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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rodrigue Designed Louisiana White House Christmas Tree on Display

The Louisiana White House Christmas Tree located behind the White House in Ellipse Park is now on display. It features ornaments designed by George Rodrigue and made by students at Galliano Elementary in Galliano, LA.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SWAFSAA Donates $5,000 to GRFA

On December 16, 2010, the Southwest Association of Financial Aid Adminstrators (SWAFSAA) donated to us over $5,000 as part of their annual meeting that was held in New Orleans this year. We were selected as the non-profit beneficiary because of our ongoing relationship with The Louisiana Education Loan Authority (LELA).

Thank you to everyone at SWAFSA and LELA for helping us. Your donation will go a long way to helping students get on the right path to higher education.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Art Contest

Just in time for the launch of our George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA) 2011 Art Contest

Wendy Rodrigue writes a blog post about art contests in her blog Musings of an Artist's Wife

George Rodrigue entered two art contests in his life and failed at both. By ‘failed,’ I'm not talking about the fact that he lost, but more significant that he was disqualified or learned a hard lesson about cheating.

“Nothing in life is fair,” my mother used to say.

And maybe she was right. But in the end perhaps that's not a bad thing. In George’s case his contest experiences taught him life lessons; they helped him understand people and, most important, that no one reaches their star by proxy. Either you work hard and make it on your own, or it doesn’t happen.

The first contest George entered was in 1954 at the Sears Roebuck Catalogue Store in New Iberia, Louisiana. In those days, according to George, the Sears store was nothing more than a small room with a row of catalogues and a woman behind the desk. To shop at Sears, one visited the so-called store, chose their items from a catalogue, and placed their order accordingly.There was no merchandise on hand, no fitting room, and nothing relating to the department stores of today.

For some time, in an effort to widen its reputation beyond automobile tires, Sears hired actor Vincent Price as their cultural ambassador. He traveled across the country with art exhibitions for the store. In fact, it was one of these shows (in Baton Rouge) that first exposed George a few years later to paintings by professional artists. (Remember, there were no museums or galleries in southwest Louisiana in those days).

In keeping with this direction, the New Iberia store, too small for an exhibition, held an art contest for local grade school students.They produced a coloring sheet so that each child worked on the same image.

“I knew that no one colored better than me in my class,” says George. “I remember going to Sears with my mother to turn in my picture, and I remember staring at that tool set, knowing it would be mine.”

At age nine, recently recovered from polio, young George wanted nothing more than to win the child’s tool set offered as a prize. As described in the recent post “The Ghost of Christmas Past,” his mother was not fond of gifts, and if he didn’t win it, he knew he would never have one.

From an early age, if George wanted something beyond necessities such as food and clothing, it was up to him to buy it.By the time he was a teenager he earned money by working inhis father’s tomb business and by selling his paintings of swamp monsters. He also took the occasional portrait commission, until the director of the local funeral home refused to pay him the agreed-upon price of fifty dollars (below, a hard lesson learned).

(pictured, Portrait of George Burgess, 1959, a painting that hangs in George’s studio today)

He didn’t win the tool set. Rather, the boy who sat behind him in the third grade and who “couldn’t color at all” took it home. His aunt, the manager at the Sears Roebuck Catalogue Store, presented him with the prize.

Ten years later, now in his early twenties, George Rodrigue entered his second and final art contest. It was in Morgan City, Louisiana, and he was disqualified from the start because the contest’s organizers thought he passed off antique landscape paintings as his own. (For more on this story visit here).

(pictured, Landscape with Cabin and Oak, 1970, 32x36 inches, oil on canvas; for the history of George’s landscape paintings see the post “Early Oak Trees”)

It’s ironic, given this track record, that George launched last year his own art contest for high school seniors through the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. With sixteen winners and $35,000 in scholarship awards, the contest was an enormous success, as rewarding for George, I believe, as for the winners.

