It’s the kids who bridge the art. To be studied by a child is the best way to connect with the future and is more important than hanging on the walls with great masters. This experience gave both me and Wendy a completely different view and impact, and maybe even a new beginning.George Rodrigue, 2013
I established the Life & Legacy Foundation because I believe, as did my late husband, George Rodrigue, in the importance of active, in person engagement through storytelling and the arts. This interaction nurtures creative thinking, promotes honest dialogue, encourages respect for diverse opinions, and establishes imagination as the key to it all. George Rodrigue’s work is relatable and honest, but also fascinating and mysterious. During the last decade of his life, we visited schools together worldwide, because as he said, “It’s the kids who bridge the art. It is more important to study with a child than it is to hang on the walls of the greatest museums.”
George and I began this philanthropic exercise years ago, having no idea that it would become a lifetime mission. We drove coast to coast with a truck full of art supplies so that he could paint for the children as I shared his inspirational story of overcoming adversity to achieve his dreams. Following George’s death in 2013, what began for me as a statewide Louisiana tour of schools developed into a nationwide arts-in-education mission within not only schools, but also museums, community groups, and any venue open to the wonders of art!
In our increasingly digital society, there is no substitute for personal interaction through storytelling and the arts. Today, accompanied most often by my current husband, Douglas Magnus, we drive thousands of miles annually on this human-to-human mission. It’s a learning experience that without question nurtures me, Douglas, the teachers, parents, and everyone present, as much as the kids. It’s as though we are rediscovering what was lost! I explain to children during ‘unplugged’ sessions, “I brought you these original paintings, because I could not bring you George.” Since establishing Life & Legacy in 2017, I’ve visited personally with approximately 60,000 students during hundreds of presentations, now expanded to partnerships with arts organizations, school districts, and museums nationwide.
This unique programming would not be possible without the organizational skills of L&L’s Outreach Coordinator, Heather Parker, and the curatorial skills of our Curator of Exhibitions, Dana Holland-Beickert.
Heather (who is also my sister!) has worked with George and me behind the scenes for nearly thirty years, developing and maintaining websites, producing print and marketing materials, organizing school tours and events, and much more.
Dana first curated a major Rodrigue exhibition in 2007 at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, followed by the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2008. Since then, we have worked on dozens of Rodrigue exhibitions together, weaving elements of Rodrigue’s art into career-spanning statements that surprise and delight even those most familiar with his work.
My current husband, Douglas Magnus, is also an extraordinary artist, as well as a longtime friend and artistic collaborator to George Rodrigue. He accompanies me on this ambitious journey, hauling art, driving the truck, and providing love, support, patience, and enthusiasm all the way.
I extend my admiration, respect, and immense gratitude to Heather Parker, Dana Holland-Beickert, Douglas Magnus, and the countless teachers, parents, museum staff, volunteers and supporters. I look forward to many more art-filled adventures together!
The Life & Legacy Foundation with Wendy Rodrigue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that inspires children of all ages and diverse backgrounds with a unique programming centered on the life and art of American artist George Rodrigue (1944-2013).