Sense of Place—and Loss: Facing Change through Folklife, Science, and the Arts

Mar 15, 2020

Sense of Place—and Loss: Facing Change through Folklife, Science, and the Arts

Local Learning has been collaborating with Louisiana partners to design and facilitate an ongoing series of workshops to help sustain the traditional cultures of coastal Louisiana. The tools of folklore in education provide access to information about culture, methods to document and learn  from local experts, and models to inform next steps to strengthen communities.

The next workshop facilitated by Local Learning

Wednesday, March 25, 2020, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. CANCELLED. Will be rescheduled. Stay tuned for more info.
Century Room inside Guidry Stadium at Nicholls State University, Thibodaux

If we only have three more generations living in coastal Louisiana,
what should we be doing now?

Behind the national headlines about dramatic land loss in coastal Louisiana live traditional and contemporary artists who explore and incorporate their environment, ecology, and culture into their work. Likewise, scientists examine species, patterns of disruption, and future scenarios. What may scientists learn from artists, and vice versa? How may art-science collaborations reach communities at risk, and how can this inform a sense of direction about what matters to community members?

The Bayou Culture Collaborative invites regional artists, policy makers, community members, and scientists to a free immersive workshop to spend time together and with presenters who work in folklife, the sciences, and the arts to inspire advocacy and creativity in the face of land loss and cultural shifts. Presenters include Monique Verdin, artist/author; Shana Walton, Nicholls State University; and Gary LaFleur, Nicholls State University Center for Bayou Studies. The workshop will be facilitated by Lisa Rathje, Director of Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education.

This is an engaging opportunity to learn, be a part of formative discussions, and network with others from diverse backgrounds who are working in and entwined with the regional culture and ecology of coastal Louisiana.

Space is limited. We’ll provide lunch, so we ask you to register today! For information or to register contact Nicole Babin at BTNEP, 985-447-0868,

This workshop is presented in partnership with Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.

Past Local Learning BCC workshops:

A free workshop Saturday, September 21, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Acadiana Center for the Arts, 101 West Vermilion Street, Lafayette with Paddy Bowman, Founding Director of Local Learning, and Brandon Ballengée, visual artist and biologist, Louisiana State University

The Bayou Culture Collaborative invites regional artists and scientists to a free workshop to spend time together and with presenters who work in folklife, the sciences, and the arts to inspire advocacy and creativity in the face of land loss and cultural shifts. This is an opportunity for traditional artists (such as craftspeople and musicians), contemporary artists (such as visual artists, dancers, musicians, writers), and scientists (such as biologists, ecologists, botanists). Space is limited so register today by contacting Paige Krause at the AcA, 337-233-7060 x 232  Learn about the Bayou Culture Collaborative at

Presenters include Prosanta Chakrabarty,  Associate Professor and Curator of Ichthyology at LSU; Suzanne Fredericq, UL Professor of Biology; Janie Luster, traditional Houma artist; Lynda Frese, visual artist and UL Professor Emerita. See bios below.

Presenters for Artists and Scientists Facing Change

Brandon Ballengée is a visual artist, biologist, and environmental educator based in Louisiana. He creates transdisciplinary artworks inspired from his ecological field and laboratory research. Since 1996, a central investigation focus has been the occurrence of developmental deformities and population declines among amphibians. In 2009, he and SK Sessions published “Explanation for Missing Limbs in Deformed Amphibians” in the Journal of Experimental Zoology and received international media attention. This scientific study inspired the book Malamp: The Occurrence of Deformities in Amphibians (Arts Catalyst & Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK) and a solo exhibition at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. In 2014 he received his PhD in Transdisciplinary Art and Biology from Plymouth University (UK) in association with Zürich University of the Arts and Applied Sciences (Switzerland). Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the LSU Biological Sciences Department, studying the impact on fishes from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. His project, Crude Life Portable Museum: A Citizen Art and Science Investigation of Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, is ongoing. Ballengée’s artwork has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally in more than 20 countries and featured in major U.S. and international publications. His exhibit, Frameworks of Absence, focuses on biodiversity by highlighting animals that have been lost to extinction.  It has toured since 2006 and is currently at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge.

Paddy Bowman, Founding Director of Local Learning and co-editor of the Journal of Folklore and Education, has developed many folklife education resources and training opportunities around the U.S. She has worked closely with Louisiana educators and artists for many years, presenting programs and creating resources such the extensive online education guide Louisiana Voices. For three years she partnered with the AcA and Lafayette Parish School System on Local Learning in Lafayette, a folk arts integration classroom residency project, and she has worked with the Vermilionville Folklife Education Initiative since 2012. She has an MA in Folklore from the University of North Carolina and was awarded the American Folklore Society’s Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Public Folklore and is a Fellow of the Society. Recently she was appointed to the board of the Front Porch, a roots music school and venue in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she lives.

