MATTHEW SIGUR • APRIL 26, 2012
A huge part of what makes Festival International a cultural experience is its block-long tents, full of merchants from across the globe and even in the state. Across the street from Antlers Bar and Grill, right next to Parc Sans Souci, more than 75 Louisiana artists are showing off their paintings, jewelry, furniture, stained glass, and other items. It's easy to get overwhelmed as each piece has its own tale. Patrons could spend days just at the tents, examining each artist's gift. With many of these artisans, this isn't their first trip to the downtown extravaganza. Mitch Landry has come to Festival since 2004 with his stainless steel fish sculptures. For the past five years, Beatrix Bell has brought her boutique jewelry from Baton Rouge. Miles Peterson of Cypress Creations has been to Festival more than a dozen times, equipped with his furniture. Each artist with a different skill, yet, each one either depending on the business Festival brings them or just coming out of a habit of enjoyment. "I love going to Lafayette," Bell said. "The arts market is curated wonderfully. The people of Lafayette are discerning, and they love things made in Louisiana." For Bell, her jewelry has been an almost-two-decade-long passion. Her work garnered worldwide attention as she set up a tent in France for the Montbéliard Festival, representing Louisiana. As you can tell, these aren't your run-of-the-mill craft tents. At one time, Peterson's cypress rocking chairs and tables provided means for he and his family until the recession hit. But that hasn't stopped him from creating in his shop. "It's kind of my hobby, now," Peterson said. "When I can, I stay here and work. I could stay in the shop all night and just get into a project." Peterson enjoys interacting with all the different people: "I've talked to people from all over the world." Landry, like Peterson, doesn't consider himself much of an artist. He's just doing something he loves. "When I first started doing this, people called me an artist," Landry said. "I'm just a guy that pounds on metal. It's nice to be thought of as an artist." Landry's display at Festival's Marches des Arts is his biggest event. Like the other artists, he's full of compliments about Lafayette and the Festival aura: "It's always been very good to me."