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In 1982, the celebrated Louisiana portraitist George Rodrigue painted this image of Walker Percy. Last year, Rodrigue and his wife Wendy gave permission for us to use the image to promote the Walker Percy Weekend festival, set for June 6-8, 2014. On her blog, Wendy Rodrigue gave some background to the Percy portrait. More:

George Rodrigue and I discuss often today, as we did within the swamps, of our dreams and of things much bigger than ourselves. We talk of black holes and space exploration. (As I write these words, in fact, unable to paint as he nurses a cold, George watches a documentary on comets.) We ponder past lives and the idea that all humanity, in one way or another, seeks meaning. We discuss the importance of our words and actions as they affect others, and as they affect the future.

As you may have seen, George Rodrigue died from cancer in December. Before he passed, the artist signed a single Walker Percy Weekend poster, which he encouraged us to use for festival fundraising. Click on the WPW link to see the poster.

When he signed the poster, Rodrigue had no idea what a treasure the gift of it would be to our little festival. This morning, several of us organizers were talking about the best way to honor Rodrigue’s intent for the poster. Our festival is itself a fundraiser for the 501(c)(3) Julius Freyhan Foundation, a non-profit arts and culture organization in St. Francisville. We have had some success raising tax-deductible donations for the Walker Percy Weekend from businesses and individuals (e.g., one of you readers, who may wish to remain anonymous, gave $1,000 in thanksgiving for what Percy’s work did to bring him into the Catholic Church, and Walker and Bunt’s daughter Ann also gave a donation).

But putting on a festival, even on a small scale, is expensive. For example, we have some big names coming in to speak on panels (e.g., Wilfred McClay, Peter Augustine Lawler, Ralph C. Wood, Micah Mattix), and they’re all doing it for no honorarium. All we can offer them is a place to stay, through the generosity of local innkeepers. We would love to be able to pay their travel costs and give them an honorarium. So, we continue trying to raise money.

My crowdsourcing question to you: what is the best way to maximize George and Wendy Rodrigue’s gift to the festival? The Rodrigues intend for us to raise money for this good cause with their gift. What’s the best way to do that, do you think?

I love the thought of this portrait of a great Louisiana artist, painted by a great Louisiana artist, being used to promote a festival celebrating art and culture. This is truly a special piece of work. Visitors to the festival will be able to buy prints of the poster, but there is only one in the world that is signed by George Rodrigue. And that’s the only one there ever will be. What should we do with it?

UPDATE: A slight correction. The image is not of the Walker Percy Weekend poster. Rather, it’s a poster print of Rodrigue’s Walker Percy portrait (above), signed by the artist. So, you’ll get what you see above, with Rodrigue’s signature.