Acadiana Center for the Arts’ Sam Oliver

The Acadiana Center for the Arts (“AcA”) is a cultural gem in downtown Lafayette, Louisiana. A community-supported nonprofit organization with a mission to bring equitable access to the arts and to provide fair compensation to artists, the AcA supports the creation of new works of art, exhibits, festivals, performances, and public art across an eight-parish region that includes Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion Parishes. Its Executive Director, Sam Oliver, is our guest on this episode of Discover Lafayette.

Sam Oliver is a Lafayette native, a graduate of Lafayette High School, LSU, and Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was previously assistant director for the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. 

The AcA offers a 300 seat, intimate setting for performances ranging from the upcoming Allman Betts Band performance in May 2020 (which is already sold out) to “Live from the Met” which is broadcast monthly. Ticket prices are affordable, ranging from $10 to the most expensive at $70 for nationally known acts. Even if you purchase a seat in the back row farthest from the stage, you will be seated only about 100 feet from the performance and enjoy an exceptional experience. As Sam says, the AcA strives to offer a “boutique experience” for all patrons. While tickets may be purchased online at, most loyal patrons call up the staff and are helped personally, ensuring that their planned night out goes off without a hitch.

Clayton Shelvin, another Lafayette area native, is the Curator of Performing Arts, who actively researches the artists selected for each season’s event schedule. No act is booked unless the AcA’s staff has previewed the act in person to ensure that the performance will meet the audience’s expectations for quality and relevance for our community. The AcA endeavors to select diverse selections that speak to people from all walks of life to experience art, music, dance and other artistic endeavors.

On February 18, 2020, the AcA will host Judy Collins at the Heymann Performing Arts Center. The most expensive seat in the house is $60 and tickets are still available for purchase here. 

Live performances from the Metropolitan Opera may be enjoyed once a month. For more information, visit the AcA here.

The Acadiana Center for the Arts offers exhibits featuring visual arts. At no charge, the public may view outstanding works of art and request guided tours of the facility. Currently, the work of Jeremiah Ariaz is on display which focuses on the unique African-American trail-riding clubs which are popular in South Louisiana. Ariaz first discovered these trail riders while riding his motorcycle through Louisiana and was so intrigued he spent four years getting to know the participants and documenting their experiences through his outstanding photography. For more on Ariaz and his thoughts on this project, visit

“Louisiana Trail Riders” by Jeremiah Ariaz is the first major exhibition of black and white photographs documenting the Creole trail-riding clubs of Southern Louisiana.
This exhibit may be viewed at no charge at the AcA Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 pm. until March 14, 2020.

The AcA partners with all 43 schools in the Lafayette Parish Public School System, as well as Vermilion and St. Landry public school districts, to ensure that students have access to the arts. With funding for arts in our public schools being scarce, this partnership builds a valuable connection between working art professionals and students of all ages. Art lessons are incorporated into the teaching of science, social studies and other curricula, and in-school performances bring a diverse array of artistic talent directly to the students. This program is one of the AcA’s oldest and one of which they are most proud as they inspire our youngest students and bring academics to life through the arts.

The annual Student Arts Expo will be held on April 4, 2020, in Downtown Lafayette, which is the largest AcA event of the year, showcasing the art from all public schools in the area. Jefferson Street is shut down and local businesses open their doors to host art created by our local students. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Northside High School Marching Brass Band will lead the parade, and this event is open at no charge to the public, and is coincidentally held on the same day as the beloved Po-boy Festival at Parc Sans Souci!

The Student Arts Expo to be held on April 4, 2020, is an annual event featuring performances and visual arts exhibits from nearly every public school in Lafayette Parish by students in grades preK–12.

The Acadiana Center for the Arts has a list of artists that you may contact to hire for your event or private function. While it is not a complete listing of all performers, they can probably connect you with a performer to suit your needs. Ideally, the community will pull together a comprehensive listing of all artists, which was a project being initiated by the now defunct CREATE project in Lafayette parish. You can call AcA at (337)233-7060 for more information.

Visit for more information and learn about upcoming events, art exhibits, grant opportunities, and programming that benefit our schools. The facility is located at 101 W. Vermilion Street, Lafayette LA 70501 and admission is free to the public for viewing exhibits Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.