Keeping the arts alive in the River Parishes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2012

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – If business and industry are the lifelines that keep the River Region financially viable, then the arts and culture of the region keep its very soul alive. Unfortunately, in these times of belt tightening, the arts can be one of the first things to suffer.

But for more than three decades, the River Region Arts and Humanities Council has worked to keep the arts alive in St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes by supporting local arts and cultural programs with real financial backing. Each year, the RRAHC award grants to local organizations dedicated to keeping the arts alive in the River Parishes.

“We have given out close to $300,000 in grants in the last eight to 10 years,” said RRAHC board member Mary Hotard Becnel.

Last week, the organization handed out its grants for 2012, but Becnel stressed that the organization relies on public support to award the grants.

“This organization started in 1977 in somebody’s living room,” she said. “It’s not been an easy job. We need new membership. There would be nobody to do it if we weren’t here.”

The group also honored former President Judy Mackles with a certificate and a special rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings” by a St. Charles Parish student.

“She has given to this organization more than a pound of flesh,” said board member Robert Fisher before the presentation.

“This has been a pleasure for me, not a burden,” said Mackles.

The new president of the organization is Harold Flynn, who told the group of an upcoming fundraiser.

“If we can reach you, you can reach somebody,” he said. “We have to use each other for communication.”

The group’s first fundraiser of 2012 will be held the evening of May 12 and is called “The Artist, the Builder and the Kid.”

The following received RRAHC grant in 2012:

St. John Parish

• Ascension of Our Lord School

• John L. Ory Magnet School

• Riverside Academy

• San Francisco Plantation

• St. Charles Catholic High School

• The Department of Economic Development

• St. Joan of Arc School

St. James Parish

• Crazy ‘Bout History

• Gramercy Elementary School

• Oak Alley Plantation

• the St. James Parish Public Library

• the St. James Parish Career and Technology Center

• the St. James Talented in Music program

St. Charles Parish

• the Community Chorus of the River Parishes

• Destrehan High School

• Hahnville High School

• Harry Hurst Middle School

• Lakewood Elementary School

• River Road Historical Society

• River Region Ballet

• the River Region Drama Guild

• Sacred Heart of Jesus Elementary

• the St. Charles Art Guild

• the St. Charles Parish Talented Music program

For more information regarding the RRAHC or to become a member, visit