Darrell Smith, left, and Hannah Gumbo hold photos of Calvin Smith in front of a barn being painted by Gumbo. The 43-foot mural celebrates the life of Calvin Smith. (Photo by Harlan Kirgan)
Barn mural honors barefoot Cajun dad
The Smith barn on La. 758 is getting a fresh coat of paint, but it isn’t the usual job.
Eunice artist Hannah Gumbo has been working the past three weeks on a barn mural depicting the life of Calvin Smith.
His son, Darrell, lives on the property, and gives directions as “eight curves or two and half miles” away from U.S. 190.
Calvin Smith died when he was 49 years old in 1973.
Darrell says his mother, Joyce Young Smith, lived into her 70s and her presence permeates the house.
“We felt like dad’s presence is with us, but in the house we see a lot of mom’s things .. so we decided to create a legacy to honor him,” Darrell said.
“His DNA is imprinted all over this land,” he said.
Calvin Smith was a farmer who also worked with the state department of revenue.
“His biggest love was being a farmer and being with his wife and his five children,” he said.
Calvin raised cattle, grew rice, raised a garden and in 1962 he and his neighbors and family raised the barn.
“We decided that we wanted to celebrate his life in a way that we would see it every day,” he said.
“I had met Hannah through another friend and we contacted her,” Darrell said. “For about nine months we’ve been planning this and it is now actually being executed.”
Gumbo — her name as an artist — focused on the family’s memories of Calvin Smith and decided on a quilt-like design. The quilt pattern tells a story about the Cajun farmer who preferred to walk around barefooted, liked to hunt and served in World War II in Europe.
“I love the idea of quilts,” Gumbo said. “I work that into a lot of my work because I think a quilt is sort of a way to tell a story and you’re taking what you have and you are weaving it together to create something new.”
Gumbo, who did the mural in Eunice at 2nd Street and Walnut Avenue, said painting a barn is a first for her.
“...with these stories and with the barn we are taking old tin, new tin and new paint and old memories and we are putting it all together as this beautiful statement,” she said.
The barn in the Faquetigue community, when it is completed for a Halloween party, will become St. Landry Parish’s newest tourist site.
Darrell says the St. Landry Parish Tourism Commission is going to list it as a place of interest to visit.
Darrell, 67, calls it the best place on earth.