Remembering the rigged Sears contest, he avoids judging himself, ensuring fairness as much as possible with guest judges and nameless entries. Remembering his own academic struggles, he eschews G.P.A. requirements, test scores, and declared majors, hoping all juniors and seniors in Louisiana, regardless of their grades, will find confidence in their creative abilities and give this competition a try.

Launched a few weeks ago, this year’s contest offers more than $40,000 in scholarship prizes and includes cash awards for high school juniors.

(pictured, last year's first place winner, Sean Hicks of Hackberry, Louisiana, now a student at McNeese State University)

In some cases schools provide matching scholarships, as in the case of Alexandra Olivier of Gretna, Louisiana (pictured below with George Rodrigue), who attends Savannah College of Art and Design. Her $1500 GRFA scholarship quickly turned to $7500, as SCAD matched the award for four years.

George visits with these winners at a luncheon in their honor and follows their progress during the year, hosting an art show of their works within his Royal Street Gallery. The exhibition travels to several venues throughout the state, including the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge, the Old Courthouse Museum in Natchitoches, and the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport.

For more information on the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts 2011 Art Contest visit GRFA’s fabulous new interactive website: www.georgerodriguefoundation.org.


For related posts visit “The Creative Competition in Two Parts”and "Catholic High, Brother Edward, and the Art Scholarship"

Coming later this week: “The Greatest Gift”

As of 12/7/10, I also write a blog for GAMBIT, the New Orleans Weekly paper. To read the first post, "Dolores Pepper" visit here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

GRFA in Little Rock and Lake Charles

Blog post taken from Wendy Rodrigue's Blog "Musings of an Artist's wife"

Reflections On an Insane Yet Wonderful Week
“How long were we gone?” asked George Rodrigue. “A week?”

“More like 48 hours,” I replied…

…as we recalled our visit to Little Rock, Arkansas last weekend, where we raised funds and awareness for arts education through events for the Thea Foundation and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.

Between us, in just two days, we flew to Little Rock and back, where we presented three lectures, attended two cocktail parties, painted (in George’s case) and auctioned off an original painting, judged an art contest, toured the Thea Foundation offices and the neighboring Argenta Community Theatre, shared meals with clients, foundation supporters, and community leaders, visited a private art collection, and toured the Clinton Library.

“Did you forget to tell me that you’re running for office?” I asked George earlier this week, as I organized my list of thank-you notes.

(pictured, a painting demonstration and lecture in the Clinton Library, Little Rock)

Upon our return, we drove two hours west for the day, where I spoke to an audience of sixty women --- university professors, philanthropists, and friends --- about my search for identity as the wife of a famous artist. Presenting at the University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for the Women of Vision Lecture Series, we raised funds for the UL Foundation, as I explained my life’s journey through the art of Egypt, Austria, my mother, and of course George Rodrigue.* For some reason I’ll likely never understand, my audience hung in there as I spouted on, knowing full well that every woman in the room has a life just as (if not more) interesting.

(pictured, Selket guarding King Tut's tomb)

“But you’ve got to go to my lecture,” I pleaded with George that morning. “I’m a bit nervous about this one, and I need your support.”

Instead he spent the day signing his new silkscreen prints, claiming,

“If I’m there, Wendy, everyone will want to talk to me.”

Oh Brother…

Just as I understand better after visiting Arkansas how the city of Little Rock must have flipped when Bill Clinton became President of the United States, I can see how the Lafayette ladies would have flipped over George’s presence. I too still swoon at times when he talks about his art with that Cajun drawl. (You should be wrinkling your nose at the sap here, so go right ahead; nevertheless, it’s true).

Instead George spent the day only a few blocks from my speech, at his warehouse signing his newest silkscreen prints titled, appropriately, I’m the Real Thing. (for the story behind this coke machine visit here)

Yesterday we left our house in New Orleans early for another marathon day, this time in Lake Charles, Louisiana, sixty miles west of Lafayette, and more than three hours drive from our house.

