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Les Artistes: Paint the Town
Eunice artist Hannah Gumbo’s downtown mural building incorporates Acadiana cultural symbols in a new and positive light
The curious and critical bunch across the street at Ruby’s Cafe watched the girl in the scissor lift painting the exterior wall with skepticism. But as days turned to weeks and weeks to a full month, “What’s she doing?” gave way to “What’s it going to be?” to finally “What can we get you, Miss Hannah?” Technically, Eunice artist Hannah Gumbo revealed her massive 75-foot by 21-foot downtown mural on the corner of Walnut and Second in a mid-December ceremony — a rather anticlimactic ordeal considering the eyes (and helping hands) of the townspeople were fixated upon the ambitious undertaking from start to finish, as the ULL grad slowly won their favor with each roll of paint.
“Someone brought me a headlamp to wear when it turned dark,” Gumbo says. “People kept offering me coffee. Those gestures were all stamps of approval. There was some pressure, but there was also so much support. Yes, there were some ‘Well, I don’t knows’ but as they saw it take shape, they became almost insiders, telling their friends what certain things in the mural were going to be.
“Just seeing them get excited about each passing level: ‘OK, what color is she putting on today?’ ‘What is that shape supposed to be?’ It was a cool and different way to connect to the community.”
No stranger to the local art scene, Gumbo’s mural was really a yearlong process even though it took roughly one month to complete. Gumbo applied for, and received funding from, an ArtSpark grant — a joint venture between the Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.
To give those in Eunice a sense of ownership and input into the mural, Gumbo visited local schools and informally polled kids for ideas.
“They love their culture, but they told me, ‘We’re tired of seeing crawfish. We’re tired of seeing these same old images. Miss Hannah, please stay away from all that.’” Gumbo recalls. “I wanted to acknowledge that. I got it. I wanted to do something fresh. But I also wanted to show them all those images they’re tired of seeing, in a way they’ve never seen before.”
To further establish that desire, Gumbo shares an anecdote:
One day, a passerby stopped and asked, “What is it?”
Gumbo, caught a little off guard by the ambiguity of the question, replied, “Well, what do you see?”
The man took some time, analyzing the not-yet-finished mural. He ID’d some shapes, pointing to one that looked like a gumbo pot. But, then, he said, it couldn’t be that. When the artist asked why, the man replied, “Because it’s blue, and I’ve never seen a blue gumbo pot.”
The aptly-named Gumbo smiled and replied, “Well, now you have!”
ADD IT UP
Mural By The Numbers
Hannah Gumbo’s Eunice mural was a massive artist project, filled with various logistical hurdles to scale. Here’s a brief breakdown of the endeavor:
The total square-footage of the mural
The number of gallons of paint used
The number of gallons of primer used
Approximate number of cups of coffee consumed
The number of bottles of Kombucha Tea consumed
for more info / hannahgumbo.com