Cultural destinations don’t just happen. It takes vision, creativity and hard work to develop a place into somewhere people want to visit.
Ask people in Arnaudville, who have labored steadily to attract and inspire French-speaking visitors and students year-round.
French Week, the annual event that focuses on the economics and craft of creating cultural destinations, begins Tuesday in Baton Rouge with activities that include meetings with lawmakers and leaders of cultural institutions in Louisiana. It continues from Thursday through the weekend in Arnaudville.
The local portion will combine fun activities with serious discussion about what it takes to make a place work.
“Anyone who loves their culture will find inspiration. Anyone who loves their culture will appreciate being part of future outcomes,” said Jacqueline Cochran with Arnaudville’s NUNU Arts and Culture Collective.
Outcomes of previous French Week sessions include a cultural master plan for the town that straddles St. Landry and St. Martin parishes and the development of collaborations between musicians and artists in France and Louisiana. At this third annual French Week, Arnaudville welcomes 49 students, government representatives and creative visitors from France.
This year’s French Week keynote speaker will be Ann Markusen, director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. People in the cultural business and tourism field consider her the guru of creative placemaking — the practice of using arts as a conduit for the promotion of business, culture and education.
In addition to Arnaudville, rural communities in Brittany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland have revitalized their economies by emphasizing their local cultures.
Cochran pledged that information-sharing during the week in Louisiana will not be a one-way street.
“You are both observer and participant,” she said. “It is really quite a special kind of event in that through it you gain insight into the workings of creative placemaking as a mover and shaker of cultural economy. It is unlike any other conference I have ever experienced.”
People at this French Week may help to build and locate large birdhouses based on rural French architecture, survey recipes and stories exchanged between Brittany and Acadiana, participate in the creation of a public mural or sample “Bayoust,” a new beer from Arnaudville’s Bayou Teche Brewing and La Bombal Brewing of Redon, France. Poetry readings, special dinners and musical performance are also part of the mix from Thursday on.
Starting Tuesday, French Week activities will combine with a Culture Connection summit in Baton Rouge. There, archaeology, arts, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, historic preservationists, main street and cultural districts stakeholders will connect with the Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism to promote cultural development in Louisiana.
This year’s Culture Connection will include the 2015 Louisiana Culture Awards program, educational sessions and networking cocktails. People, companies, organizations and agencies with products and services relevant to cultural development will be present.
Want to go?
To register, visit semaine-francaise-arnaudville.org/ or call 337-453-3307. The website includes a detailed calendar of French Week activities in Arnaudville. To participate in the Culture Connection sessions in Baton Rouge, contact Kristin Sanders at the Office of Cultural Development, 225-342-2779.