A poinsettia sculpture was unveiled in Natchitoches Friday, the first of a planned series of public art projects produced in collaboration with the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the Cane River National Heritage Area and Northwestern State University’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.
The Natchitoches In Bloom concept was inspired by similar initiatives in other cities to celebrate the culture and heritage of each place.
The sculpture, which honors the life of Sadie Maggio Dark, is the first Natchitoches In Bloom piece unveiled with recognition of NSU professor of art Corbin Covher and Emily Dawson, a graduating senior art student. It’s located at the Santa Claus House on the riverbank in downtown Natchitoches, appropriate due to the Maggio family’s long history with the Santa Claus House.
“They were trying to envision what would be a good shape repeated all over Natchitoches. I thought it would be better if they were one-of-a-kind instead of all being the same sculpture. They mentioned flowers and I agreed to do the sculptures and the Natchitoches In Bloom project blossomed,” Covher said. “I took the initiative to create an experiential learning class, where students get to experience working on real public sculpture with me. Several students, including Emily Dawson, were involved in going to meetings, designing and fabricating the steel sculptures. It was an opportunity that allowed students to learn valuable skills like metal manipulation and welding through the execution of a cool project.”
Dark was a lifelong resident of Natchitoches. She was born November 22, 1921, daughter of Sam and Carmelite Maggio, the 7th of eleven children in a close-knit Italian Catholic family. After 100 years of life, love and laughter, she passed away on September 2. She was a graduate of St. Mary’s Academy and of the Louisiana Normal School, now Northwestern State University, and was involved with her church and community.
The creation of the Santa Claus House in Natchitoches is credited to Dark’s sister, Jeanette Maggio Gunter, in memory of her son Barry who passed away at age 4. Since 1958, with members of the Maggio family and other volunteers coordinating details, thousands of children visit the Santa House each year. In 1994, the house was remodeled and dedicated to Charlie S. Maggio, who along with Charles Solomon, was known for creating lighted set pieces to place along the riverbank. Another memorial honors Brooke Hennigan, Miss Merry Christmas 1993, who died in an accident during her reign. The house was remodeled again in 2018 during the restoration of the entire Rue Beauport and riverbank area.
The Santa Claus House will open Dec. 4 and will be open every night through Dec. 23. Hours are 6-8:30 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 5-8:30 Saturdays.
The next flowers in the Natchitoches In Bloom series are a zinnia, tulip and magnolia that will be placed around the Historic District.