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Centenary College students create art inspired by Paris sites

Kate Archer Kent

The fall term got underway Monday at Centenary College. But first-year students have been involved in college life for several weeks.

They just finished hanging an exhibition at Centenary’s Meadows Museum featuring artwork they created when they spent 10 days in Paris earlier this month.

About 130 students took part in the inaugural "Centenary in Paris" program, which offers all freshmen a trip to France as a gateway to their college coursework.

Centenary art historian Lisa Nicoletti said their artwork was inspired by famous breakaway Parisian artists and everything they saw around them.

“The students were everywhere. Some of them created them at Palace of Versailles. Some of them created them in the Musée d’Orsay, sitting and sketching pieces. Some of them created them on airplanes because we had two really long airplane rides. Some of them created them when we got back,” Nicoletti said.

Kelsey Burtrum of Venus, Texas, helped recreate the street art and posters she encountered as she walked the city. She worked with her classmates to design a graffiti wall for the exhibition. This was her first trip out of the country, and she found that the street art was a means to make political statements.

“I used to think street art was just like gang members writing their signs on the walls. But, when I went to Paris, I saw a bunch of political street art,” Burtrum said. “One we have on our wall says, legalize brain. That’s one of my favorites because our professors told us about how French citizens don’t have much of say about what goes on.”

Chris Zapata of Saratoga, California, was so inspired by the graffiti he saw that he enlisted all the freshmen to snap photos of their favorite posters around Paris. That collection of photos became their graffiti wall in the exhibit.

Credit Kate Archer Kent
Centenary students hung their exhibition "Centenary in Paris," covering every inch of the Meadows Museum with inspiration from their 10 days in the City of Light.

“I saw a ton of different types of street art. It was kind of influential to me because they all have different messages. I just figured why not try to recreate it here? And it worked out really well,” Zapata said.

Nicoletti estimates about half of the students featured in the exhibition are declared science majors, but she hopes more will take up art studies after seeing the works they created.

The exhibit “Centenary in Paris” runs through Oct. 25.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.