When Hurricane Ida historically made landfall and damaged a significant portion of Southeastern Louisiana in late August, one of Terrebonne Parish’s most recognizable and unique landmarks was significantly damaged. Owned by Nicholls State University and located at 5337 Bayouside Drive, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden receives approximately 10,000 visitors each and every year. Despite receiving damage from the state’s previous storms, several of the Chauvin Sculpture Garden’s pieces had sustained significant damage from falling trees from Hurricane Ida.
As soon as pictures, reports, and eyewitness accounts were made public via Facebook, supporters of the garden came out in droves not just with well wishes but also donations and offerings to help bring the garden and its pieces back to their former glory. One of the pieces receiving significant damage was the “Flowered Path,” a personal favorite of the garden’s sculptor, Kenny Hill.
A self-taught artist, Hill was first a brick-layer by trade before he moved to Chauvin in 1988 and created the garden with over 100 concrete statues that rest along Bayou Little Caillou. In the garden lie many beloved portrayals of Cajuns, angels, self-portraits, and other impressive figures, though as described by the president of the Friends of the Chauvin Sculpture Garden, Dr. Gary LaFleur, many sustained massive damages.
LaFleur reported to Houma Today, “It has gotten some damage from hurricanes before like Katrina and Gustav, but nothing of this magnitude. The winds in Chauvin were pretty high, maybe as high as 150 mph. A lot of trees came down. One tree branch came down on part of the “Flowered Path,” where the artist Kenny Hill was able to make angels look like they’re flying in the air. But they weren’t made to have a big branch on them. One of those angels is carrying a baby, and somehow the baby fell out of the angel’s arms and got caught up in the branches but did not hit the ground. We caught the baby and stored it away so the baby is OK, but most of the angels took some damage.”
LaFleur continued to explain that though it’s a bit early to restore the garden, due to the substantial damages to the surrounding area, the wheels are already in motion. In fact, as soon as the story of the garden’s damages was spread across social media channels, organizers began to organize together with a goal of restoring the garden so as to bring a symbolic gesture of faith and hope to a community similarly weakened by the storm.
Jonathan Foret is the Executive Director of the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center in Houma, and upon seeing Ida’s impact on the garden, he reported to Houma Today that he was particularly pained by it.
Foret expressed, “it may seem odd, but of all the things I didn’t want to see this broken the most. Not to make insignificant all the people that lost their possessions and homes. I know that is most important. I’m not sure why, but maybe I do. It’s an important symbol of Chauvin … and Terrebonne Parish. I want to be a part of putting this back together. It’s symbolic … and I hope it can help us all heal.”
If you’d like to track the restoration efforts of bringing the Chauvin Sculpture Garden back to its full, former spectacle and glory, it’s suggested that you visit the Garden’s Facebook Page. In addition to this restoration effort, if you’d like to also assist struggling residents in the Houma area who were affected by the storm, please visit the New York Times’ linked resources.
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