Lutcher students help create mural

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2010



LUTCHER – More than 40 children enrolled in summer school programs at Lutcher Elementary had the opportunity to harness their creative energy with the help of a renowned local artist.

During an intense two-week workshop with New Orleans artist Jamar Pierre, students from kindergarten to sixth grade learned the elements of art design including shapes, colors, textures and toning, while drawing and painting on a canvass. The result was an 8-foot long group mural that was unveiled at the school Thursday.

“The mural reflects the students’ impressions of the Mississippi River and how it relates to the St. James Parish community,” Pierre said. “It was a personal and passionate project for me because this is where I’m from. The River Parishes are where I grew up.”

The project was funded through a more than $3,200 grant from the Houma Regional Arts Council. Lutcher Chapel United Methodist Church, just a few blocks from the school, helped secure the grant as part of a community outreach program.

“We are so close to the school we just felt we needed to do something to reach out to these kids and show them what they can do with their talents,” said Sandra Horne, a representative for the church. “Children are not getting exposed to as much culture, and this seemed like the perfect way to enrich these students and get them excited about arts and learning.”

Horne said the school and the church chose the topic of the river because of its importance to the St. James community.

“We are so close to the river, but the children seldom get a chance to really see it and talk about it,” Horne said. “Past residents of these communities grew up right on the river, and now it’s more of an afterthought.”

In addition to the cultural exposure, Pierre said art is also a therapeutic way to learn and absorb math, science and even history.

“Every piece of art has a history behind it,” Pierre said. “When an artist creates a work, there are several opportunities to delve into aspects of science and math, whether it be measuring, mixing colors, or determining depth. When I teach art to children I tell them that it is a vocational tool. Some of them pick up on the methods so quickly.”

During the two-week course Pierre and teachers at Lutcher Elementary taught lessons on the river’s history and its relationship to St. James Parish. The course detailed the area’s economic achievements in the sugar industry and focused on major attractions, including the annual bonfire festival along the levee. The students used those lessons as inspiration for elements of the mural.

Pierre said the students painted about 85 percent of the finished project, while he and his elder student assistants handled the finishing touches. He said he was moved by the end result and touched by how much the students embraced his own passion.

“I fell in love with them, and they fell in love with me,” Pierre said. “This project was about them and influencing their talents. Toward the end, it was hard to let go and move on.”