Here in New Orleans, when we think of festival posters, we think of Jazz Fest. But the rest of the state also embraces this tradition, commissioning artists to commemorate annual events.
These local celebrations are an integral part of each area’s agricultural product or cultural history. The poster tradition reaches back more than fifty years throughout our state. These days, the artist most in demand is Tony Bernard.
Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, Bernard spent years seeking credibility, entering Louisiana’s Duck Stamp Contest, where he placed 2nd and 3rd three years running. By 2007, discouraged and ready to abandon the effort, he entered one last time at his wife Roxie’s urging:
“You’ll surely never win if you don’t enter!” she exclaimed.
With only two weeks until the contest, he gave it one more shot, learning a life’s lesson as he landed first place and the official 2007 Louisiana Duck Stamp.
Since that time, Bernard enjoys multiple festival poster commissions, including two years running for the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. Last year, 2011, marked the festival’s first sell-out poster. For Bernard, this is indeed an honor, as the Crawfish Festival’s cult following reaches New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival proportions, attracting thousands of people from around the world to the tiny Cajun town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.
For artists, festival posters challenge their creativity on several levels. The resulting artwork must satisfy the festival committee, its judges, the public, and ultimately, the artist’s personal artistic vision. Bernard creates posters pleasing to both the public and himself, translating to record-breaking sales.
“It was an uphill climb,” he admits about this year’s poster (pictured at the top of this story) for the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, “especially following my own sold-out print. Using bright colors, I shout ‘Zyde-Cajun!’ within my artwork. I include cypress trees, Cajun musical instruments, and the bayou itself, all part of a festival celebrating crawfish, the Cajun caviar.”
Bernard’s recent posters for the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival and Crowley Rice Festival also sold out or broke records, prompting commissions in both cases the following year.
With this record, Tony Bernard is the Festival Poster King of Louisiana, producing more festival posters today than any artist in the state. However, he remembers his roots and respects the tradition. For Bernard, this year’s Grand Marshall of the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, the honor is personal, boiling down less to his love of crawfish and Acadiana and more to his love of nostalgia and family.
“My dad and grandparents were from Breaux Bridge, and we visited every Sunday when I was a boy. It’s an unexpected joy, all these years later, to celebrate that memory with the official Crawfish Festival Poster.
“Like my wife Roxie and her role in the Duck Stamp, it was my mom, Shonie Bernard, her encouragement and her friends, who realized my sentimental attachment to the town of Breaux Bridge and its Crawfish Festival. My family’s belief in me and my art helped make my dreams come true.”
Meet artist Tony Bernard this weekend, May 4-6, when he serves as Grand Marshall of the 2012 Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. For information on this year’s poster, visit here-