THE XAVIER UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF ART: AN ARTISTIC LEGACY
The Art Department at Xavier University of Louisiana was established by Ferdinand Rousseve (1904-1965), a well-known architect and educator. From 1934 through 1948, he served as Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Xavier. Rousseve, a native of New Orleans, became the first licensed African American architect in the state of Louisiana after receiving an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Chicago in 1940 and a Ph.D. in Architecture from Harvard University in 1948.
From 1957 to 1974, Numa Rousseve (brother of Ferdinand) and Sister Lurana Neely, S.B.S., fostered the development of an Art Department marked by cooperative learning and a commitment to community-based arts projects. This emphasis has continued in the form of the Department’s Community Arts Program (CAP), established in 1999 by Art Department Professor Ron Bechet. CAP employs art and culture as a vehicle for community development, supporting student engagement in the revitalization of the Greater New Orleans area through art and cultural programs.
Current and former students have been highly active in CAP’s programs. These include the annual summer program Mardi Gras Indian Arts, which educates New Orleans-based youth about the significance of unique traditions derived from African American culture in New Orleans, and The Community Printshop, a series of adult printmaking workshops held on Saturdays.
Xavier Art Department graduates have distinguished themselves as professional artists, scholars, graphic designers, animators, gallery owners, arts educators, and business owners. The Department has produced an impressive number of successful artists, including Lyndon J. Barrois, Cheryl Dejoie-LaCabe, Kim Dummons, Frank Hayden, Louise Mouton Johnson, Terrance Osborne, William Pajaud, Martin Payton and Steve Prince.
This distinguished roster of Art Department alumni certainly includes John T. Scott (1940-2007), who earned a B.A. in Art from Xavier in 1962 and an MFA from Michigan State University in 1965. In 1992, he received a prestigious John D. MacArthur Fellowship, commonly called the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. By the time of his passing in 2007, Scott had been a Professor of Art at Xavier for more than forty years, serving as an actively-engaged artist, teacher, scholar and community activist. In this respect, Scott’s work may be viewed as part of an enduring, Departmental tradition of social transformation through art.
Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd
Assistant Professor, Department of Art, and Curator of University Art Collections, Xavier University of Louisiana