Dec. 7, 2010 10:58 PM

Sometimes, a community has to make a sacrifice for the greater good. That's what happened in 2003, when two downtown murals by Robert Dafford were destroyed during the renovations of LBA Savings Bank to create the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Sometimes, however, a soupçon of serendipity will bring things back around. And that's definitely what is happening this weekend during ArtWalk, when the AcA will display the once-lost murals once more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Written by Mary Tutwiler

Sometimes, a community has to make a sacrifice for the greater good. That's what happened in 2003, when two downtown murals by Robert Dafford were destroyed during the renovations of LBA Savings Bank to create the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Sometimes, however, a soupçon of serendipity will bring things back around. And that's definitely what is happening this weekend during ArtWalk, when the AcA will display the once-lost murals once more.

Back in 2000, when LBA was still operating out of the distinctive 1920s building on the corner of Jefferson and Vermilion, the bank board commissioned the Dafford murals as a public art project to celebrate their centennial of continuous business in Lafayette. Dafford created two streetscapes: an image of a bustling downtown circa 1900, with horse drawn buggies dashing down dirt streets, and another depicting the first red-brick colonial building that housed the bank. The murals covered two L shaped walls on the back of the bank building, facing Vermilion Street.

Three years later, LBA was acquired by IberiaBank, and the merged banks moved to the old Guaranty Bank building on Congress Street, now IberiaBank Tower. The LBA board continued to support the arts in Lafayette. This time they chose not to make a profit on the sale of the LBA building and instead sold it and all the property associated with it to the city of Lafayette at cost, with the hopes that the city would develop a world class arts facility.

"So in a way, the LBA board planted the seed that caused the AcA to grow," says Jerry Reaux, vice-chairman and CEO of the board of Tri-Parish Bank as well as chairman of the board of The Independent, and former president and CEO of LBA.

Unfortunately, the mural-covered walls were demolished to create the new facade of the AcA. "I'm really sad that the murals were destroyed. They only survived a few years," says Reaux, "but what we have now is far more valuable than the mural would have ever been."

For years, no one but Reaux knew that LBA had commissioned photographer Philip Gould to archive the murals. Reaux told AcA Dxecutive Director Gerd Wuestemann less than two months ago that the images still existed. Wuestemann, supported by a generous donation to the project, had the photographic images printed on five foot tall panels spanning over thirty feet.  "I thought that it was important to preserve these images and give them back to our community," he says. "After rescuing the former LBA sculpture by Mike and Andre Stansbury and Robert Wiggs, and relocating it to the traffic island in front of the public library, we will now donate the reproduced murals to the renovated library, where they will be once again reunited with the sculpture, reintroducing the public art to the Lafayette landscape." The reproductions of the murals will be displayed for the first time in seven years on Saturday, Dec. 11 at the AcA during ArtWalk. A 7 p.m. ceremony is planned to honor the former LBA board members and their commitment to the arts in Lafayette: chairman of the board, the late Lawrence Gankendorff, president and CEO Jerry Reaux, Dr. Al Beacham, John DeJean, James Montelaro, the late William H. Mouton, Don O'Rourke Sr., Tommy Ortego and retired judge Kaliste J. Saloom Jr.

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