A woman at the heart of Arnaudville’s artistic, cultural and lingual French renaissance in recent years was honored Tuesday with a prestigious award by the French government — an achievement first sponsored by Napoleon Bonaparte some 207 years ago and recognized as one of the highest cultural distinctions offered by the country to noncitizens.

Mavis Arnaud Frugé, whose work with the NUNU Arts and Culture Collective has established her as a leading voice for French art and education in Louisiana, was named a Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms, known formally as the l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques. The Consul General of France in New Orleans, Grégor Trumel, presented Frugé with the award at the 2015 Louisiana Culture Awards hosted by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne on Tuesday night inside the Capitol Park Museum.

“A great lady, a great Francophone,” Trumel said of Frugé, showering her with praise for her role in transforming Arnaudville into a hub of French culture in south Louisiana. He described her as “very inspiring” and the “soul of NUNU,” a cultural center and art gallery in Arnaudville where Frugé leads the Jacques Arnaud French Studies Collective.

Previous winners of the award include the late Richard Guidry, a professor of Cajun French at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who worked tirelessly to spread the use of French in Louisiana, and the late Francis L. Lawrence, who earned a Ph.D. in French classical literature from Tulane University, where he worked and taught many years in the French department before being appointed the president of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

After Trumel pinned Frugé with the signature medallion associated with the award, she thanked everyone who helps promote French culture in Louisiana.

“To all of you who still speak our Louisiana French, be proud,” she said. “Merci. Thank you.”

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