While there, we hosted an informational luncheon for forty people to raise funds and awareness for the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts (GRFA). We followed with a lecture and painting demonstration for more than four hundred people in the historic 1912 auditorium of the Central School Arts and Humanities Center, where George painted a Blue Dog for the crowd while I shared stories from his art and life.

From there we toured Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and reunited the painting Doctor on the Bayou (1982, 30x40, below) with its artist, followed by a reception for several hundred people in the hospital’s atrium, where we sold silkscreens of the classic painting to raise funds for the hospital’s foundation, as well as our own.

(For a detailed history of this painting visit here.)

(pictured above, Jacques Rodrigue and George Rodrigue at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, November 11, 2010)

It wasn’t until we reached our garage at 1:00 a.m. that we realized (and no longer cared) that we’d forgotten to eat.

At day's end we had a key to the city of Lake Charles (courtesy of the mayor), money for scholarships and student art supplies (through GRFA), several pieces of Blue Dog cake (courtesy of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana and especially the marvelous Lake Charles bakery artist, Kelly Lowe of the Stacked Cake Company), an invitation to return in January for the opening of a museum exhibition of George’s work (courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art), and fond memories and stories of the 1984 ballet, Ghosts of Rodrigue, based on his Cajun paintings.

“It’s weird. I’m startin’ to feel like Marilyn Monroe,” said George, as he washed his face.

“Say what?” I turned with surprise from the side of the bathtub, where I sat rubbing my feet. “Used? Depressed? Blonde?

He explained,

“It’s like I’m two different people. I can’t believe they’re talking that way about me. I can’t believe all of those people showed up because of me.”

I looked at him, not knowing what to say. After all, in many ways this is a typical week.

“Why two people?” I asked. "Why Marilyn?” (Why not John Wayne or Johnny Cash?, I thought...)

“Well,” he mumbled through the toothpaste, “They all make a fuss over me, and then I come home and everything’s normal, like I’m a regular guy.”

You’re delirious. Go to bed.


Pictured above: Marilyn Monroe with the Blues Brothers -Jacques, Wendy, George, and AndrĂ©, May 2004. For more on George’s sons, visit here.

*Also see "The Muse"

For a related post visit "Defining Success"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Defining Success (Finding Fulfillment)

Taken from Wendy Rodrigue's blog "Musings of an Artist's Wife" regarding our recent launch of George's Art Closet:
“If you help others, you will find the happiness you want. This is the secret they don’t tell you at school.” Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

How do we end up in our personal (and public) situations? How do children with big problems, those born into poverty, ignorance, and crime, find real happiness inside a box of paints or a piece of cake?

I saw them with my own eyes, two hundred K-3 kids at New Orleans College Prep, a public charter school for grades K-8, expanding soon to K-12, available tuition-free to all children in Orleans Parish, regardless of demographics. With dedicated and highly skilled teachers and a hands-on principal, this school instills a desire for college from day one with strict academics and discipline, a code of honor complete with advanced concepts and vocabulary, and a tremendous amount of fun, such as the zoo, sports, music lessons, art therapy, and dance.

In a school in which more than eighty percent of their parents lack a high school diploma, these students have their eyes set on college and their hearts set on the person sitting next to them.

One little boy grabbed my hand to show me not only his own painting, but also that of several of his friends. They painted hearts and sunshine and flowers. Their dogs weren’t just blue, but also purple and yellow and red. When I told one child, “Look at your painting! You’re an artist!,” she smiled big and opened her arms wide,

“We’re all artists, Ms. Wendy!”

I spent much of this week thinking about growing older and about life’s circumstances. I should have been born twenty years earlier, I thought to myself as I toasted John Bullard, a dear friend and the former director of the New Orleans Museum of Art, who recently retired after thirty-seven years.

Looking around the room, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing there, why I was included among this distinguished group. I fought back thoughts of losing my friends, so many of them approaching seventy, eighty, and even ninety, and all of them significant contributors to the arts in the New Orleans community.

