Art at risk on the bayou; culture of a community sinking away
BAYOU CORNE, LA — One woman in Bayou Corne is fighting to keep her community's culture alive. She is doing it by using material from the bayou to make pieces of artwork, but a massive sinkhole might mean she could have to change her entire business.
"There is so much that I would like to capture,” Romero said. “I want to tell the story."
For painter Brenda Romero, that story is in Bayou Corne. It gives her the inspiration and materials she needs to make a masterpiece.
"I mean it was like I can't believe this is my backyard," Romero stated.
Brenda and her husband Nick roam the bayou picking up driftwood.
"It shows me in the wood what to paint. This would be a cypress knee in here. Then I would make a tree going up his way. So the wood tells a story of the bayou I mean it's been floating around and it's got a lot to say," Romero described while holding a piece of driftwood she picked up.
She's sold her driftwood art from her home in Bayou Corne and in area stores for 13 years.
"If I say I'm the lady who has the paintings at the gator corner they are like oh you are Brenda Romero, yeah," She chuckled. “The people here appreciate it and buy it so this is the best place to be. "
Romero’s business could soon change.
"Well, there are not many people left it is like a ghost town,” She noted.
On August 3, 2012 a massive sinkhole formed in the quiet community. Since then Romero and her neighbors have lived under a mandatory evacuation. She is worried for her family's safety.
The community she clung to for inspiration started to disappear.
Romero said, "You can't pick this neighborhood up all the people and move us. We can not replace what we have here."
Romero wants to be bought out by Texas Brine, but once that happens it will be harder for her to see her customers.
“Gas were to come up in our house we could die you know,” Romero fears.
She will have to travel miles to get back to the bayou once she has been bought out, costing her time and money she just does not have.
“I don't want to be a big factory,” Romero remarked. “I sort of enjoyed selling it down here.”
For now Romero continues to search the waters for wood, but the pain of dealing with the sinkhole is starting to take its toll.
"The thing I miss the most is the ability to have our grand children here. They like to paint with me in my art room," She said. “It's stretched out so long now I think we are all getting weaker to the fact that we are willing to take a chance to try and have some of those memories back again.”
Which is why Romero says no matter what she will not let the bayou's story go untold even if she has to tell it from somewhere else.
"Just not being here, I don't know, it would be a big void in my life," Romero said.