Lake Charles art exhibit will feature paintings that depict Cane River Creole culture


NATCHITOCHES – The Black Heritage Gallery of Lake Charles will host an unveiling reception for the series of oil paintings by Artist Gilbert D. Fletcher entitled, “Documenting the Cane River Creole Legacy.”  Fletcher, who lives and works in New York, has exhibited in the New Orleans Museum of Art, the African American Museum in Boston, Brooklyn Museum, the Cinque Gallery and at several colleges and universities around the country.  The exhibit is on loan from the Northwestern State University Creole Heritage Center.


The presentation will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday, June 1 at the Central School Arts and Humanities Center located at 809 Kirby Street, Suite 2017.  The public is invited to attend and meet the artist during this event.


This collection of paintings features historical places, people, and families of the Cane River Creole community. The series includes paintings whose subjects are from the Isle Brevelle area, St. Augustine Catholic Church, Cane River, Badin-Roque House, Maison de Marie Therese, Pecan Grove, the Carroll Jones House, and Front Street in Natchitoches just to name a few.


“I saw the special light of the land and river, heard the music, saw the wildlife and foliage. I hope my art and this series can help to preserve this special place in Louisiana,” Fletcher said.


“The series of paintings was originally unveiled in New Orleans on Saturday, August 13, 2005, at the George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art, two weeks prior to Hurricane Katrina,” said Loletta Wynder, director of the Creole Heritage Center at NSU.  “With the devastation caused by the hurricane on August 29, 2005, we were unaware of the fate of the series of paintings, as well as the McKenna Museum.  Although the museum received extensive damage, it was not until October that we found out that the paintings had been rescued.”


Back in 2005, Wynder worked indirectly with the McKenna Museum Curator Roseanna Steen-Gooden in organizing the exhibition at the museum on Carondelet Street. After the storm, not having Steen-Gooden’s personal contact information, she sent emails to the museum and contacted Fletcher, the artist, who is originally from New Orleans and had family living in the Ninth Ward.  His main concern was for his family and their safety. Eventually, Wynder connected with Steen-Gooden through Lisa Evans who had assisted with the exhibition’s unveiling. That October she learned that Steen-Gooden and her family were staying with relatives in Lafayette.  Their home in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans took in 11 feet of water.


Steen-Gooden let Wynder know that the museum’s second floor collapsed in the rear wing and building was shortly condemned due to falling bricks, instability and lack of electricity but the 20 paintings were safe and in good hands.  They had been rescued from the building and were being stored at the home of the museum’s bookkeeper, Sheralyn Guillard, in Gretna.  Steen-Gooden purchased materials and prepared the paintings for shipping and coordinated pick-up with Wynder, who collected the artwork on Oct. 25, 2005, and drove them from Gretna to Natchitoches where they were featured in a January 2006 exhibition.


The Lake Charles exhibit will be on display from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, through July 25.  The exhibition is free and open to the public.