Posted: Jan 13, 2010 2:46 PM by Associated Press
A fourth large public mural in downtown Opelousas is dedicated to telling the story of the region's Acadian culture.
"I love it. I think this is one of the best compositions I've ever done," said Jerome Ford, a local art teacher who has been working on the mural for months.
It tells the story of the region's Cajun people, beginning in the upper left with the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s, and then following around in a crescent through their arrival in Louisiana and on to the present day.
"It's a form of visual storytelling," Ford said. "Up front will be pictures of several well-known Cajun musicians from this area."
Opelousas Tourism Director Melanie Lee said the mural isn't costing local taxpayers anything: the money comes from the city's 2 percent hotel and motel tax, designed to support tourism-related projects.
Lee said the mural, directly across the street from Courthouse Square, should both promote tourism and beautify the city.
"Public art brings people downtown. It exposes both children and adults to the arts," Lee said. "It helps build community pride."
Ford, a New Orleans native who also did this year's Spice and Music Festival Poster for the city, is a visual arts instructor with the St. Landry Parish School System.
While he is based out of Southwest Elementary School, he teaches at 11 different schools throughout the parish.
Ford received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing with a minor in printmaking from LSU in 2003.
Since then, his work has been accepted in many local and national juried exhibitions where it has won numerous honors and awards.
After college, he taught in the visual arts program with the New Orleans Public School System until Hurricane Katrina forced him and his wife to move to St. Landry Parish, which he now calls home.
But as he is not originally from this area, he called his current project a learning experience.
Fortunately, the city assembled a group of local experts, including renowned Cajun fiddler Hadley Castille, to help with the project.
"They were really great. They provided me with a great deal of information, but they also granted me a lot input in terms of design," Ford said.
While best known for his paintings, Ford is no stranger to the mural process. He has previously painted a mural for his school, as well as about a half-dozen earlier murals on public buildings in the New Orleans area before moving here in 2005.
He said a mural requires a great deal more planning than a traditional painting, where the artists can adjust the work, even change direction, as the painting moves forward.
But with a mural, the initial design has to be scaled up 100 or more times from the original to fill the space available.
"It is more like painting by numbers," Ford said.
The mural is the fourth for the city, with the St. Landry Economic and Industrial Development District funding two murals on local history further down St. Landry Street a few years ago and the city dedicating a mural to the area's rich zydeco heritage on Main Street last year.
Lee said yet another mural is planned on the newly remodeled Delta Grand building a few hundred feet from the current mural in the coming year.
She said the city will also be offering local artists a unique opportunity for more public art in the coming year, when it will commission works based on the fiddle, which is so important to all local musical traditions.
"It will be like Pelicans on Parade that was done in Lafayette a few years ago but with huge fiberglass fiddles," Lee said.
Jerome Ford's artwork: http://colorsofculture.net
Information from: The Daily World