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Art department helps restore Monroe community

March 27, 2014

 

Tech students, Jesse Suggs and Mike Nelson, help art professor Nick Bustamante (not pictured) paint his piece, “Finding Home.” The piece was inspired by the beauty of Louisiana. –Photo by Ian Edwards

Tech students, Jesse Suggs and Mike Nelson, help art professor Nick Bustamante (not pictured) paint his piece, “Finding Home.” The piece was inspired by the beauty of Louisiana. –Photo by Ian Edwards

IAN EDWARDS
Staff Reporter

 

Tech’s art department has received an opportunity to put their prowess on display across parish lines.

 

The Downtown Monroe Renaissance Board has chosen to turn “Finding Home,” an original painting by associate professor of art Nick Bustamante into a large-scale mural.

 

Bustamante said the painting is designed to reference Louisiana’s beauty.

 

“I wanted to explore the splendor of the region, and specifically reference the Black Bayou area,” Bustamante said. “It also celebrates and embraces the rich culture of the region.”

 

Bustamante said his personal experiences with the region influenced the work.

 

“I’m originally a native of Long Beach, Calif.,” he said. “I’ve been out here for about 10 years, and the piece has some of my feelings about the transition period between coming in as an outsider, and finally being able to call this place ‘home.’ The house in the background actually is mine.”

 

Of course, a project this large requires help.

 

“I am working with two teams of very talented Tech students,” Bustamante said. “The Thursday team has worked with me on previous murals, and the Friday team is experiencing a large project like this for the first time. They are getting course credit, but above all, they are getting valuable real-world experience with rain delays, lighting changes and public interation that simply cannot be taught in a PowerPoint slide.”

Art student, Beth Dixon was hand-picked by Bustamante to help paint. –Photo by Ian Edwards

Art student, Beth Dixon was hand-picked by Bustamante to help paint. –Photo by Ian Edwards

 

Beth Dixon, a junior studio art major and member of the Friday team, said Bustamante hand-picked the teams of students.

 

“I readily said ‘yes’ when he asked me to be a part of the project,” Dixon said. “Nick’s a really inspirational teacher, and he believes in us while some teachers don’t care. It felt really good to have someone trust your skills like that.”

 

Dixon also said she has other reasons for getting involved.

 

“I am a Monroe native, so I was immediately interested,” she said. “It’s really fun to put your mark on your own hometown and be able to see it whenever you come home. Like most things in life, it’s hard work, but feelings like these really do make it rewarding.”

 

Jesse Suggs, another member of the Friday team, said he was blown away when Bustamante picked him.

 

“Like Beth said, Nick hand-picked us to help him, but when he came to me, I was speechless because I’d only taken one painting class,” Suggs, a junior studio art major, said. “It’s cool that he would go through the ‘lower ranks’ and have enough confidence in us to ask us for help on such a high-profile project.”

 

Mike Nelson, the final member of the Friday team, said his selection came at a great time.

Bustamante, second from left, stands before his work with students Jesse Suggs, Beth Dixon and Mike Nelson. –Photo by Ian Edwards

Bustamante, second from left, stands before his work with students Jesse Suggs, Beth Dixon and Mike Nelson. –Photo by Ian Edwards

 

“I did one mural for the Child Advocacy Center in downtown Ruston over the summer,” Nelson, a senior studio art major, said. “I enjoyed the experience so much that I was looking for a place to jump in and help out with another one. Nick’s invitation couldn’t have come at a better time.”

 

Bustamante said the experience is one he hopes the community of Monroe can appreciate and be proud of.

 

“We’ve had community volunteers help us prepare the wall, and even contribute to the actual painting process,” Bustamante said. “And that’s what we want. To make everyone feel involved. This is their mural, and we want them to become a part of something bigger than themselves.”

 

 

Email comments to ije001@latech.edu.

 

 

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