Atelier de la Nature, an eco-education site and nature reserve located between Arnaudville and Cecilia, will be expanding after purchasing 16-acres of unused farmland next door to their original 8.7 acre site.
The purchase will allow the nature reserve, which was created at 1050 Andrew Gautreaux Road four years ago, to continue its mission of creating a family friendly spot where children can learn about and experience Louisiana's natural beauty while also being a refuge for the area's indigenous flora and fauna.
"The whole thing we’re trying to do here is an eco-educational campus to get kids outside and inspired about nature through art and science. We're going to start to try to do a natural art sculpture park where we invite artists to come in and work with the community to make artwork out of wood and other natural materials," explained Brandon Ballengée, who co-founded Atelier de la Nature with his wife, Aurore, four years ago.
According to Ballengée, the hope is to not only make a sculpture garden that will attract people to the site, but also, by using natural materials, they hope the artwork will attract animals, and they will make the pieces in the garden their homes.
Atelier de la Nature already boasts a reforestation effort of more than 1,000 trees planted, guided nature walks and workshops and art and science educational programming. Ballengée said efforts to restore the native "Cajun prairie" and install a turtle pond are also a major project for the reserve.
Lafayette-based artist and Lafayette Parish school system gifted and talented program teacher Marla Kristicevich will be the first artist to have a piece installed at the new sculpture garden.
Ballengée said Kristicevich will be working with discarded Christmas trees to make the first "art habitat" at a special event at 11 a.m. Jan. 18 that interested art or nature lovers are invited to attend.