A diverse career path in broadcasting and theatre ultimately led Kay LaFrance-Knight to the field of historic preservation and the arts. Success with the Main Street program and the Schepis Museum in Columbia, La., brought her to her work with the Main Street Program in Winnsboro.
“To be able to work in historic preservation and the arts in the town where I was born was a dream opportunity,” she says. She serves as director of the Old Post Office Museum, located in the downtown building that served for decades as Winnsboro’s Post Office. The historic structure was in a dilapidated condition until a group of citizens organized to restore it.
“The community knew its value and convinced the city administration to save it,” LaFrance-Knight says. “It was truly a community effort.” Now fully renovated, the building currently houses the museum and the Winnsboro Main Street Program, as well as the offices of the Winnsboro-Franklin Chamber of Commerce and the Franklin Parish Tourism Commission.
“We have managed to do some amazing things here,” LaFrance-Knight says. Last year, OPOM was one of six museums in Louisiana to host a traveling Smithsonian exhibit entitled, “Celebrating Local Sports,” which was presented through the Museums on Main program sponsored by Louisiana Endowment for Humanities. “It was absolutely one of our most popular exhibits to date,” she said.
Restoration of the Old Post Office and realizing the dream of a local museum was made possible by many people who call this area home and understand the importance of preserving its history, and it is this type of collaboration and shared vision that inspires LaFrance-Knight. A plaque bearing a quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead hangs above her desk: “Never forget that a small, thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
LaFrance-Knight also loves the quote, “Any museum can invite you to look, but a great one changes the way you see,” which speaks to what she hopes to accomplish with the Old Post Office Museum. “A museum can have beautiful art, and that’s a wonderful thing,” LaFrance-Knight recognizes. “But to have personal meaning behind that art and make it relate to and engage with your community – that is what truly makes a difference.”
With her four dogs and a grey cat, she lives in her grandparents’ old country farmhouse built around 1907, only minutes away from her Main Street office in Winnsboro and the building where she was born. She has settled into a life full of satisfaction and contentment. The April Humanities Hero has come home.