Cory Burgess is a teacher and director of the Academy of Visual and Applied Arts at Ovey Comeaux High School in Lafayette. He loves the challenges of teaching and watching the creativity of his high school students.
He is also a very talented ceramic artist who creates art pieces that are both functional and very beautiful under the company Burgess Ceramics. You can see them for yourself on Instagram at burgess.ceramics. Cory is also a musician, as you’ll learn from his answers — and yes, he is as cool as all of this makes him sound.
What was your first job? Harold’s Supermarket. I was vegetarian at the time, working in the deli/meat department. I was also a stock boy extraordinaire.
Describe a typical day in your life. Summer schedule: Wake up about 9:30 a.m., coffee, internet rabbit hole, productivity — maybe, cycling/outdoor, music, hang with the girlfriend, nightcap, bed around 1:30 a.m. Food just kinda happens throughout the day.
What advice would you give the younger you? Be firm in your decisions. I’m an incredibly fickle person, so if I could somehow instill some semblance of resoluteness in my younger self, that would be the ticket.
What event in your life most shaped who you are now? Finding a cassette tape of a Nirvana single. I was in the habit of doing things in reverse (looked at magazines back to front, etc.) so I listened to the B-side first, which was “Even In His Youth.” I think I was 8 or 9, and having been raised on country and classic rock, it seemed to have a certain vibrancy and perspective to it. It felt like art. It was the catalyst that facilitated my need to play music and, subsequently, create art.
What values do you live by? Take as much time for yourself as you need. Whatever brings your life meaning, do it, so long as you aren’t hurting others in the process. Let your people know that you love them. Don’t spend more than you earn. This is financial, spiritual and personal advice.
What do you most appreciate? That’s a difficult one to pin down. I’m gonna go with a very broad answer and just say: the life that I’ve been given.
What is your favorite journey? I’ve backpacked Eagle Rock Loop in Arkansas a few times. The first few steps on the trail and into the woods have always given me this strange, ominous feeling, like I may never come back. As that feeling recedes and I slowly shed any trivial thoughts, I gain a sense of awareness for the present moment.
Where is your favorite place to be alone? I haven’t been in a while, but my go-to would be kayaking out at Lake Martin during sunset. Other than that, I’ll light some candles, have a whiskey neat, and play guitar and sing for myself.
What living figure most inspires you? Probably Thom Yorke. He isn’t reinventing the wheel, but he continues to produce work that feels relevant and distinctive.
What was the best advice you were ever given? “It is what it is”, but only as spoken by my friend Deric’.
What book would you tell everyone to read? "Conundrum: From James to Jan." This book expanded my frame of reference and the understanding of one’s choice to live as they see fit, regardless of the opposition.
What is the best thing about where you live? There are a lot of great people around here. I see a lot of evidence of humility and I think it has to do with the overwhelming sense of cultural pride. I’ll admit I’m not the biggest advocate of Cajun culture, but I think its effects are apparent in the people here and I know it’s inherent in me.
How do you "let the good times roll"? Quarantine-style: Negronis and "The Sopranos."
What did you want to be when you grew up? As a 5-year-old: an astronaut or a dinosaur. As a 7-year-old: a marine biologist. "Free Willy" was my favorite movie for nearly three years. My parents even got me behind the scenes at SeaWorld to pet an Orca whale. That was wild! As a teenager: either a successful musician or a working artist.
What is your motto? “Oh well …” If it doesn’t go as planned, oh well … take what you learned from the experience and move on to the next.
How would you like to be remembered? “Oh well …” That should be my epitaph. You know though, I’m really interested in the idea of being forgotten; not so much in a nihilistic sense, but only because I find it taxing to worry about how you’ll be perceived by others. Everything we do, on a social level, serves to feed this legacy of the person we are and would like to be remembered as. I prefer to spend time in the present moment whenever possible. To actually answer the question, though: I’d like to be remembered as genuine; a man that practiced what he preached.
What do you say to yourself when you doubt yourself? You idiot.
What three things are vital to BEing YOU? Music, ceramics, nature.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Bruh …”
What is your favorite word? Aesthetic.
What do you collect? I’ve been going to estate sales and flea markets to collect as much Mid-Century Modern (or Modest) furniture that I can find so I can fill up my home once it’s finished being built.
What food could you live on for a month? Any variety of Indian curry with naan and green chutney. I could stretch that from a month to a lifetime.
What would you change about yourself? My inability to be more proactive with my creative endeavors. I often get these lofty ideas and then I humble myself. I harbor resentment for all the years I’ve spent waiting for “it” to happen.
What literary, movie or cartoon character do you most identify with? Mr. Bean
Describe yourself in five words. A simple man, yet complex.
What is your idea of happiness? Happiness is always having something to look forward to. It’s what pulls you into the future and gives meaning to all of this nonsense.
What is your favorite movie? "Harold and Maude." That Cat Stevens soundtrack just adds such a contrasting and playful element to how dark the plot actually is.
What music defines who you are? Early ‘90s Seattle scene: Radiohead, Nick Drake, My Morning Jacket, Cocteau Twins, Harold Budd/Robin Guthrie. I’ll highlight a specific song: “A Captive Audience” by The Velvet Teen feels very emotionally symbolic to me. The lyricism isn’t totally representative, but the response that I have to the music is heavy. There’s a certain destruction begets creation element to it.
Who is your style icon? 1960s fashion as an entity would be my style icon. From conservative to mod to the counterculture, it all seems so refined.
What do you most regret? My second year of undergrad, I started looking into the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona to become an audio engineer. The task of relocating just seemed too daunting at the time. I feel it was a missed opportunity for late adolescence/early adulthood. I don’t necessarily regret that I’m not currently working in the music industry, but moreover the loss of personal growth that would’ve occurred during that period.
What question do you wish I'd asked? Does Bigfoot exist?
What would the answer be? Yup. Had my own run-in while camping out in Kisatchie one night.