Ian McNulty: Dine like you just stepped out of a painting; Blue Oak BBQ gets smoking in new spot _lowres

Image provided by the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts - "Aioli Dinner" is a 1971 painting by George Rodrigue and the inspiration for a new dinner series raising money to support arts education programs from the late artist's foundation.

The late artist George Rodrigue will always be remembered for the Blue Dog, the saucer-eyed motif that inspired his most successful series of paintings.

But before the Blue Dog, Rodrigue made his name with different depictions of Cajun culture, and his 1971 painting “Aioli Dinner” is the epitome of that style.

Now that painting is the inspiration for a series of special dinners convened around Louisiana in honor of Rodrigue’s legacy and to support the nonprofit that carries on his philanthropic work.

The Aioli Dinner Supper Club is a new project from the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. It is a series of benefit dinners modeled after the theme and style of the “Aioli Dinner” painting, with renditions in Baton Rouge on May 4, in Shreveport on May 7 and in New Orleans on May 14.

Proceeds support Louisiana A+ Schools, an arts-based teaching program created by the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts and in place at 16 schools around Louisiana.

The New Orleans dinner will be held at the private Uptown home of hosts Lori and Bobby Savoie, and tickets are $250 per person.

Peter Sclafani, chef of Ruffino’s in Baton Rouge, will prepare the five-course dinner, which includes wine pairings. The dinner will be served at long communal tables in a style drawn from Rodrigue’s famous painting.

Jacques Rodrigue, the artist’s son and executive director of the foundation, explained that the painting was based on clubs known as Creole gourmet societies, which met on the grounds of plantation homes around the New Iberia area from the 1890s through the 1920s.

“My family is excited to use this piece of our Cajun heritage as a vehicle to keep the arts relevant and accessible to students across Louisiana,” Jacques Rodrigue said in a statement.

During the event, attendees can participate in staged photos modeled after Rodrigue’s painting, and there will be live and silent auctions including Rodrigue’s work.

Born in 1944, Rodrigue was a bricklayer’s son who grew up in New Iberia. He was introduced to art as a young boy when his mother gave him art supplies to keep his spirits up as he recovered from polio. Drawing inspiration from Cajun Louisiana he first gained renown as a regional folk artist and later became a superstar of the art world. He died in 2013 at age 69.

For tickets and event details, see aiolidinner.com.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.