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.
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?
Good luck! If you do find a Gator, drop us a line here at Caterpickles. We’d love to hear all about him.
Happy public art hunting!
- The Little Gator Hunter’s Facebook page
- Gators on the Geaux: Where are they now? (KPLC TV)
- The Pelican Girls‘ Gator Collection
- What’s That, Mom?: How to use public art to engage your children with the world around them… without being an artist yourself by Shala Howell (Did you know I had a book about public art? It’s full of tips for viewing public art with kids ages 3-10. This link takes you to Amazon, but it’s also available on IndieBound.)
- What’s That, Mom? (The Journal): Field Notes from your Encounters with Public Art out in the Wild by Shala Howell (A customized journal for viewing public art with kids. This link takes you to Amazon, but you can also find it on IndieBound.)