In 2004, Acadiana will be home to two world-class art facilities – the new Acadiana Center for the Arts and the expanded University Art Museum.
August 27, 2003
By the end of this year, two new facilities in Lafayette will increase the amount of art in Acadiana. The Acadiana Center for the Arts and the University Art Museum, both in Lafayette, will add a significant new dimension to the area’s burgeoning art scene.
The Acadiana Center for the Arts is a cooperative effort between the state of Louisiana, Lafayette Consolidated Government, Downtown Development Authority and the Acadiana Arts Council. The state allocated $10.25 million for the acquisition, planning and renovation of the old LBA bank building on the corner of Vermilion and Jefferson streets in Downtown Lafayette to house the new Acadiana Center for the Arts.
Cathy Webre, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, says the building was purchased by the Lafayette Consolidated Government through Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority for $875,000, and that the Acadiana Arts Council will manage the facility.
“The building is not the Acadiana Art Council’s,” says council Executive Director Buddy Palmer. “It’s the community’s building. We look to have other groups in the region using it.” Palmer says the center will serve as a hub for visual arts, performing arts, workshops, exhibits and a teaching space. “We’re not a museum,” Palmer says. “We intend on being a non-collecting facility. We would not have our own collection of art work that we curate, store and care for.”
Palmer says the council plans to move its offices to the new building by early November and expects the facility to be open to the public by the first of the year. The 27,000-square-foot building will have 5,000 square feet for exhibits. There will also be a 300-square-foot studio for visual arts, a smaller studio for smaller art and music classes, a 1,400-square-foot multipurpose room for hands-on activities and a gift shop.
A second phase of construction will include an expanded lobby and a 300-seat theater for community theater, dance performances, musical performances and the Louisiana Crossroads music series. The second phase will more than double the space of the center to 55,000 square feet. Webre says that both phases of the construction is covered by the state’s funding. No date has been set yet for the second phase of construction.
Currently the Acadiana Arts Council maintains some 5,000 square feet of office space, including the Art House, on the corner of Lee and East Main streets. Palmer says that nearly $40,000 of the council’s annual budget goes to maintaining the building. With the new move and nearly five times the space the council now manages, Palmer says that expense should increase to at least $200,000 a year. Palmer also expects an increase in the council’s staff for managing the facility – like a first-floor receptionist, an information staff and employees for the retail gift shop.
A group of Lafayette citizens – including Barry Berthelot, Randy Haynie, Carol Ross and Gail Romero – is gearing up to raise funds for the new center. The group also intends to establish an endowment for the center. Berthelot, president of Bank One for the Lafayette and Acadiana market, says the group is finalizing its plans and should be able to kick off fund-raising efforts by October.
Berthelot says the Acadiana Center for the Arts is “an exciting opportunity for all of Acadiana. It’s a quality of life issue and an economic development issue for Acadiana, especially with all the other arts and cultural institutions that are in place here already and will be in place.”
Berthelot says the outdoor parks, the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium, the Downtown branch of the Lafayette Public Library and the Children’s Museum of Acadiana are proof that culture is thriving in Lafayette. He adds that the Acadiana Center for the Arts “is going to be a tremendous draw for all of the people in Lafayette, Acadiana and even beyond.”
Across town, on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University Art Museum is undergoing a facelift and new construction. University Art Museum Director Herman Mhire says the new facility will open Dec. 20.
Mhire says the museum is undergoing its first phase of construction, the completion of a new 33,000-square-foot building. The second phase includes remodeling the existing museum, constructed by Louisiana architect A. Hays Town, for an additional 4,000 square feet of space. Both phases will allow for a total of 13,000 square feet of exhibit space. The third phase consists of building a sculpture garden on the land surrounding the property. Mhire says these three phases will be completed by the time the museum opens its doors. The fourth phase is to build a 20,000-square-foot wing onto the museum to house a permanent art collection and an art education center. No date has been set to begin construction of the fourth phase.
Mhire says the funding for the $8.5 million museum came from the private sector, with a lead gift of $3 million from Paul and Lulu Hilliard of Lafayette, the support of the UL Lafayette Foundation and other private gifts. Mhire says the university will cover the cost of a staff, utilities, maintenance and insurance fees necessary to operate the facility, which should be about a third of the museum’s operational costs. The rest of the funding will be generated by admission to the museum, membership opportunities, annual fund-raising events and the museum bookstore.
“These are the kinds of things that a museum has to do in order to remain viable,” Mhire says. The final costs for all four phases of the museum’s construction will be $15.7 million.
Mhire expects the annual operating budget of the museum to hover around $1.5 million, but says the first year’s budget will more likely be around $2.5 million, because of the $1 million price tag for the new museum’s opening exhibit. Painting in France: 1803-2003 is a survey exhibition of 200 years of French art on loan from major French museums and major museums from across the United States.
Mhire says it is important to make a distinction between an art center and a museum.
“A museum is a collecting institution,” he says. “A museum collects, preserves and interprets works of art for the benefit of the community.”
The University Art Museum had intended to present the art of Auguste Rodin at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
But unforseen construction delays with the center forced the museum to locate another venue for the exhibit. Instead, the exhibit will be presented at the Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium and will run from Sept. 20 to Jan. 4, 2004. Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession – Sculpture from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation will feature 72 pieces of the native Parisian’s sculptures, portraits and prints.