Prosanta Chakrabarty is Associate Professor and Curator of Fishes at the Museum of Natural Science and LSU Department of Biological Science. He is also a Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Smithsonian in Washington, DC. He is a systematist and an ichthyologist studying the evolution and biogeography of both freshwater and marine fishes. His work includes studies of Neotropical (Central and South America, Caribbean) and Indo-West Pacific (Indian and Western Pacific Ocean) fishes. His natural history collecting efforts include trips to Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Madagascar, Panama, Kuwait, and many other countries. He has discovered over a dozen new species including new anglerfishes and cavefishes. He grew up in New York City, his undergraduate degree is from McGill University in Montreal, and his PhD is from the University of Michigan. His latest books include A Guide to Academia: Getting Into and Surviving Grad School, Postdocs and a Research Job andMaking a Big Splash with Louisiana Fishes. He was named a TED Fellow in 2016 and a TED Senior Fellow in 2018. He has served as a rotating Program Director at the National Science Foundation and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018.

Lynda Frese is a visual artist based in South Louisiana. Originally from New England, she earned her BFA and MFA from the University of California at Davis and a fellowship at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She is Professor Emerita at the UL Lafayette, where she taught photography for 30 years. She was a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center and Bogliasco Foundation Study Center in Italy and artist in residence in Costa Rica and the American Academy in Rome. She visits UNESCO World Heritage Sites and for the past eight years has worked at rural artist residencies in Assisi and Valcamonica, Italy. Her artwork has been exhibited and published in Europe, South America, and across the U.S. Her work is found in private and public collections including the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY, Shrem Museum in Davis, CA, High Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Art, and Hilliard University Museum. She received Artist of the Year at the 2016 Louisiana Cultural Awards for her sustained work celebrating the culture and history of the South.

Suzanne Fredericq is a faculty member in the Biology Department at UL Lafayette where she is a Professor of Biology conducting research on the biodiversity of seaweeds worldwide. The focus of her current research, funded by the National Science Foundation, addresses the critical ecological importance of red algal nodules (rhodoliths) growing at depths of 40-90m in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The study highlights implications for the prediction of algal blooms, shifts in the marine community following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and possible effects of global warming and ocean acidification on the calcifying rhodoliths and their microbiota. The research will significantly increase unexplored algal diversity in the region and assess the discovery that the interior of rhodoliths are marine biodiversity hotspots that may function as seedbanks, temporary reservoirs for life history stages of ecologically important microalgae, or as refugia for ecosystem resilience following environmental stress. The study opens the door to assess the universality of newly found life history stages of bloom-forming microalgae, some of public health concerns. Her love of biology is closely tied to the aesthetics of Form and Analogies so beautifully expressed in the marine red algae. It is this type of visual pleasure that she also very much enjoys in the visual arts.

Janie Luster is a master palmetto basket weaver and cultural preservationist of the United Houma Nation. Hailing from the community of Bayou DuLarge in Terrebone Parish, she comes from a long line of traditional healers and is a tribal advocate. A dedicated practitioner of diverse tribal customs, she is widely recognized for her coiled half-hitch baskets, made using an intricate weaving technique lost to the Houma for nearly a generation. Reintroduced by Luster in the 1990s, the hitch-coil method with a half-hitch knot—common in areas of South and Central America—is considered limited in North America to Louisiana’s largest tribe of Indigenous peoples. She served on the tribal council for eight years and has received the United Houma Nation Cultural Preservation Award as well as the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Fellowship Award. In 2011, Luster was inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Master Folk Artists.

Maida Owens, Folklife Program director, is a cultural anthropologist specializing in Louisiana traditional cultures. Owens has been with the Division of the Arts since 1986, during which time she has worked with organizations, researchers, and tradition bearers across the state. She received the Charles E. Dunbar, Jr. Career Civil Service Award, the James William Rivers Prize in Louisiana Studies from UL Center for Louisiana Studies, and the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement in public folklore from the American Folklore Society. She has been involved with folklife surveys to document systematically the region’s folk traditions and teach community members to document their own traditions. She has worked with hundreds of tradition bearers from Louisiana’s diverse cultures. A native of Baton Rouge, she has an MA in Anthropology from LSU.

March 30, 2019  Exploring Local Folklife and Choosing What to Document
Paddy Bowman with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education led this low-key, highly interactive workshop, which called on participants’ personal traditions as a way of introducing folklife and documentation. Maida Owens shared examples of traditions that could be documented. Part One of the Documenting Bayou Culture Workshop Series with South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center and Terrebonne Parish Library.

April 13, 2019 Getting Ready for Interviewing: Techniques for Documenting Local Stories and Knowledge
Lisa Rathje with Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education led this workshop using low-tech equipment and sharing easy, essential interview basics, facilitators to prepare community members to discover more about local traditions and stories through interviewing. Part Two of the Documenting Bayou Culture Workshop Series with South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center and Terrebonne Parish Library.

Existing Documentation

Find essays on the Folklife in Louisiana website and other sources that address traditions in Louisiana’s coastal communities here.

Collaborators and Funders

This project is a collaboration between Louisiana Folklore Society, the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, Nicholls State University Center for Bayou Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies, and Bayou Regional Arts Council.

The collaborative is funded with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.

If you would like to know more, contact the Folklife Program director Maida Owens, at, 225-342-8178 or explore the Folklife in Louisiana website.