightly coloured murals, sculptures and even street furniture.

Painting on a wall with pictures of a musician, food and an art palette, with caption "Downtown Lafayette Louisiana"
A welcome to visitors to Lafayette

Street Art In Lafayette

Walk around downtown Lafayette and you’ll see murals everywhere. A good place to start is in Jefferson Street, where it seems as if almost every building boasts its own artwork.

Some of these murals are decades old; others are much more recent. Many are the work of Robert Dafford, a native of Lafayette whose murals can be seen in numerous cities in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Outside of restaurant with painted walls
Every available surface seems to be painted!

Public art in Lafayette was given a further boost in 2015 with the creation of the Creativity Everywhere Initiative. This revitalised the downtown area with new murals and metal sculptures, and by painting street furniture including benches and bike racks. And regular art walks were introduced on the second Saturday of each month.

Painted Utility Boxes

Wherever you go in Lafayette you are likely to spot decorated utility boxes. These are the work of the Artbox Public Art Initiative, begun in 2015 as a way of enhancing the city environment and creating art at the same time.

Painted box with blue background, a yellow violin, red building and harmonica, and shadows of people dancing
A colourful utility box

More designs are added every year, and there are now dozens of painted boxes to spot all around the city. Look out for images celebrating local sports, Mardi Gras, Cajun music, and more.

A Few Pieces To Look Out For

The following were some of my favourite pieces:

Mural with bird and blue butterfly in front of a swamp with plants and insects

This one, on the corner of Jefferson Street and Garfield Street is by Robert Dafford, and is called “Til All That’s Left is a Postcard”. Painted in 1986 it shows a typical Louisiana swamp with a bird, a butterfly, and other creatures, and calls attention to the destruction of wildlife habitats.

Mural with violins flying out of a swamp

“Flying Violins” (1988) is another Dafford painting. This also depicts a swamp, but perhaps in a more positive way because the artist is quoted as saying that he “conceived it as a symbol of Cajun music leaving the swamps and flying out into the world”. The picture was the first of a series connecting Lafayette to its Cajun roots in Canada and France.

Wall painting of two large blue irises

This cheerful “Iris” by Kelli Smith was painted in 2018 as part of the Creativity Everywhere Initiative. You can see it on the side of the Jefferson Street pub.

Wall painted with a long snake with coloured feathers

A recent addition (2020) is this picture of the serpent deity Quetzalcoatl by Dennis Soileau. Painted on the side of the Mexican restaurant La Carreta in Jefferson Street, this image also includes a pyramid and other Mesoamerican themes.

Painted box with cartoon-like characters of a crocodile and a cockerel in carnival costumes

And here is just one from the Artbox project. The photo is a bit shadowy but you can see that the traffic box is painted with a cheerful Cajun Carnival theme.

Wall painted with flowers and butterflies and the text "on a trouvé le paradis dedans le sud de la Louisiane!"

And, finally, I haven’t been able to identify the title or the artist of this one. But I think it sums up Lafayette and its public art!

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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