- Associated Press - Sunday, March 26, 2017

HAMMOND, La. (AP) - A coastal landscaping photography course at LUMCON was the beginning of the merging of art and science in a short documentary called “Last Island” to help bring light to Louisiana’s disappearing coast.

Gary Lafleur, an associate professor of biological sciences at Nicholls State University and biologist who helped with the course, said coastal scientists mostly talk to each other, and all of them understand what’s going on coastally in south Louisiana. However, he wanted to increase public awareness, so he teamed up with then Nicholls art professor Dennis Sipiorski.

“A lot of times biologists don’t get to hang out with artists, even though we are on the same campus,” Lafleur said. “It’s just not part of our normal day, and it takes a little bit of an extra step to kind of collaborate.”

Sipiorski later went on to teach at Southeastern University. There, the duo of professors were joined by Ernest Milsted, an art professor at Southeastern and a Houma native.

Last year, Dylan Maras, a former student of Milsted and Sipiorki, and owner of White Donut Productions, and his friend Tom Nguyen, brought their drones out to the barrier islands in south Louisiana to film the three working together.

“You’ve got an artist’s perspective from a professor, and then you have a biologist’s perspective,” said Maras. “It’s really interesting for us with White Donut Productions as well to work with content that kind of shows perspectives through all these other artists that we collaborate with as well.”

The goal of the film was to help bring awareness to not only the work they were doing but also to the need for coastal restoration in south Louisiana, Maras said.

Over the past few years, Maras said he has spent a lot of time in Houma and is really getting to know the local area.

“I’m realizing how many people survive on either the oil industry or fishing and just the area over there,” Maras said. “If that’s the case, then how many people can afford to move?”

When Maras found out about what the professors were working on in coastal Louisiana, he said he wanted to go with them one day out to the islands.

So the group headed out to Trinity Island, more commonly known by locals as the Last Island. Milsted said he wanted to get some drone footage “just to see what happens.”

“What started out as simply taking a scouting trip, turned into Dylan and Tom really taking off from there and saying, ‘well why don’t we not only get the footage, but put together a little documentary about these trips to the island,’” Milsted said.

Last year, the three professors and Daniel Kariko, an art professor at East Carolina University and former Nicholls art student, were planning an exhibition of artwork at the Hammond Regional Art Center to present some of their work on coastal Louisiana. The title of their show was called “Last Island.”

They decided that would be the ideal time to release the film.

“The short film become sort of a documentary on all of our work but also something to promote awareness about the coast and that sort of thing,” Milsted said.


Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com

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