Richard “Dickie” Landry, 2023. Photo by Brian Pavlich.
Richard “Dickie” Landry—saxophonist, composer, photographer, and painter—has been named the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ 2024 Humanist of the Year. In addition to the Humanist of the Year award, the LEH has announced eight Humanities Awards recipients, recognizing documentary filmmakers and photographers, literacy and language advocates, historians, and more.
Now in their 39th year, the Humanities Awards—given by Louisiana’s National Endowment for the Humanities affiliate, the LEH—offer a collective opportunity to celebrate all the humanities have to offer and honor those who have made significant contributions to the understanding of Louisiana’s history and culture.
The awardees will be highlighted in the summer issue of 64 Parishes magazine, published by the LEH, and they will be recognized during the organization’s annual Bright Lights Awards Dinner on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge. Full ticket and program details will be available online at leh.org in late winter.
Humanist of the Year: Dickie Landry (above)
The 2024 LEH Humanist of the Year is Dickie Landry. A native of Cecilia, Louisiana, in St. Martin Parish, Landry is a true Renaissance man whose talents range from documentary photography and abstract painting to saxophone-playing and composing. During his 60-year career, Landry has used his camera to document New York’s art scene, opened exhibitions for artist Robert Rauschenberg, and performed as part of the legendary Philip Glass Ensemble. He is, as 64 Parishes columnist Alison Fensterstock writes, a “boundary-pushing creator.”
He’s also a connector, someone who has used his network to promote and elevate his fellow Louisiana musicians to the national and international spotlight. He helped organize a concert for Clifton Chenier at Carnegie Hall in the 1970s and connected Paul Simon with Terrance Simien for his zydeco-tinged, award-winning 1986 “Graceland” album. In 2018, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Now in his 80s, Landry continues to perform, create, and push boundaries.
Champion of Culture: Nick Mueller
Recipients of the LEH Champion of Culture award have made a lasting mark on Louisiana’s cultural landscape and provided opportunities for more Louisianans to access and engage with cultural experiences. This year’s Champion of Culture awardee is Dr. Nick Mueller, a military historian and former University of New Orleans administrator who, along with historian Stephen Ambrose, helped create the National D-Day Museum. That museum became the National World War II Museum and is now one of the country’s top museum destinations. Mueller served as the museum’s founding president/CEO and, during his 19-year tenure, oversaw much of its expansion from a single 19th-century-warehouse structure to a six-acre campus that welcomes more than 700,000 visitors per year.
Chair’s Award for Institutional Support: Charles Lamar Family Foundation
The LEH’s Chair’s Award for Institutional Support recognizes organizations and individuals for significant financial or programmatic support of the LEH’s mission and programs. This year’s awardee, the Charles Lamar Family Foundation, supports a multitude of strong and dynamic nonprofit organizations that address important aspects of community life and effect positive change in their communities.
Since learning about the work of the LEH after attending an LEH Board Outreach party in 2019, the Lamar Family Foundation has made contributions totaling $97,551. These funds have provided critical support for Prime Time Family Reading programs in the Greater Baton Rouge Area.
Documentary Photographer of the Year: Ben Depp
The Documentary Photographer of the Year award honors photographers whose work captures Louisiana’s history, culture or people. National Geographic Explorer Ben Depp captures Louisiana’s changing coast from a paraglider, forcing the viewer to shift their perspective along with his.
Depp’s photography has been funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. His work has been published in Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, and National Geographic as well as in Tide Lines: A Photographic Record of Louisiana’s Disappearing Coast, a compilation of Depp’s work published in January 2023 by University Press of Mississippi.
Humanities Book of the Year: The Great Power of Small Nations: Indigenous Diplomacy in the Gulf South by Elizabeth Ellis (published by University of Pennsylvania Press)
The Humanities Book of the Year award honors a book that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana writers. In The Great Power of Small Nations, Dr. Elizabeth Ellis, an enrolled citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, tells the story of the smaller Native American Nations that shaped the growth of colonial Louisiana and continue to shape the Gulf South today.
Humanities Documentary Film of the Year: The Precipice directed by Ben Johnson and produced by Linda Midgett
The Humanities Documentary Film of the Year award honors a documentary film that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana documentary filmmakers. Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s The Precipice follows the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe in the Terrebonne Basin as they work to preserve their culture and language while fighting for federal recognition and struggling against the realities of climate change.
Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities: Freddi Williams Evans
The Lifetime Contributions to the Humanities award recognizes those who have supported and been involved in public appreciation of issues central to the humanities.
Freddi Williams Evans is an author and scholar recognized for her scholarship on Congo Square, a landmark of African and African American culture in New Orleans. In 2017–2018, Evans co-chaired the Committee to Erect Historic Markers on the Slave Trade to Louisiana.
Museum Exhibition of the Year: The Louisiana State Museum at the Cabildo’s Creole New Orleans, Honey!
Awarded biannually in even-numbered years, the Museum Exhibition of the Year Award recognizes an exhibition held during the prior two calendar years that brought new insights to our understanding of the state, its artists and/or its history. The Louisiana State Museum at the Cabildo’s Creole New Orleans, Honey! showcased the work of Andrew LaMar Hopkins, exploring notions of Creole identity while challenging the definition of the word.
Light Up for Literacy: Jane Wolfe
Presented in partnership with the State Library of Louisiana’s Center for the Book, the Light Up for Literacy award recognizes those who have made significant and lasting contributions to literacy efforts in the state. Jane Wolfe is the founder of Eat and Read at Melba’s, one of New Orleans’s most notable nonprofit literacy programs. Through Eat and Read at Melba’s, Jane has encouraged a love of reading by distributing over 20,000 free books to her customers and hosting readings, discussions, and book‐signings that connect New Orleanians with world‐renowned authors and educators.