Thursday, April 10, 2008

A gathering of Eagles and Blue Dogs

Last night I had the pleasure to attend a gathering of several hundred area Boy Scouts and adult leader called Scouters at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The reason was a special exhibit of Norman Rockwell and Joseph Csatari paintings that were on display as a special traveling show with the new Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca visiting New Orleans for the first time in the position he accepted last May. Norman Rockwell was one of my favorite painters and many of the wholesome Americana images he captured on canvas dealt with Scouting. Csatari was his pupil and has carried the torch proudly since Rockwell's death. Many of the paintings, like Rockwell's "The Scoutmaster" have become icons in and of themselves. It was unbelievably moving to see these paintings and drawings up close and all together. Also on display was an incredible retrospective on the hallowed career of George Rodrigue, the Cajun artist whose "Blue Dog" paintings have become world famous. Many will note that the very popular Blue Dog was at first based on the Cajun legend of the loup garou, a Cajun werewolf legend. Rodrigue based the image on his former pet who had died four years earlier. At first the eyes burned red with anger and menace. Later, though, as the animal appeared more frequently in Rodrigue's paintings along with other famous personages like Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, Huey Long, Earl Long, and others, the eyes became a softer, friendlier yellow. The exhibitions were wonderful, but the highlight of the evening was the speech by Mazzuca, which noted the incredible progress the Southeast Louisiana Council has made since the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. At one point, the former 16,000 youth members of BSA units in the council had ebbed to 3,600. At the end of 2007 the council had regained to a level of 11,000, but approximately one-third (similar to the loss of population across the city) has been lost. I was proud to accompany my Eagle Scout son David, who like all Eagle Scouts in attendance pledged to continue to help Scouting in future years. We were fortunate to sit with our troop's Scoutmaster, Gene von Rosenberg, who has been Scoutmaster of Troop 48 (charter-partnered with St. Andrew's Episcopal Church) for the last 25 years. Tonight, a similar event at the New Orleans Museum of Art will be held with George Rodrigue also in attendance.

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