On Thursday, November 2, in the Benjamin W. Mount Auditorium at Central School, the Arts Council of SWLA and the City of Lake Charles recognized contributions from the area’s creative workforce during the annual Mayor’s Arts Awards.
Mayor Nic Hunter presented awards to area leaders from the arts community in seven categories.
Devin Morgan, Exhibit Coordinator at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, was recognized with the Keystone Award, which is given to an individual who acts as the hinge for many productions and events. Through his seven years at the Museum, Morgan has helped to host, promote, and build over 90 exhibits, fundraisers, and educational camps. He studied print making at McNeese State University, and routinely offers critiques and advice to both established and fledgling local artists of all mediums. Museum director Susan Reed said, “I cannot imagine a person who more clearly personifies the word ‘keystone’ – the main support piece that holds a larger structure up- or who deserves this honor more than Devin.” He is one of the pillars upholding the arts, cultural preservation, and the humanities in the Lake Area, understanding the importance of a healthy arts community to a thriving society.
The Citizen of the Arts award was presented to Patricia Prudhomme, a driving force behind the growth of McNeese’s excellent Banners Series since 2012, leading her team in attracting unique performers of all varieties for the entertainment and enrichment of Lake Area citizens and visitors. Prudhomme takes a hands-on approach with quality of life issues and grassroots initiatives through her work with organizations such as the Louisiana Partnership for the Arts, MusicMakers2U, the Lake Charles Symphony, and the Chamber of SWLA. Prudhomme also advocates to strengthen quality art programming at the state level, and she established innovative Banners Series programs in area schools, serving more than 17,000 students through the parishes of Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jeff Davis. “Patricia’s joie de vivre enables all of us to experience a love of life through the Banners cultural season,” said Lori Marinovich, Executive Director of Downtown Development.
Local historian and author Adley Cormier was recognized with this year’s Citizen of the Humanities award. Earlier this year, Cormier published a new book entitled “Lost Lake Charles”, detailing little-known histories of the Lake Area in a style unique to its author, whose passion and enthusiasm for sharing local history shines. A long-running supporter and advocate of local arts, history, and culture, Cormier serves on the board of the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society and the Historic Preservation Commission, as well as acting as an ambassador and guide for the Mardi Gras Museum and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, educating visitors on the area’s finer points. Angie Manning, Communications Director at the CVB, said, “Adley is a wealth of knowledge. He has a captivating way of sharing his love of history with others. He has a heart for Lake Charles, and his devotion to revealing and preserving our history is second to none.”
The Patron of the Year award was given to Magnolia LNG, a company that recognizes the importance of corporate responsibility in giving back to the community. In 2014, Magnolia LNG initiated the Community Action Committee, tasked with distributing community investments that benefit the area’s quality of life for residents. A major focus area for funding includes cultural arts that promote access to underserved students and communities. Since the committee was established, Magnolia LNG has invested over $100,000 in local causes, fundraisers, and community events, which supports organizations such as Common Ground, McNeese Banners, the Arts Council of SWLA, the Children’s Museum, the Lake Charles Symphony, ACTS Theatre, Imperial Calcasieu Museum, MusicMakers2U, Lake Area Ballet Theatre, the Children’s Theatre Company, and many more. With this substantial investment from Magnolia LNG, these nonprofits were able to expand programming, enrich childhood education programs, coordinate new arts events, and increase outreach.
Mayor Hunter awarded the Arts Educator of the Year to Sowela graphic design instructor, Darrell Buck. Through his five years at Sowela, Buck has led dozens of students to medals in the Louisiana SkillsUSA competition and the American Advertising Federation’s “Addy Awards”. Buck pushes his students to find their creativity in various mediums, from sketching and web design, to screen printing and everything in between. Fellow Sowela instructor Erik Jessen said, “Darrell is a prime example of what an art educator should be doing by teaching students the skills they need to succeed in life.” Dr. David Shankle, Sowela’s Dean of Business and Applied Technology, said “Mr. Buck makes Lake Charles proud by training up graphic design students who bring a rich and diverse set of skills to our local community.” In his acceptance speech, Buck stressed the vital importance of keeping art instruction in the public-school system.
The coalition of independent artists known as SWLArt took home the award for Arts Organization of the Year. Stimulating the creative industry throughout the city, SWLArt has introduced new earning opportunities for its thirty-plus members through regular outdoor art markets, creative partnerships with local businesses, and skills development. Lead organizers Danny Allain, Brian Pitre, Daneisha Davis, and Morgan Allain seek to increase awareness of visual artists working in all mediums, many of whom create beyond the regiments of traditional Louisiana-themed art. As a developmental force, SWLArt welcomes any artist to set up, especially those just starting out. The group has also partnered with local businesses to coordinate creative art-themed events, like BurgArt at Cotten’s Downtown and CigArt at The Cigar Club, which highlight not only the artists involved, but also locally-owned establishments.
Mayor Hunter honored Danny Allain as Artist of the Year for the final award of the evening. Allain is not only a talented muralist, comic book artist, scriptwriter, illustrator, and multi-medium painter, but also a mentor, a leader, a collaborator, and a devoted husband and father, with a knack for making art fun and accessible for everyone. Allain’s colorful and imaginative murals have appeared at Millennium Park, the new Kroger, Cotten’s, Combre-Fondel Elementary School, and the Hope Therapy Center. Earlier this year, the Art Associates Gallery hosted Allain’s first solo exhibit, a collection of works from his popular “Bones” series. He also uses his talents for the greater good of the community. During last year’s flooding, he partnered with Killer Dye on a t-shirt design known as “Louisiana Strong”, and donated over $400 in sales to relief efforts. Allain understands the power of art in beautification, as well as a force for unity and in helping others.
Mayor Nic Hunter also recognized fourteen K-12 students and their winning artworks from the City of Lake Charles’ “Deck the Walls” contest. These artworks, all in the theme of “Celebrating Diversity”, now adorn the walls of the Mayor’s office.
Angie Dilmore was recognized as the writer of Mayor Hunter’s new city motto, “United for Progress and Prosperity”. Mayor Hunter said, “My hope is that working together, we will engender ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’ for every resident, not just a few.”
For more information on the Mayor’s Arts Awards or the Arts Council, visit www.artscouncilswla.org or call (337) 439-2787.