Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

50 States of Public Art: Gators on the Geaux in Lake Charles, Louisiana

See You Later Alligator by Fred Stark. (Photo by The Pelican Girls)

Public art is everywhere, and in some parts of the country you can even still go out and enjoy it. (Sorry, snow-packed Northerners, the public art portion of this blog is headed south for the winter.) This week on Caterpickles, we meet an eleven-year-old boy who is nearly as excited about his town’s gators as my daughter is about the Dedham bunnies.

Gators on the Geaux in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Public Art Program: Gators on the Geaux, 2001-2002

Purpose: Fundraiser for the Lake Charles Symphony

Location: In and around Lake Charles, Louisiana

Source: Tip from reader Victoria M, who pointed me to a story on KPLC, Gators on the Geaux: Where are they now?

In 2001, the Lake Charles Symphony sponsored a public art project to raise awareness and funds for their music programs. The project called for artist-decorated alligator statues to be placed in 70 locations around southwest Louisiana.

The Gators on the Geaux alligators were primarily decorated with paint. Artists also used elements like glass scales and bones to add character to their creations.

At the end of the project, the alligators were sold to various collectors in the area. In a 2017 interview with Jillian Corder of KPLC TV, Lake Charles Symphony Executive Director Shelly Appleby said that the Gators on the Geaux program ultimately raised more than $150,000 for the symphony. 

In the intervening years, many of the gators have been sold on to other collectors, brought into private homes, or destroyed by hurricanes and vandals. All of which makes it much harder to find them out in the wild these days.

So why feature Gators on the Geaux? 

Eleven-year-old Brandon Fruge hadn’t even been born yet when the Gators on the Geaux first appeared in his community. But after spotting an old poster of the Gators several years ago, he became obsessed with finding them all. He and his mother have devoted countless hours to hunting down the remaining Gators, and maintain a Facebook page of their finds.

This is a family after our own hearts.

Katrina Stephens and Lexi Hagen at The Pelican Girls have also spent quite a lot of time hunting down the Gators. So far, they’ve found and posted information on 23 Gators on the Geaux. (In fact, I pulled the picture of the See You Later Alligator by Fred Stark at the top of this post from their blog.)

You can find See You Later Alligator outside 1407 West Prien Lake Road in Lake Charles, and The Pelican Girls’ blog post about it here.

Want to see a few Gators on the Geaux for yourself?

Your best best is to start with The Pelican Girls’ blog or to visit the Little Gator Hunter’s Facebook page to get pointers on where to find the remaining Gators on the Geaux in the wild. 

Good luck! If you do find a Gator, drop us a line here at Caterpickles. We’d love to hear all about him.

Want to go, but need help selling it to your kids?  

The fact that public art is installed in public spaces creates all sorts of opportunities for family fun. Pack a picnic lunch, a kite or a frisbee, and pair the outing with a trip to a nearby park or playground. If you have one, consider bringing your dog.

Don’t have time for a full-fledged outing? Challenge your kids to keep their eyes open while you are out and about doing something else. I bet they (or you) will spot something interesting on your next walk, bike ride, or errand run.

My book, What’s That, Mom?: How to use public art to engage your children with the world around them… without being an artist yourself, is full of tips like these for making public art sightings fun for your entire family.

What’s That, Mom? provides 15 accessible, practical strategies for using public art to spark conversations with children between the ages of 3 and 10 — no artistic talent or insight required. What’s That, Mom? is available at Bookshop.org and Amazon. There’s even a journal to go with it so that your kids can sketch their favorite works of art and you can record your favorite moments from your outing.

NOTE: The above paragraph contains affiliate links to Bookshop.org, an online bookstore that provides financial support to local, independent bookstores. At the time I wrote this post, Bookshop.org had already raised $12.8m for local bookstores. If you use the link in the previous paragraph to purchase my book on Bookshop.org, I’ll earn a commission on your book purchase, as will your preferred independent bookshop. You can also find my book in the new Caterpickles BookstoreRegardless of whether you use my links or visit the Caterpickles Bookstore, thank you for spending part of your day reading Caterpickles. Learn more about Affiliate Links, the Caterpickles Bookstore, and why I decided to become a Bookshop.org Affiliate.

Happy public art hunting!

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