September 1, 2020

Step into an Illustration at the Acadiana Center for the Arts

Step into an Illustration at the Acadiana Center for the Arts

Regular patrons of the Acadiana Center for the Arts’ already minimalist cafe will be literally stepping into a monochrome drawing come October, thanks to the mind of Lafayette illustrator, Aileen Bennett. As learned from a detailed profile piece by the Advocate, Bennett’s strikingly immersive public art project will be unveiled entirely come October, and it will turn the ACA’s already nominal coffee shop into a black-and-white scene straight out of a comic strip.

While the preview piece was unveiled in August to a warm reception, it’s only the beginning as soon the entire ACA cafe will be illustrated with furniture that looks to be made of paper, a fake wedding cake, a working piano, and a very real fireplace with hand-drawn fire. The scene to be set will be very surreal to visitors of the art gallery and performance space, who are already prepared to witness imaginative experiences by walking through the glass doors of the space.

When speaking of her piece, Bennett said, “”this is literally a different world you enter. It’s like stepping inside my brain or into someone’s very posh living room with some hidden humor thrown in.”

The installation at the Acadiana Center for the Arts will be a mixture of both 3D and 2D objects, so some patrons are expected to have a slightly difficult time determining what is real and not, such as the white tables and chairs outlined in black ink set against two-dimensional backdrops alongside similarly-colored props. It’s expected that the cafe will be a different type of tourist spot attracting those searching for some quirk in the Downtown Lafayette scene.

While the rest of the Acadiana Center for the Arts is regularly utilized to great extents during film festivals, Art Walks, and other notable events of the booming social and art scene to be found in downtown Lafayette, Jaik Faulk, visual arts director of the Acadiana Center for the Arts, sees the existing cafe as being a great, though un-utilized space. He told the Advocate, “We have beautiful, tall ceilings. We have a lot of space. It’s all sunlit. It’s basically a soft box that lights itself, so it’s perfect for photography.”

While just a fragment of the installation was unveiled in August to surprise and praise by the Acadiana Center for the Arts patronage, the full extent of the project’s undertaking is quite extensive as it requires sanding and painting of all existing furniture white, then outlining it strategically in black, and sealing it all with a protective coat that’s sanitizer-friendly.

Despite Bennett wanting to do the project for years, it became apparent that it would require many more hands than hers to complete properly, so she enlisted the help of dozens of community volunteers. Laughing in her reply, Bennett tells The Advocate that her team corrects her if she refers to the venture as her project, saying, “It’s now their project. It blew me away, that there’s like 100 people who are desperate to come and sand things and paint and donate.”

The installation was funded, in part, through an ArtSpark grant, an individual Artist Funding Project offered in partnership by the Acadiana Center for the Arts and Lafayette Economic Development Authority.  The grant is designed to directly support any Acadiana artists who are expanding their bodies of work as a professional as well as offering outreach to the community.

The mesmerizing, public exhibit will be in place at the Acadiana Center for the Arts from October through January, and afterward the illustrated cafe will find another home, as the project won’t belong to Bennett or the community at that point; it will belong to the community who helped envision, build, and appreciate it.

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