Francois Mignon on Clementine's African House

If the African House were the sole structure at the Melrose French Creole Plantation in Natchitoches, Louisiana, it would more than merit a visit. It is one of nine structures you can see on your sightseeing tour of Melrose.

Francois Mignon, a prolific, gifted writer and member of the artist’s colony at Melrose relates the following endearing incident:

“It was on a hot day in July in the mid 1950's that scenes of plantation life in Louisiana began to appear along the walls of the African House. The artist was Clementine Hunter who lived in her cabin on Melrose Plantation. Well do I remember when Clementine Hunter…first tried her hand at painting. She tapped at my door, said that she had found these twisted tubes (of paint) while cleaning up and that she believed she could ‘mark a picture on her own…if she sot her mind to it.'”

She presented her first picture to Mignon who replied, “Sister, you don’t know it but this is just the first of a whole lot of pictures you are going to bring me in the years ahead“.

Francois was right and the rest is history.

(Original Post by Mr. Doyle Bailey)

Clementine Hunter's African House Murals

This week we bid a temporary farewell to our lovely Clementine Hunter African House murals as they headed to Houston, TX for some much-needed conservation.

The murals date back to 1955 and have been a gallery fixture in the Melrose African House for almost 60 years. Due to various environmental factors, the murals were beginning to show the initial signs of fatigue. In addition, the African House will soon be undergoing preservation of it's own, so the timing of the mural conservation was fitting.

After much consideration, the APHN selected the Fine Art Conservators of Whitten & Proctor to take on the project. (Quote from one of the conservators.) "The conservators at Whitten & Proctor Fine Art Conservation are very much looking forward to our collaboration with Melrose Plantation, caring for the Clementine Hunter murals from African House," said Jill Whitten. 

Although the murals will be in Houston for a while, we still have many other Clementines on display in the Big House gallery. We'll also be revealing details soon on an exciting interim exhibit in the upstairs of the African House. 

This costly project would not be possible without a generous contribution from long-time APHN Member Miss Theodosia Nolan. We are so grateful for her continuing support.

The Melrose Library

Melrose is in the process of updating, improving, and developing exhibit spaces throughout the house museum and historic site.

Our staff began work on the morning of January 21, 2013 by removing each book from the library and sorting it according to its age and ownership by the Henry family. Significantly damaged books were also removed for proper storage.

By the end of Day 1 the library was empty and installation of the new lighting began. The site caretaker installed florescent fixtures inside the book cases to provide off-set room lighting and draw the visitor’s attention to the books on display. The top shelf in each section was trimmed down to allow more light to flow into the bookcase. Each shelf was then vacuumed, cleaned, and painted where necessary.

Books were then vacuumed and carefully placed back on display. Additional collection items and furniture were moved back into the room. The final step was to install the necessary conservation tools to further protect the collection of books at Melrose.

After 4 days of exhibit work, the library was reopend. The first group to see the work completed were students from Mansfield High School. Their teacher commented, “It didn’t look this good last year!” We are excited to be able to provide visitors with a new experience in the Library exhibit and hope to continue to meet and exceed our visitor’s expectations each day. 

This project is supported by a gift from The Rapides Foundation.

Economic Impact of the Fall Tour of Homes

Fall Tour: A Vital Economic Asset(Presented by: Schulz, B., Yandell, K., Springer, M., Walen, D., James, K., Walker, J., and Smith, J.)

Graduate students from Northwestern State University completed an economic impact study for the APHN Fall Tour of Homes. The purpose of the Economic Impact Study is to assess the financial impact of the tour and project the amount of ‘new money’ created in the community of Natchitoches, Louisiana. If there are a large number of attendees who travel more than 30 miles to partake in the 58th Annual Fall Pilgrimage Tour of homes, then a positive economic impact will be estimated for the city and surrounding communities. The 2012 Fall Tour brought an estimated $509,000 in economic impact to the community.

93 surveys were collected at random. Questions included the participant identifying where they live, how many are traveling in their group, how long they were staying in town, and estimated spending on food, drinks, souvenirs, lodging, and gas.

Using the average ticket price of $37.66; approximately 536 tickets were purchased for the Tour of Homes.

“New Money” is defined as money introduced into the community that would not be available to the area (over 30 miles). $27,278 of new money was spent (ticket sale not included). In other words, each visitor who came to Natchitoches only for Tour of Homes spent $357.82. The total money (people coming just for Fall Tour and people who would be in Natchitoches anyway) was $27,820.

The impact multiplier for Natchitoches is 2.8 which makes the economic impact of Fall Tour of Homes approximately $509,037.73.

This study has several limitations including the fact that ticket sales are roughly estimated and the data from participants is self-reported. But these numbers are shocking. Fall Tour has an enormous impact on the local economy with 57% spent on food and lodging; hotels, B&Bs, and restaurants benefit most from the event.

What we discovered during this project is that primarily “new money” is generated. This is money that would not have been spent in Natchitoches without Fall Tour of Homes. We have a “tangible opportunity to increase the local economy,” and APHN is proud to have such an impact on the vitality of the community.

(Originally posted by Adam Foreman)

Robert Wilson's Clementine Hunter-Inspired Exhibit

"To highlight the work of African American folk artist Clementine Hunter, participants in the Watermill Center Summer Program recreated African House, a structure on Melrose Plantation in Louisiana, where Hunter worked and painted. The center’s reimagined house, positioned at the epicenter of the event, served as a gallery for Hunter’s colorful, deeply personal canvases." - BizBash 

View the complete slideshow here.