A new art school with familiar teachers has officially opened its doors with the founding of LA ARTS - a school for theatre, music, film, art and dance.
Utilizing a Prairieville location to expand its reach, business partners Lorna Culmone Bourgeois and Dustin M. Delaune - who are not strangers to Ascension Parish arts - birthed the idea from their program Drama Kids International.
After three years success with Drama Kids, a program that services youth in Ascension, East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes, Bourgeois said that she and Delaune thought it was a good idea to use their resources to expand programming and add teachers to explore other arts disciplines.
"Our dream was to have sort of a collective of the arts," Bourgeois said. "We have all these different people - we're all experts in our fields, and so we came together to provide private and group lessons."
Bourgeois said she wanted LA ARTS programming to be all-inclusive, so unlike Drama Kids, LA ARTS isn't just for children, but similarly, it is becoming wildly popular.
"The art thing is exploding, because there aren't too many art teachers who do this kind of thing in Ascension Parish at all," Bourgeois said. "I'm pretty excited about that.
We just wanted to bring something a little different to the community."
Both Bourgeois and Delaune, along with all of the contracted instructors, are from Ascension Parish and have each been invested in their respective disciplines for a number of years.
MEET THE TEACHERS
Bourgeois followed her passion for theatre from St. Theresa to New Orleans and New York, then finally back home to LSU, where she earned her teaching credentials. She taught theatre for most of her 22 years in Ascension Parish Schools, and furthered her push for the arts by founding Ascension Community Theatre, along with Mattie Olson.
Delaune has been involved in theatre and performance for over ten years and brings experience from both the business and creative aspects of the industry. His experience in the arts include Center Stage Performing Arts Academy, Playmakers, Ascension Community Theatre and East Ascension High School.
The business partners are joined by two music teachers - Melissa LeBlanc-Goodwin and Erin Perdue Brownfield, and a visual teacher, Laura Jennings - all of whom are teachers in Ascension Parish schools.
LeBlanc-Goodwin, a native of Gonzales, began singing on stage for talent shows and local events at seven-years-old. She then went on to participate in school chorus programs, community performance groups, and leading music in several catholic churches throughout Ascension Parish. She attended college at Southeastern Louisiana University, where she performed in numerous stage productions.
LeBlanc-Goodwin is also a certified Kindermusik instructor and has organized small group music classes for daycares. For ten years, she was the music director at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Gonzales, where she led the adult and children’s choirs.
LeBlanc-Goodwin will be teaching private voice lessons at LA ARTS. The lessons consist of 30 minutes once per week, and focus on vocal and breathing technique, music theory, vocal health, learning new music and performance skills.
"I am thrilled to have the chance to do this again," she said.
Erin Perdue Brownfield is a vocal and piano teacher at LA ARTS. She received her Bachelors in vocal performance from Southeastern Louisiana University and is the choir director at East Ascension High School. She serves on the Board of Directors for Ascension Community Theatre. Brownfield
began singing in church when she was nine-years-old. Along with Choir, she also teaches Theatre. In her piano studio, beginning students will be taught the fundamentals of music and piano to develop a love for the piano and regimen practice.
Laura Jennings is the granddaughter of a painter and an architect. For the past six years she has been teaching middle school art at Central Middle School. Over the summer, Jennings is teaching an eight-week session. During the school year, she will be doing group lessons that focus on the basic elements of art - line, color, shape, form, space, value and texture.
"We will be learning about and exploring different artists, techniques and mediums," she said.
"When I was approached to teach, I was thrilled to be a part of something that offers such a wide variety of arts to our community. I am very excited to be a part of LA ARTS. I moved to Ascension six years ago. I was excited to be moving to such a culture-filled parish."
LA ARTS operates under the mantra 'live and love the arts'.
"We just want to make it a fun environment where kids can come and do a lot of different things, have some fun doing it, and if they want to go further with it, we'll have advance classes," Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois emphasized that LA ARTS isn't meant to teach competition-based arts or to create trade professionals. While that support is available, the program is meant to fill what the instructors consider a void for the arts in the parish. Currently the program isn't offering film or dance, but instructors have been selected and programming may begin as soon as fall 2016.