LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — For over eight decades Fred Packard has been creating art. He is celebrated by many in Louisiana for his work and dedication to the craft.
Now, that work is on display at the Hillard Art Museum in Lafayette.
The exhibit titled “Little Things: Drawings and Photographs by Fred Packard” offers a retrospective look into his career as an artist. The show features pieces of art created by Packard during his adventures around the world.
He hopes people will have a greater understanding of him after the show. His collection starts with an old photo taken in his hometown and ends with photos he has learned to take with his iPhone.
“It turned out that I have got hundreds of things that I’ve done through the years,” Packard says “But we were limited to the number of things we could hang and up. Basically, what I’ve done is pick something I created from each decade since the 50s.”
Packard is a Louisiana native who first fell in love with art around the age of eight after getting his tonsils removed. It began with drawing small pictures. His parents eventually bought a paint and canvas set. As he got older, he ventured out into other hobbies but always returned to art.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956. Packard was originally set to be stationed in Korea but the plan changed on short notice and he spent a year on a tour of duty in Europe. While serving his first tour he began his professional journey into photography.
“I actually started when I was in the Army overseas,” he says. ” I was photographer for the Army. Just about the time I was finishing up at LSU majoring in art and I was drafted in the Army. They had me on orders for Korea but, at the last minute, they changed the orders and sent me to France, which I was happy about. I got to travel all over Europe. And that worked right into my profession, you know, art history became very important to me.”
Between his tours with the Army, Packard received his bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and his master’s degree from Kent State University both in Fine Arts. He also ran the crafts program for the Army while in Germany.
Art had become the focal point of his life and he wanted to bring that love to others.
He began teaching in 1964 at LSU as an art instructor. Over the next 30 years, he would teach at four different colleges with the majority of his time spent at the University of Southwestern Louisiana now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. One major change he saw and helped influence was photography as an art form.
“At the time I entered the profession of college teaching universities and colleges across America were becoming aware that photography was an art form,” he said. “Before that time, I think they saw it primarily as a photo journalistic thing. I think they were anxious to implement the ‘new’ medium of art. It was a period of discovery and I fell right into that.”
Not only did he teach but he served as department head at ULL and founded the photography concentration. He retired from teaching in 1996 and once again spent his days with his family and creating art.
Throughout his life Packard has experienced, seen, and traveled places unimaginable by some. He hopes the exhibit will teach people how to truly see the world around them and not just look at it.
“I’ve made it a centerpiece in my efforts to teach my students how to see. I don’t know if that’s because I only had one eye, the one was long gone from an injury. But my appreciation for being able to see is what I’ve tried to teach my students. Teaching them how to see, to open their eyes and not just look at things but seeing them, like critical thinking, we need critical seeing.”
“Little Things” will be on display at the Hilliard Art Museum through April 2023.