Pictured here is Mamou native Kate Chatelain as she sits in front of some of her contemporary art. She uses the art medium to expose area children to culture in art camps during the summer. (Photo courtesy of Kate Chatelain)

Brushing up on culture

Mamou native Kate Chatelain aspires to share her love for art with the community

With the stroke of a paint brush, a Mamou native is doing her part in exposing local children to culture. She does this through art camps during the summer at Mamou High School.
“I do some personal art like multimedia art using unconventional things besides paint, but really the older I get the more I want to incorporate it with kids,” said Kate Chatelain. “I more want to teach art than do art.”
“That’s why I started my art camps in the summer,” she continued. “It’s for kids to learn how to do art and how to look at art and how to appreciate it because I think our culture is really rich. It’s just that we lack in the visual arts department. I want to teach others with my art.”
Chatelain explained what goes on at her art camps. “We learn about classical artists, we look at classic paintings, and we learn a little bit of technique,” she said. “It’s nothing too heavy because I realize these kids don’t really have much exposure to this kind of thing.”
“Some kids I get in the third grade, and they have never picked up a paintbrush before, so it’s really about them getting an appreciation and letting them experiment and letting them figure out that they like it,” she continued. “We look at some technical stuff, but we really play around. I let them enjoy themselves.”
She has gotten tons of positive feedback from parents of the children who attend these art camps because there are no rules. “I just kind of let the kids go,” Chatelain commented. “The parents really appreciate that I don’t tell the kids how to do it or what to do. It’s different than math or reading where there is a correct answer. They think it’s fun to do whatever and to express themselves.”
Chatelain continued, “I think younger kids in particular need something like that when standardized tests are so big and school puts so much pressure on them.”
According to Chatelain, these art camps “originated in my grandmother’s back apartment that was like her outdoor kitchen, but it was destroyed in the flood of April this year.” She added, “After that I partnered with the principal of Mamou High School, and she allowed me to take on the teachers’ lounge and convert it into a small temporary classroom. We made it a giving back to the community, and we made it even more educational so that it would be more justified having it in the school.”
She models these art camps after her own contemporary art style. “I don’t paint still lives, and I don’t paint flowers or anything,” Chatelain said. “I kind of paint in metaphors. I take an idea, and I illustrate that. It’s kind of whimsical and very colorful. My art has a lot of a deeper meaning in them.”
Chatelain gave an example about some of the metaphors that she uses. “Recently I’ve been fixated on my family members, and I do a lot of pieces on them,” she said. “I did on one my great-grandmother Lorraine Barousse who passed away a year before last. She would always encourage me to sew, but I never wanted to. I only did it because she wanted me to.”
“I ended up figuring out that what I really wanted to do was paint,” she continued. “She encouraged me either way to create whether I’m sewing or painting. I have a picture of myself and a picture of a table that represents her because it was her table. I also have a lot of allusions to what she left behind and what she left behind in me.”
The love of art was instilled in Chatelain at a young age through her grandmother Linda Soileau. “When I was really young in second grade, my grandmother would keep me and my cousins for the summer,” she stated. “She would take us Wal-Mart and buy us a giant tub of art supplies. We spent the whole summer drawing, painting, and building because that’s what she liked to do. She used to teach art at Mamou way back when they had an art program. She pretty much inspired me to take on that challenge of bringing it back.”
After discovering art at a young age, Chatelain developed it while in school at Mamou. She went on to explain that this developmental stage was difficult but led to her own style.
“I took art lessons with a guy, but it was very casual,” she said. “It wasn’t real art lessons. We’d show up and just piddle around and talk about our lives, but I really wanted real instruction. I kind of went on my own and painted whatever. It wasn’t really my best work, but I was kind of experimenting.”
Chatelain is currently at UL-L where she is majoring in secondary education. When she is not in front of a canvas or in front of a group of children in her art camps, she does set design for a local theater group in Lafayette. She stated, “If they need a play to take place in a forest, I’m in charge of painting four-foot flats to look like a forest. And, I’m in charge if they need some weird props. One time I made a giant milkshake that weighed 15 pounds.”
While wanting to teach art in the school system, Chatelain knows that might not be possible. “I think my long time goal is to acquire a building in downtown Mamou and open it as a studio just for people to come in and paint,” she said. “That’s also where I would hold my art camps.”
Through her art and her camps, Chatelain’s message remains simple. She concluded, “I want to elaborate on our culture, and I want to add more to our culture.”

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