(pictured, cakes for the students of NOCP, donated by New Orleans' culinary artists: Chef Matt Murphy and Chef Thomas McGovern of M Bistro at the Ritz-Carlton, and Chef Ziggy Cichowski of the Maple Street Patisserie)

This aging conundrum weighed on my mind since presenting a lecture the day before to The Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge. With their modest budget these dedicated Americans, most of them senior citizens, devote their efforts to sending at least one student a year to school in Washington D.C. They speak of changing our community, instilling a sense of pride in young people so that they appreciate our country and understand the importance of practicing and preserving its values:

“…To share with others our appreciation of the benefits and obligations of freedom…” from the “Bill of Responsibilities” of the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge.

George and I ended our week with a painting demonstration and lecture for the Louisiana Art Educator’s Association during their fall conference in Baton Rouge. The two hundred teachers from all levels came from around the state for a weekend devoted to (according to their flyer) “altering our ideas and passions as a necessary continuous process of growth, both personally and professionally.”

You are my favorite type of audience, I told them, as George painted for an hour alongside me. They already understand Louisiana terms such as loup-garou and Jolie Blonde, and their art knowledge opens my discussion of Rodrigue to comparisons with Degas, Picasso, and others, along with an easy understanding of his academic roots, namely the 1960s art scene.

These teachers share the arts with their students. They are the administrators of our goals through the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. Without them, none of it works.

(pictured, art supplies donated to New Orleans College Prep by Forum 35 and the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts)

What did we do with our time before we had a foundation? I asked George Rodrigue this week.

“Book tours and museum shows,” he reminded me.

Oh yeah, I forgot.


I was surprised when a friend of my sister’s asked her recently,

“Are you ever jealous of Wendy?”

My sister explained the closeness of our relationship and the fact that we share each other’s good fortune (...to my great relief, sighs Aunt Wendy):

“No, I’m not jealous” Heather said, “and besides, she’s tired all of the time!”

*Sprinkled throughout this post: photographs from our afternoon at New Orleans College Prep

*Special thanks to Forum 35 of Baton Rouge, Char Thian of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, Chef Matt Murphy and Chef Thomas McGovern of M Bistro, Chef Ziggy Cichowski of the Maple Street Patisserie, our wonderful GRFA staff and interns, and the many volunteers that helped us create a special afternoon for students at NOCP

Coming later this week: “Doctor on the Bayou”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Charitybuzz Auction Benefits GRFA and LA/SPCA

George Rodrigue has created this one-of-a-kind artwork exclusively for charitybuzz to raise funds and awareness for his foundation, the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts and the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (LA/SPCA). Rodrigue has added hand embellishments using colored paint pens, as well as a pencil sketch, to create this original mixed media piece. The Three Amigos, an original silkscreen print, measures 22 X 28

Friday, May 7, 2010

Art Contest Finalist's Artwork On Display in Rodrigue Studio

GRFA is pleased to announce that the GRFA Art Contest finalist's artwork is now hanging in the new Rodrigue Studio in New Orleans. The art will hang there for the next few weeks at 730 Royal St. in the French Quarter. Come by and see it if you can!

We are so proud of all of the finalists. The artwork will next move on to be displayed at the Louisiana Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge and at Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts in Natchitoches.

Thank you once again to everyone who made this year's art contest a success!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

GRFA Art Contest Luncheon

Thank you to everyone who attended the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts 2010 Art Contest Luncheon on March 27, 2010 at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans.

We would especially like to congratulate Sean Hicks from Hackberry High School in Hackberry, Louisiana for taking the first place prize of a $5,000 college scholarship.

Overall, we had over 300 entrants into our contest from all over the state of Louisiana in our first year. Thank you to everyone who entered and to all of the teachers and parents who encouraged the talented high school seniors of Louisiana to participate.

Sixteen finalists attended our luncheon. The top 10 received college scholarships ranging from $500 to $5,000. And, we awarded each finalist a $250 gift certificate for art supplies and an original silkscreen print by George Rodrigue entitled "Ain't Dat Super: We Blues Dem Away".

