ARNAUDVILLE, La. - It's a small Cajun town that may seem too far off the beaten path to be a Mecca for artists. But the town of Arnaudville is trying to grow its art and economy at the same time. And it's been using an old-fashioned pot-luck supper to spread the word. FOX 8's Dave McNamara takes us to a fun night at Nunu's in tonight's Heart of Louisiana
When you drive into the small town of Arnaudville on Highway 93, you notice a place that looks a little different. It's a place called Nunu's - an old hardware store and lumber yard turned into an art studio and showcase.
"Arnaudville is a tiny little rural town far away, not far away, but far enough away from both I-49 and I-10, so it allows for this kind of cultural development to happen undisturbed," said artist George Marks.
Marks is one of the artists who is part of what he calls a collection of creative people: visual artists, musicians, film makers, clothing designers and quilters.
And instead of having the standard wine and cheese night at the gallery, Nunu's opted for a monthly community pot luck supper. On the third Friday of every month, the home-cooked favorites are organized on serving tables as neighbors and visitors stroll through the gallery.
"And so one of the ways we felt that we could attract some of the local populace is to allow them to make something and to create something and to feel like they are contributing to an event," Marks said.
In a town where one-third of the population still speaks French, the language around the dinner table is mixed.
"We get French people around the table and we all speak to each other in Cajun French," said patron Dr. Glynn Granger. "And then we ask each other French words we might have forgotten over time that one of us will remember it and rejuvenate our mind in regards to Cajun French."
And after a pot luck meal, the pot luck band takes over, and part of the art gallery turns into a dance floor.
"You walk in the door and you're immediately welcomed," said Jacqui Cochran, with the Nunu Art Collective. "You are made to feel at home, and part of it, it just encourages you to come back. It's a great social venue to meet people and to make friends and to enjoy yourself. "
This collective of art and music is more than just a social experience. It's also the basis for economic development as the town of Arnaudville tries to grow beyond a small rural farm economy. The organizers of Nunu's quote from a study that says every dollar invested in the arts in Louisiana has a $6 return on that investment.
"This kind of industry can provide jobs or even opportunities for local people that they may not be able to obtain elsewhere," Marks said. "So, yes, you can absolutely build an economy on arts and culture."