Currently at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, the exhibit "Slavery, the Prison Industrial Complex" reveals how New Orleanians Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick use photography for social engagement. The exhibition focuses on their decadeslong study of life inside Angola, Louisiana’s state penitentiary, and the effects of incarceration on society. It also reminds us that America contains 5 percent of the world’s population yet houses 25 percent of its prisoners.

A photo essay of 25 images documents the men living on the prison farm, while also highlighting the prisoners’ humanity and individual stories. “It makes you uncomfortable,” said museum curator Ben Hickey. “But then, that’s one purpose of art.”

The images include prisoners at work in the fields, racially reminiscent of a working plantation. There are profound portraits of men looking directly and quietly at the viewer, and scenes from the Angola Rodeo, held annually for more than 50 years, where prisoners are trotted out as the main attraction.

Those photographs of the rodeo interested me most as I worked on a similar assignment years ago and the memories have never faded. Assisting with a story got me a backstage pass and the chance to speak directly to the inmates. I still remember the young man scanning the stands constantly as he talked to me, not at all worried about injury that day, only that his mother wouldn’t find transportation and be able to get there. I also shook hands with a man who’d dispatched his boss with an ax, and we had an excellent conversation. I’ve met many on the outside I liked a lot less.

I also remember the look on the guard’s face when she searched my purse and found a paring knife I’d forgotten about.


Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate.  She can be reached at Fete@theadvocate.com.

Congratulations to …

William Thibodeaux has been inducted as a living legend into the Acadian Museum of Erath. Author of "Hidden History of Acadiana," to be available in late spring or early summer, Thibodeaux has collected stories chronicling the history and heritage of south Louisiana, dating from antebellum to early 20th century.

Attakapas Ball

The oldest — and most gracious — women’s krewe in Lafayette held its 51st ball and tableau titled “Sand Paintings of the Navajo” at the Frem Boustany Convention Center. Attakapas is a mystic krewe so Queen Karakondye LI must remain just that, but King Lacassine Michael Frank Mosing can be outed. Gentlemen escorting maids representing Tranquility, Wealth, Health, Prosperity, Happiness and Love included Dr. Brian Etier Jr., Frank Gerami III, Mark Herpin Sr., David Meaux II, Dr. Jonathan Thompson and George Womack. Attakapas honors men of the community for both their civic duty and service to Mardi Gras.

Going Solo

Renowned saxophonist Dickie Landry gave a concert at the University Art Museum, part of the Hilliard’s ongoing Creative Conversations series. Recently returned from a month in Italy, the octogenarian delivered pieces from his repertoire and left no doubt as to who was the Pied Piper — Landry made his entrance by walking into the room from a side gallery and guests standing in the lobby literally fell in line behind him.

Regional Celebration

They came from near and far to hear One Acadiana chronicle its successes. Guests crowded both floors of the Cajundome Convention Center to meet, greet and mingle with area business elites and to hear reports of economic initiatives by CEO Troy Wayman. Looking pretty successful themselves were Entergy’s Scott Barrios and Creed Romano, Jason Huffman of Brown & Brown and One Acadiana ambassadors Brad Gaubert and Bruce Leininger. “We go out and make people feel at home,” said Leininger. Also feeling at home were Blaine and Kathi Comeaux, Andy Dye and Paul Dunbar.

Cruisin'

This is as intense as Mardi Gras gets in Lafayette. The Mystic Krewe of Apollo held its Carnival Ball at the Cajundome Convention Center to the theme of "Apollo Cruisin' the High Seas." Guests filed in to Dido's "White Flag" and "I Will Go Down with This Ship," including a pretableau Empress of the Oceans Queen Apollo XLIII Blake Carriere and a camera-shy Chan Kiat Lim. Kevin Doerr's table was festooned with pink flamingos, Ted Viator's with life preservers and Sherman Mire chose whale tails. But best table décor has to go to John Rider's "I like big boats and I cannot lie." There's simply too much to an Apollo tableau to wrap up in a few words, so suffice it to say King Apollo XLIII Adam Trahan was splendid, Blake was beautiful and Jimmy Poole stole the attention per usual, as did outgoing King Olajuwan Alexander. By the way, when King Apollo likes your Chanel pin, you're in.