Again, thank you to everyone from the GRFA staff for making our first annual GRFA Art Contest such a success!

More photos from the event and a list of all of our winning entries available on the GRFA website.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Times Picayune Article On Our Class Visit

A great article from New Orleans' Times Picayune Sunday March 21st edition outlining our visit to Bissonnet Plaza Elementary in Metairie.

Click on the image to read the entire article.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Students Help GRFA

Thank you to everyone at Bissonet Plaza Elementary in Metairie, LA for having George in their art classroom on March 5, 2010 and for helping the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.

All of the students created their own Blue Dogs by making sculptures out papier mache and then painting them. These dogs will be used as the centerpieces for the 2010 George Rodrigue Art Contest Awards Luncheon.

Marney, GRFA's Director of Education, visited the classroom days before George's arrival to teach the children about George's work and to let them know about their project. Then, the kids sketched out how they wanted to design their own Blue Dog.

When George arrived, they all got to work in order to bring their sketches to life by painting the papier mache Blue Dogs that they made. The students all asked George many questions about him and his art while they told him their own plans for their dog.

George was even able to sketch on their chalkboard and give all of the students an art lesson. He talked about the history of his work and gave them suggestions on how to approach their art.

Again, thank you to everyone at Bissonet Plaza Elementary for helping us. We know everyone at the GRFA Awards Luncheon will love the centerpieces for the tables!

*Unfortunately, there is not a lesson plan online yet for this project. However, anyone could be creative and create their own dog by building their own papier mache dogs to paint.

Monday, February 22, 2010

GRFA Art Contest Finalists

Congratulations to the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts 2010 Art Contest Finalists! We would like to thank all of you that entered. We were thrilled to receive over 300 entries in our first year from across the state of Louisiana.

Our winners will be chosen at an awards luncheon on March 27th.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Blues Dem Away (Ain't Dat Super)

Announcing the release of the newest George Rodrigue silkscreen

"We Blues Dem Away (Ain't Dat Super)"

*A major portion of the proceeds will go directly to the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts.

More information about the print can be found here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LELA Scholarship

The Louisiana Education Loan Authority (LELA) played a major role in helping our first annual George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts Art Contest to be a success. Now, we want to let you know about one of their great programs. From a letter from LELA:
Governor Bobby Jindal has officially proclaimed the month of February as Financial Aid Awareness Month! In connection with Governor Jindal’s proclamation, the Louisiana Education Loan Authority (Lela) has launched its ninth annual statewide campaign to inform college bound students and their parents that financial assistance is available for college and to apply early. In addition to reminding students of the immediate need to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), we encourage Louisiana high school seniors to participate in Lela’s Cash for College - What’s Your Story scholarship contest.

Lela will award
$6,000 in scholarships to Louisiana high school seniors through its “Cash for College” contest. Three $1,000 scholarships will be awarded through the “What’s Your Story” segment of the contest where seniors submit a brief “story” and photo online telling us why they want to attend college. In addition, six $500 scholarships will be awarded through random drawings.
To learn more please visit LELA's Financial Aid Awareness Month's Website.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Charitybuzz Auction Benefits GRFA (Update)

In honor of Valentine's Day 2010, George Rodrigue has created this one-of-a-kind artwork exclusively for charitbuzz to raise funds and awareness for his foundation, the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts. "Love Me Forever" is an original silkscreen print from 2001. In January 2010, Rodrigue added hand embellishments using gold and silver paint pens, as well as a pencil sketch, to create this original mixed media piece. "Love Me Forever" measures 20 X 27 and it will be mounted and shipped flat.

Bid on this special piece now!

(UPDATE) The auction has now ended and the print sold for $6,000! This will go a long way to help our foundation reach its goals. Thank you to everyone who placed bids. We are looking forward to doing more work with CharityBuzz. So, be on the lookout for new and exciting auction items!