Living Ind

Scultping Minds

by Mary Tutwiler

A new art school is born in Arnaudville.

The ever industrious George Marks has added yet another facet to the little jewel of an arts commune up in Arnaudville. This time it's an art school ' the Frederick l'Ecole Des Arts ' named for one of the founding families of Arnaudville. Watching Marks build a community based on art, language, music and culture is a little bit like watching the HBO hit Deadwood: every episode another element of civilization arrives in the frontier gold-mining town. And it hasn't been without tension, as any good script writer knows.

Mayor Kathy Richard originally opposed the core of artists who wanted to transform the downtown into an artist's community, refusing to sell the defunct town water plant to a sculptor. A year and a half later, with Arnaudville catching the eye of Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu's cultural economy initiative and Southern Breeze magazine, Richard offered the key to the city to Marks. He declined, cracking up the town meeting by stating, "Everyone who knows me knows I've lost every key I've ever owned."

The little engines of art and commerce have taken on a life of their own. Saturday mornings, residents meet for coffee and to speak French, an important element in preserving the small town's history and culture. What began as an occasional fais do-do at the Town Market has turned into weekly Saturday night dances, with musicians calling Marks to request bookings. Sundays is for what Marks dubs an "organic jam" at Cajun Fiddles, which often spills over into a second night of dancing.

The project closest to Marks' heart has always been to create an environment where artists can live and work. The art school is an important element of this mission, providing income for residents and an ever-expanding educated public to help nurture the rustic character of the rural community.

The first workshop of Frederick l'Ecole Des Arts will be "Paint Reflected Light," an advanced oil painting class taught by Jill Hackney. The following week, arts educator Anne Mcleod will offer a mixed-media workshop for kids. Marks and director Betty Roy anticipate classes focusing on everything from writing workshops to broom making ' a historic trade in Arnaudville. "It's important to stay true to our roots," Marks says. "I don't see a cute village. I don't see touristy shops." A shade tree mechanic located next door to an art gallery is right up Marks' alley. "You see how real it is?"

Workshops for adults and "funshops" for kids will be held at Town Market starting the week of July 9, and cost $100-$125. For more info or to register, check out or call art school director Betty Roy at 523-5832.