(June 3, 2011)

Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073

Editorial: We are richer for the experiences Dr. Jean Brierre made possible

NOTE: The following editorial appeared in the Shreveport Times June 3. Dr. Brierre passed away May 16, 2011 at the age of 95.

The passing of Dr. Jean Brierre is a significant loss to the Shreveport community.

Dr. Jean Brierre
Dr. Jean Brierre

A gentleman and a scholar, his many contributions to the medical field are well documented, as are his strong faith and decades of dedication and support to the Catholic Church. Less known, but of great importance, were Dr. Brierre's cultural contributions through his collection of Haitian art.

Centenary College's Meadows Museum of Art organized the groundbreaking exhibition in 1992 titled (by Dr. Brierre himself) "Haitian Cultural Legacy." The depth of his 200-piece collection was awe-inspiring and enhanced because he personally knew so many of the artists.

For three months, from January through April 1992, Dr. B (as we affectionately called him) generously loaned almost all his art so the community could be educated about the history and vitality of the art of his native country of Haiti. Meadows Museum staffers, docents, volunteers, Shreveport Art Guild members and the community at large joyously reveled in the brilliant colors, rhythms, history and narratives that are Haitian art.

With a marvelous collaboration of community organizations, we presented 19 different programs featuring scholars from Yale and Tulane universities and Centenary, and local performing groups. Through it all, Dr. B's wit and lilting French-accented voice educated us in the specifics of Haitian history, geography and art genres. He also ensured some of the Haitian artists were in Shreveport for the gala opening.

Some of our most dedicated docents came from Dr. B's broad circle of friends, such as Eursla Hardy and Fay Greene. These and many other enthusiastic docents led hundreds of school tours for thousands of students, engaging them in exceptional learning experiences. The Shreveport Art Guild underwrote the public school bus transportation for field trips. Well-developed educational packets reached many more students throughout Louisiana.

Many remember this milestone exhibition and gratefully acknowledge Dr. Brierre's singular contribution to the cultural landscape of north Louisiana.

It was a privilege to know this Renaissance man and bask in his eagerness to share his passion for Haitian art with us all. An individual of such wisdom and humanity seldom graces one's life.

I was fortunate to call Dr. Brierre my friend. And I remember him with fond memories as a man who generously shared his keen intellect, compassion for the human condition and passion for the arts. We are richer for the experiences Dr. Brierre made possible. We witnessed an extraordinary individual who bridged two worlds and, in the process, changed many lives in our community.

Judy Godfrey is president emerita of The Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, and a former director of Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College in Shreveport.

About Centenary College of Louisiana

Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and has been recognized as "One of the Best 373 Colleges" by the Princeton Review and one of "America's Best Colleges" and one of "America's Best Private Colleges" by Forbes.com. In 2008 Centenary College celebrated 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.