City of Lake Charles unveils Nellie Lutcher mural

Published 10:35 am Monday, April 15, 2024

Special to the American Press

As part of the inaugural Nellie Lutcher Festival, the city of Lake Charles on Sunday unveiled the Nellie Lutcher Mural, a centerpiece of the newly constructed Nellie Lutcher Memorial Park. The artwork was made possible through a $15,000 grant by Tellurian Inc. and the Leadership Southwest Class of 2022.

The mural pays homage to Lutcher’s musical legacy and was designed and painted by well-known artist John Whaley Jr., a Southwest Louisiana native. The colorful nature of the piece is a nod to Lutcher’s vibrant life and career.

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Whaley’s vision for the mural is multi-faceted. He wants it to serve as a celebration and preservation of the rich cultural heritage of the Nellie Lutcher Cultural District, while also serving as a tool for youth empowerment by engaging them in the creative process. Ultimately, he hopes the mural will attract visitors to the District, boosting local businesses and tourism.

“Working on this mural has been deeply personal for me. Growing up in the area, with my grandmother just two blocks away, attending Pearl Watson Elementary and Lake Charles Boston High School nearby, and regularly visiting Sacred Heart Catholic Church around the corner, this project is a way for me to give back to the community that supported me,” explained Whaley. “It’s not just about creating art; it’s about leaving a lasting mark on a community that values its culture and history. Completing this mural is a significant milestone in my artistic journey, providing an opportunity to showcase my skills, collaborate with fellow artists, and enrich the vibrant artistic tapestry of the district.”

The mural represents an impressive public art element to the budding Nellie Lutcher Cultural District. A forthcoming plaque will thank Tellurian and the Leadership Southwest class participants who helped make this mural possible.

“Public art elements like murals help add a unique sense of place. When we began designing Nellie Lutcher Memorial Park, we wanted to ensure there would be a very visual and memorable representation of Nellie,” added Mayor Nic Hunter. “We are absolutely thrilled with the finished piece. Mr. Whaley did an incredible job of capturing the musician’s joyful spirit in this colorful piece. Park visitors will enjoy it for years to come.” 

The mural was selected as the Community Impact Project for the Leadership Southwest Class of 2022, a program of the SWLA Economic Development Alliance.

“Each year since 1984, the Leadership Southwest participants are challenged to identify issues affecting our community, and through the year-long program, identify possible solutions,” said Michelle McInnis, Senior Vice President of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “For the last four years Tellurian has encouraged class participants to identify solutions and bring about change through a grant given to each class. The Class of 2022’s mission was to make a lasting impact on Southwest Louisiana through improving quality of life for all who live and visit the area. This mural is a shining example of just that and class members also pitched in to help the artist put the final touches on the mural.”

Funding for the mural was provided through Tellurian’s Leadership Southwest Community Investment Grant. This grant program was initiated in 2020 to help Leadership Southwest graduating classes apply what they learned throughout the yearlong program to make an immediate positive impact on their community.

“Tellurian is committed to investing and growing both the local community and the leaders who will make lasting positive impacts. The Leadership Southwest Community Investment Grant helps us do both,” says Heather Hohensee, Government & Public Affairs Director for Tellurian, adding that “the mural will be a meaningful addition to the community, not only bringing joy to park visitors but ensuring future generations have the opportunity to learn about an important piece of this area’s history. We should all be proud of Nellie Lutcher’s lasting legacy.”

The Nellie Lutcher Memorial Park is located at 702 Enterprise Blvd.