When we contacted Karley Bourque about this story, she was surprised to learn that a large magnolia
sculpture has been hanging in the lobby of New Iberia’s Special Ed building since July – even though
she knew it had been in the works. The piece was inspired by a sculpture she created eight years
earlier as an entry in a Parish-wide school art contest she won.
In 2012, Bourque – whose last name was Delahoussaye at the time – was a busy 11th grade student at
Westgate High enrolled in the Iberia Parish School Board Talent Program. The program’s Visual Arts
Talent Teacher Paul Schexnayder remembers, “Plans had been announced for the department to move
to the site of the old Magnolia Elementary School. At the time, the class was studying about Alexander
Calder, the artist who created the mobile. So, I got the idea to hold a contest for a design that would
be a protype for a large-scale version to hang in the lobby of the new building.”
“I had to be talked into entering the contest at first, because I had a lot on my plate at the time,” remembers Bourque, now married with a 3-year-old son. “Paul asked me to compete and try a medium I’d never done before; the challenge appealed to me, so I decided to use wire. I wanted to design something to illustrate the building’s roots – Magnolia Elementary.” Working with 10-gauge wire, it took Bourque two days to shape the magnolia to a 15-inch size and then cover the petals with plaster.
“When I found out I won, I was in shock! I asked Paul if he was sure I’d won,” Bourque smiles.
A year after she graduated, Bourque and her husband moved to North Carolina and then returned in 2016, and she lost track of the project.
Walter Voorhies, owner of Voorhies Machine Shop in New Iberia, volunteered to take on the task of making a metal interpretation of Bourque’s magnolia capable of hanging. He began by creating a one-dimensional pattern. “Working with aluminum, we wanted to stick to a simple design,” Voorhies says. New Iberia metal worker Skipper DeRouen was recruited to cut the eight aluminum petals, four short ones and four longer ones to create depth. With the help of machinist James Landry, the petals were slightly rolled to create a curvature and then attached to a one-inch NC all-threaded rod 36 inches long. With their bare aluminum finish, the petals come into the shape of a more modern magnolia. The unique seed pod in the center is made of two unsuspecting planter pots glued together. “The piece can be disassembled in case it has to be moved,” adds Voorhies.
Schexnayder says Special Education Director Flavia Eldridge was fully supportive of the contest and instrumental in the large mobile hanging in the department’s building. “It’s Flavia’s vision to get more student artwork displayed,” he says.
As time permits, Bourque continues her interest in art, sketching pencil drawings and doing some painting – mostly still life.
She plans to bring her son to see her hanging design when he’s old enough to appreciate his mother’s part in the project. “I hope it inspires him to be interested in art,” Bourque says. “Still, I’m proud that something is hanging there for everyone to see that was inspired by my design.”