A new, colorful mural in downtown Eunice could be at the forefront of a plan to paint a bright future for the small Acadiana town.

The mural, located at the corner of 2nd and East Walnut streets, was painted by local artist Hannah Gumbo as part of a grant from the ArtSpark Individual Artist Funding Program. The grant program is a joint initiative of the Acadiana Center for the Arts and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority. These grants are awarded to assist emerging, mid-career and mature artists on specific, short-term projects.

Gumbo said the mural grew out of brainstorming she did with other artists hoping to create bright and colorful public art. But with little time or money it stayed just an idea, until ArtSpark.

"So the ArtSpark provided the means to plug that idea in and get it done... It was a big win for everybody when we could start finding our wall and get the paint ready," she said.

When Gumbo applied for the grant, many city leaders and business owners came out in support of the idea.

Gumbo chose a wall clearly visible when one drives down 2nd Street, a one-way street. The wall is also near major downtown Eunice landmarks such as Ruby's Restaurant and Courtyard and the Queen Cinema.

As part of the grant, Gumbo visited local schools and asked schoolchildren what they would like to see. Rather than follow the suggestion of students to avoid overly used depictions of Acadiana culture like crawfish and alligators, Gumbo decided to subvert such clichés with dashes of abstraction. For instance, she combined the word "Eunice" and colors that evoked a strong Acadiana connection with imagery that could be interpreted as a number of different iconic sights tied to Cajun country, sometimes within the same image or through a combination of multiple, overlaid icons.

"There are some things that people can see easily like a chicken running and a crawfish claw, but I wanted to make it colorful and abstract so it catches your eye, but you don't know what you're looking for at first," Gumbo said. "Some people see feathers from the chicken, but others see a peeled crawfish. Some see a pot of gumbo and a triangle, others see a Mardi Gras mask."

City officials and members of the public gathered for a ribbon-cutting for the mural Friday.

Eunice Mayor Scott Fontenot said he's excited about the mural. He said it's in the perfect place, a spot where it can be shared with everyone, especially on social media. He said he hopes to see more projects like it as part of tax-funded downtown development district for Eunice.

"Add more parking, landscaping, lighting, more green spaces, just make it more inviting," Fontenot said. "It's really a vibrant downtown, but I believe we can do a little bit more and I'm looking forward to doing it in the near future."

Fontenot said he'd like to pursue such a district within the next year, but plans to consult with local business owners before he proposes any new tax.

Follow Dan Boudreaux on Twitter, @dan_boudreaux

Business Reporter