It was recently announced via this new release from Nicholls State University that the Nicholls Foundation was a recipient of $75,000 from Ruth Arts and the Ruth DeYoung Kohler Legacy Fund in order to repair the Chauvin Sculpture Garden.
The Chauvin Sculpture Garden is one of Nicholls State University’s most timeless landmarks, but in August 2021, it sustained damages from Hurricane Ida’s 150 miles per hour winds. And thanks to the RDK Legacy Fund, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden will soon be repaired and back to its original glory.
Dr. Gary LaFleur is the Director of the Center for Bayou Studies and an R.E. Miller Endowed Professor of Honors Studies, and when speaking about the support from Ruth Arts, he said: “We are delighted to receive support from Ruth Arts with their generous and substantial donation. We plan to use the funds in ongoing efforts to repair and restore the garden to its original state before it suffered damage due to Hurricane Ida. The funds will also be used for our continuous commitment to keep the garden open for visitors with alternating exhibits on display every weekend and of course our annual Chauvin Folk Art Festival in April.”
This past fall, the Nicholls Studio Gallery at the Chauvin Sculpture Garden had featured an exhibit of Nicholls State University Spring 2021 Graduates. The Show was hosted by the Friends of the Chauvin Sculpture Garden, and it served as a shining example of how the space lends itself to commemoration, academic showcase, and communal gatherings at Nicholls. Located on Bayou Petit Caillou in South Louisiana, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden is a “world-class art environment created by outsider artist Kenny Hill.” The garden is “always free and open to the public: daily from 8 am to 5 pm.
When speaking about how the Chauvin Sculpture Garden aims to preserve the legacy of Kenny Hill, Dr. LaFleur said, “This generous donation is a fervent reminder that Nicholls has an international reputation for helping rescue, restore, and maintain the world-renown visionary art of Kenny Hill that can be viewed at the Chauvin Sculpture Garden. The Chauvin Sculpture Garden has helped to put Nicholls on the map within Louisiana, across the nation, and across the globe as a university that is committed to conservation and interpretation of visionary folk art.”
In its earliest form, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden was originally owned by Kenny Hill when he began to transform the bayou environment of his home into a garden that housed over 100 concrete sculptures. The most prominent piece among these was a 45-foot-tall lighthouse sculpture that was composed of 7,000 bricks in total. Prolific as he was, Hill never publicized his work, and he eventually abandoned it in the early 2000s, before the site was gifted to Nicholls. Beginning in 2002, the Chauvin Sculpture Garden has been owned by Nicholls State University, open to the public, and home to the Nicholls State University Art Studio, which was gifted by the Kohler Foundation.
As per Nicholls State University, “The mission of the Chauvin Sculpture Garden and Nicholls Art Studio is to educate the public on the value of Folk Art and its importance in the world of visual arts. The studio and site preserve and protect the creative works of Kenny Hill and display the work of contemporary artists in the 1,000 square foot exhibition space.”
The grant given to the Nicholls Foundation comes from Ruth Arts, a “new grantmaker based in the Midwest dedicated to meeting the evolving needs and lived experiences of artists, communities and arts organizations whose work is anchored by visual arts, performing arts and arts education.” Ruth Arts had announced the Ruth DeYoung Kohler Legacy fund, a grant that was designed to mirror the support that Ruth DeYoung Kohler (1941-2020) had made to arts institutions throughout her lifetime.
Karen Patterson, the Executive Director of Ruth Arts, commented on the fund by saying, “these programs are at once forward-facing and anchored in Ruth DeYoung Kohler II’s inimitable legacy. “We’re proud to honor Ruth’s lifelong commitment to the arts by continuing to fund the organizations she personally supported and to develop new programs in her spirit of experimentation and community-building.”
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