November 28, 2014  

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Southern Miss Gulf Coast to Present Traveling Exhibition “The Labat Project”

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Photo from The Labat Project of Celestine Labat’s First Communion.

The Katrina Research Center at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, along with the Mississippi Humanities Council and Gulf Coast artist Lori K. Gordon, announce the premiere exhibition of The Labat Project. Unveiling of the exhibit will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6 at the Bay St. Louis-Hancock County Library, located at 312 Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis.

The Labat Project is the second phase of an undertaking begun by Gordon in 2000 when she conducted an oral history interview with Celestine Labat of Bay St. Louis. Labat, who lived until the age of 102, gave Gordon access to her family photographs. Using Labat family materials, Gordon created an art quilt which was subsequently acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, and then she began work on the second phase of the project.

In 2011, Gordon partnered with the university’s Katrina Research Center to create a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary traveling exhibit which encompasses portions of Labat’s oral history and images from her family archives. The exhibit is comprised of 36 images and 29 pages of text on wood panels. Funded by a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the exhibit will be presented at four locations throughout Mississippi in 2012.

Dr. Deanne Nuwer, project director and associate professor of history at Southern Miss Gulf Coast, explains the project’s significance is due to the combination of art and history, which highlights the Creole experience in Hancock County. She states that the Labat family is a prime example of the vibrant Creole culture that contributed to the historic significance and appeal of Hancock County. 

“We are so pleased to be working with Lori Gordon on this project so that everyone can experience her artistic talents and, at the same time, become acquainted with the Creole contributions to the development of Hancock County, Miss. This project is the best of both disciplines,” said Nuwer.

Gordon adds that while the project has personal significance for her, she believes that it has profound public value as well. “Visual art is a powerful form of storytelling and, combined with the compelling voice of Celestine Labat, the result is an experience that is intriguing, enlightening and unforgettable.”

In addition to The Labat Project and as part of the Hancock County Library System’s Black History Month celebration, the works of famed sculptor and Bay St. Louis native Richmond Barthe’ will also be on display at the library. Barthe’ and Celestine Labat grew up together in Bay St. Louis.

Handwritten postcards and letters by Barthe’, along with numerous photos and newspaper clippings, will also be on display. These items have been in the library’s collection and some items are personal correspondence from Barthé to local residents. Both exhibitions will be on display through March 31.

For more information on The Labat Project, contact the Katrina Research Center at 228.214.3423 or email krc@usm.edu. Additional information is available at http://thelabatproject.blogspot.comor contact Lori K. Gordon at 228.671.6146 or email lorikgordon@gmail.com.