Having been intimately involved with the work developing the Atchafalaya Welcome Center at Butte La Rose, it is with extraordinary delight that I have read of the state's proposal to expand the idea by converting seven more rest areas to better communicate information about Louisiana's wonderful cultural resources to travelers. As many citizens may know, our state leadership identified, quite correctly in my opinion, cultural tourism as a significant factor in Louisiana's future economic growth. Sandra Thompson, director of the Atchafalaya Basin program, was a strong and early supporter of the Atchafalaya Welcome Center, which came to fruit through the close cooperation of several state agencies eventually coordinated by Scott Angelle, head of the Dept. of Natural Resources.
Interestingly, the undertaking was to some large degree a validation of Richard Florida's suggestion that Pierre Bourdieu's notion of "cultural capital" isn't so bad after all. This project relied powerfully on the "special knowledge, skills, and education" manifested in the technical expertise, which was very significant, of the several state departments, and on the particular input of talented residents. Louisiana received "paid in full" from our "cultural capital," including architects Ike Capeville and Steve Losario who designed the premises and Gordon Linge and Jill Jeskin who conceptualized and designed the exhibit space. That "cultural capital" extended to the Louisiana crafts people and artist represented, including sculptor Kelly Guidry, storyteller Rose Anne St. Romain, weaver Gladys Clark, and potters David & Emily Wortman ' to name only a few. We at Donlon & Donlon, Consultants worked in the early phase to identify the cultural resources available for display at the welcome center.
Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu has begun to host conferences designed to identify the state's assets in "cultural capital" (the Cultural Economy Summit II is slated for Aug. 25), and the Department of Tourism has determined that marketing our unique, social and cultural tourism aspects is our best chance for economic growth. Certainly, the Atchafalaya Welcome Center is an elegant mechanism for communicating that message to visitors. We are delighted that the leadership has opted to enlarge on a good idea, and nurture the concept of local culture to other welcome centers.