New Populations Initiative

Essays about refugee and immigrant communities in Louisiana and their traditions

A Better Life for All: Traditional Arts of Louisiana's Immigrant Communities

  • Exhibitor's kit with guide for teachers
  • Online exhibit. The traveling exhibit is no longer available.

Open Doors Mentoring Program for immigrant organizations


Rangoli, Baton Rouge, featured in the exhibit, A Better Life For All . . .

New Populations Project History

From 2005 until 2011 the New Populations Initiative of the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program reached out to our state's immigrant and refugee communities. The goal was to address an underserved sector within the cultural economy and provide an opportunity to engage these communities in the identification and documentation of their traditional culture and art forms. The project had the following components.

Quinceañera, Farmerville, featured in the exhibit, A Better Life For All . . .

New Populations Documentation

Our strategy was to reach out to these communities by documenting their traditions. Generally, documentation focused on folk traditions rather than classical or popular art forms, although we recognized that some classical or popular art forms take on new meanings in a diaspora setting. For more information about folklife, see Key Folklife Definitions. Fieldworkers documented community traditions, art forms, and events and then provided essays and photographs that are listed below. Fieldworkers also helped us identify the following in these communities and submitted a field report on their findings:

Folk Tradition-bearers - people who are maintaining traditions that have been in their community or family for many years, such as music, crafts, sacred traditions, occupational traditions, foodways, celebrations, or holidays.
Professional Artists - such as dancers, musicians, actors, creative writers, designers, painters, craftspeople, and filmmakers.
Organizations - groups that may want to apply for a grant to support arts activities or other cultural endeavors.
Community spokespeople - people who might like to participate in the statewide arts network or receive information about resources and opportunities.
Artifacts - items or displays that could be featured in a temporary museum exhibit in the future. The item might be loaned or recreated, such as an altar, handmade crafts.

Garifuna musicians, New Orleans, featured in the exhibit, A Better Life For All . . .

The focus of New Populations research was on communities with foreign-born members. However, documentation included the cultural practices of second—and sometimes third—generation community members, who are part of the cultural whole. Some of the individual artists had lived in Louisiana for over forty years, while others had recenlty arrived. New Populations documentation revealed that many immigrant communities have created non-profit organizations to support their cultural activities. These organizations may conduct language schools, produce concerts, and hold community celebrations. Many immigrant communities center around religious affiliation with a church, temple, or mosque. Some of Louisiana's cultural communities are comprised of individuals who would be unlikely to know each other back in their countries of origin, but who have sought out others from home, or those who speak their language or practice the same religion.

Open Doors Mentoring Program for Immigrant Organizations

The Open Doors Mentoring Program provided training and mentoring for immigrant organizations in 2010, 2011, and 2014.

Online Publications

Researchers provided essays about Louisiana's immigrant communities. Get started with the introductory essay, The Many Faces of the Bayou State: New Populations in Louisiana - an introduction to online resources. Click below to see a complete list. Projects that have a field report available upon request are marked with an *. To receive a copy of field reports, contact Maida Owens, or 225/342-8178.

Explore Louisiana's New Populations(click to expand or collapse)



* Music and Dance in South Louisiana's Cuban Community - Tomás Montoya González with T. Ariana Hall

Shreveport - Bossier City

Other Articles on Louisiana's New Populations:
These articles were written through initiatives other than the New Populations Project.

Traveling Exhibit and Exhibitor's Kit with Guide for Teachers

In collaboration with the Louisiana State Museum, the Folklife Program produced the traveling exhibit, A Better Life for All: Traditional Arts of Louisiana's Immigrant Communities. The traveling exhibit is composed of four free-standing panels suitable for libraries and other public venues. Contact Maida Owens,, 225-342-8178 for more information.

The exhibit, A Better Life For All . . . when installed.

The exhibitor's kit with guide for teachers is available online here.

Online exhibit

An expanded version of the exhibit is available online here: A Better Life for All: Traditional Arts of Louisiana's Immigrant Communities.

Other Resources

Explore Louisiana's many other cultures featured on this website. Start with the introductory essay, Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview.