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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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