A renewed effort has been launched to create a James Lee Burke sculpture in downtown New Iberia | New


These days, sightings of James Lee Burke are rare in New Iberia, the Acadian town that the prolific and popular author and his famous fictional character, the flawed detective Dave Robicheaux, put on the literary map.

That could change one day, if local Burke enthusiasts can raise the funds to erect a life-size sculpture of Burke, who spent summers in Iberia Parish as a boy, later lived in Bayou Teche and staged several of his 40 novels in the parish. Burke now lives in Montana.

The statue is planned near Bouligny Plaza, facing Main Street and the Victor Cafeteria in downtown New Iberia. Houston-area artist Shirley Scarpetta will create the piece.

“We’ll have him looking forward, wearing jeans, boots, a cowboy hat and a flannel shirt,” said local artist Paul Schexnayder, who chairs the effort to raise $125,000 for the statue. and for the costs of the surrounding landscape to complete it. .

Schexnayder said the effort to raise the funds and build the statue was started about a year ago. It grew due to the town’s affection for Burke, who has ties to the annual New Iberia Literary Festival and whose many books attract streams of tourists to visit Iberia Parish.

Schexnayder said while the idea for the statue isn’t new, the effort seems to have garnered more interest from the now 84-year-old author who, aside from promoting his books, is a “humble” man who avoids publicity.

A gazebo can be moved to the intended area for the statue and a countdown can begin on fundraising. The effort has raised around $30,000 so far, and Schexnayder said further fundraising could help.

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Schexnayder said other Southern authors have erected statues in their honor in their hometowns and fans love having their pictures taken by them. A proper statue would be another stop for tourists to New Iberia, who already scour the landscape for places where Burke’s fictional characters have wandered.

Scarpetta said it would take about four to six months to create the statue once the funds are raised. She said she had discussions with the committee but had not started planning for the statue.

“Paul wants to wait until the funds are there,” she said. What she creates, she says, will depend on what the committee wants — maybe Burke with his signature hat, maybe holding a book.

Scarpetta began sculpting in 2007. She made her first major piece of public art about 10 years ago and dedicated herself full-time to her work about five years ago. She works in Tomball, a town of about 12,000 people outside of Houston.

She said she researched Burke and his work in preparation for sculpting Burke’s image.

A committee seeking funding for Burke’s sculpture is accepting donations. For more information, email paul@schex.com.


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