Battle Of The Notebooks
● By Aimee Cormier
By Lyndsy Bradley
Home – the word means something different to each individual. The associations and emotions people experience when thinking of their “home” are unique to them. That’s why New Iberia’s Envision da Berry and Tarts & Arts are inviting local artist and writers to “Show me YOUR New Iberia.” That’s the theme of the first annual “Battle of the Notebooks,” where contestants will depict their interpretation of their hometown’s community to win prizes and recognition.
The rules are simple: register before July 26 and pay a fee of $10 for kids and $20 for adults. Applicants will receive a notebook to be used as the framework for one of three categories: painting and drawings, photography or poetry. All notebooks will be turned in on Aug. 1 and put on display at NILA Gallery, 301 W. St. Peter St., later in August.
“Recently, while discussing future events, we realized our main focus is knowing what the people of our community want to see our area grow into. We also want to find out how they perceive this community,” says Ashley Maillet, committee member and co-founder of Tarts & Arts. “Being that we are geared toward the creative arts side, we wanted to create an event that mixed the two.”
For years, people have left Iberia Parish following high school graduation to pursue opportunities elsewhere, resulting in an overall decline for Iberia Parish, according to Envision da Berry’s official website, daberry.org. Battle of the Notebooks is in effort to engage the community and foster the creative entrepreneurial spirit back into New Iberia.
“Our main reason for this event is to show our community that we are here to listen and to see their views on Iberia,” says Maillet. “We want to know the good and bad as well as how they perceive Iberia from a past, present and future eye.
“Besides talking about it, we are giving them the opportunity to be creative and have their vision on display for our community to see,” Maillet explains. “These will be timeless pieces – artwork and poetry from locals of all ages that will have an impact on the growth of our community. It is not just one person’s Iberia; it is our Iberia and it is time for us to give the community the stage.”
Tarts & Arts, which began as a business idea based on a shared passion for coffee and pastries between Maillet and Elizabeth Shensky, evolved into a monthly event highlighting local culinary and visual artists at NILA Gallery.
Though Maillet and Shensky stepped away from the business to pursue other opportunities, Maillet credits Envision da Berry with keeping the platform’s momentum alive.
“I wanted to keep Tarts & Arts going for other locals who have passions in these areas and who need an incubator to help promote their name,” Maillet says. “Envision da Berry then decided to keep the event going and have a committee take over.”
After all, the main goal of the organization, Envision da Berry, is to support local creative and artistic activities and open dialogue on innovative ways to improve cultural and economic development within Iberia Parish says board member Dianna Parrie.
“We provide an alternative path to Iberia Parish’s existing trajectory by opening up new streams of opportunity and new creative markets,” says Parrie. “We have developed a model for generating a shared vision by opening up public spaces to leaders and the individuals within the community through art and information.
“We seek to lay out the welcome mat for the ‘lost generations’ of Iberia Parish to return home and participate in the evolving creative economy,” Parrie adds. “We seek to build creative opportunities, establish cultural resources and breathe fresh life back into this place in time for the next generation.”
One contestant, Jennifer Smith, says she sees Battle of the Notebooks as an opportunity to get back into mediums like pencil and ink to draw the New Iberia landmarks she’s admired since moving to Iberia Parish from Broken Arrow, Okla. in 2011.
“I started coming to visit New Iberia in 2007, from Oklahoma, and I immediately fell in love with this town. It’s beautiful here,” Smith says. “It’s a city with a small town feel and the people are so nice.
“I love the history of New Iberia and Louisiana – running boats up and down the Bayou Teche and Bayou Patout, talking to boat captains and seeing all the wildlife that lives in the bayous is something we would never have the opportunity to do in Oklahoma,” she says of the landscape that will inspire her artwork. “When I saw the post for Battle of the Notebooks I thought ‘oh, it’s on!’” exclaims Smith. “I hope it will bring new and old artists together. It will be fun to see everyone’s interpretations of New Iberia.”