Whirlybird Creatives

Underground Honky Tonk
The Whirlybird, Underground Honky Tonk and Folk Art Museum

Here we are, hanging out in the Bird.  (BTW – we have had a lot of great comments about this photo – it was taken by our friend and photographer, Robin May.)

You can see it in our eyes – we are dreaming up more fun cultural and artistic activities and fun ways for folks to help us keep it all going.  In case you don’t know the story, The Whirlybird building was magically and generously returned to us by a friend on a hand-shake, but, of course, as it turned out, we needed some help to finally get the debt on the building paid off.  Borrowing was not a good solution to this situation.

And, now, thanks to the Whirlybird Society and Fan Club, WE DID IT!  The debt has been paid!  Now, on to more fun!

Have you heard our story?  Well, you can read all about it here. . .  and join us on our artistic and cultural adventures.  The way it always works for us down here in South Louisiana, is through friendships.  In fact, The Whirlybird Society and Fan Club idea first came from friends.  The idea, that is, to start a Fan Club.  And to have membership that was, first, specifically geared to clear the debt we owned to a friend who literally brought the whole building back to us – dance floor, stage, bar, everything intact, which, of course, then made it possible to continue the history of amazing Whirlybird activities.

The idea of The Whirlybird Society and Fan Club was to have a membership for on-going support of our (Christy’s and my) creative and artistic projects (which folks seem to like).  And, we have often needed help with maintenance efforts with The Whirlybird building.

And, now, The Whirlybird Society and Fan Club membership will continue to support and build an Artist Fund, with the goal of ensuring a generous minimum amount of money for all collaborating artists.


 

Flight history

Pure and simple – we fell in love with Acadiana’s culture and bought an old “camp” – a weekend place with a cabin – just outside Opelousas. When our friends wanted to know what the two of us were going to do with that place, they laughed when we pledged, “We’re gonna put a dancehall in the yard.” Then, we did.

A local friend found an old tin-sided rail-yard freight depot we could afford to purchase and move to our camp. (Yes, these things happen in Louisiana.) With the help of many friends, while we were traveling back and forth between California and Louisiana bringing loads of folk art with us, we created a “cultural house of fun” bigger than anything we ever imagined or planned.

In late August 2005, the night before Hurricane Katrina hit the coastline, having finally finished major construction and having most of our early renovations done, we had a party.  Our Irish friend, Tony Davoren, described it as a “bar wetting” party.  But, most everyone left early to prepare for the hurricane.  As our friend, John Vidrine, a safety engineer said, “Take this one seriously.”  We all did.

Since Katrina, using mostly recycled materials, we installed a dance floor and a bandstand, a small kitchen and an ornate, salvaged wood bar. We added 2 bathrooms with hot showers along with two “very cool” private bedrooms we call the Kingdom of Zydeco and the Esquire Ballroom.  There’s a story behind each name.  We occasionally rent the bedrooms through online travel clubs as vacation rentals to help us pay for the building and utilities, however, it has been a bit slow, considering we are reluctant to advertise.  We want to keep The Whirlybird intimate, non-commercial.  We want to continue maintaining The Whirlybird as an expression of our love for fun through folk art, music, dancing, cooking and eating, libations, hugging, laughter, and storytelling.

Once our talented musician and artist friends in Louisiana discovered The Whirlybird, they told their friends and families, and after Katrina, The Whirlybird became a local vehicle for hurricane recovery.  It became a handy form of cultural, emotional and spiritual medicine.  Fun goes a long way.   One of our mottos was – “Come get you some.”  And, we all have.

Soon the “the ‘Bird” rocked with parties and cooking, creative and collaborative projects among artists, dancing and live music, and movie nights and stage plays and storytelling. After the Cajun Americana band the Red Stick Ramblers shot their first music video there, fans around the world marveled at this honky tonk rooted in another era.  The Ramblers’ label, Sugar Hill Records of Nashville, called it “Opelousas, Louisiana’s premier underground nite spot.” Christy told me Sam Broussard, 2008 Grammy Nominee for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album, told her, “I believe we’re looking at the inside of Jim Phillips’ head”. 

Tooting our horns

Since the beginning, Christy and I have worked hard and have sacrificed to ensure it’s more like an intimate, underground, artistically & culturally-oriented “family rec-room gone wild”, instead of just another public social venue driven by watered-down pop culture and the almighty dollar. The music and fun haven’t stopped.  Since we moved full time to Louisiana in 2006, surprisingly, the Whirlybird has moved, too – that is, between its location at the camp to our permanent residence.

There’s a magical story about that move.  During the Global financial crisis, starting 2007-08, we had no choice but to sell our beloved camp, and unfortunately, The Whirlybird building had to be sold – and left behind. But miraculously the ‘Bird came back to us, thanks to a local friend and fan who also happens to be our house mover.  Having our best interest in mind, knowing its history and cultural value, and having an opportunity to help us continue the cultural phenomena that is the Whirlybird dream of Christy and Jim, this friend kept the building from destruction and sold it back to us and moved it to our permanent residence 10 miles away on a hand-shake and a promise.  Rest of that part of the story we’ve already told.

The ‘Bird has inspired songs by International artists, and, hosted the making of documentary films and International television programs and music videos, and it has hosted music artist’s CD recordings and release parties.  The ‘Bird created a special place for people to have cherished spiritual experiences through art by talented artists, to fall in love and change their lives forever, to have intimate weddings and anniversary parties, to enjoy crawfish boils and poetry readings – and, of course, to have wonderful house concert and dance adventures like no other.   Last but not least, there are epic annual events:  there are Thanksgiving potluck celebrations every year, sometimes with honky tonk dances, jam sessions and bonfires – and – The Revelers Annual Lundi Gras Blowout – and – The Annual Pre-Blackpot Camp Throw Down. The ‘Bird is where many international visitors, brought by friends, have savored their first unique American and Southwest Louisiana-style cultural experiences.

Here’s what formidable Southern Living Magazine had to say about our folk art/cultural project: “Some of the biggest names in Cajun music and beyond “pass a good time” there.”

In Country Roads Magazine, this is how Lucie Monk Carter described us: “The two are both educators, notably having founded the Steampunk and Makers Fair in Lafayette; the instinct to guide a group through cultural awakening shows in the mere existence of The Whirlybird as well as the strictures that make pure joy possible within.”

A fan club to support artists

The Whirlybird is bigger than us – Christy and Jim, that is.  But, The Whirlybird is us – it is our artistic and cultural expression – it represents us, the 2 artists that created it and continue to make it fly.  It’s a big-ass piece of Folk Art, where folks can maximize fun.  Most our fans know it takes more than vision to keep The Whirlybird generating that joy it represents – it takes a lot of sweat equity.  And, we have to say it – it also takes money.

It took money to pay off the re-purchased building, and now it will take money to maintain the 80 ft. long building and adjacent grounds used by the fans, to pay for utilities, and to sustain a lively calendar of activities.  Besides maintenance, the focus for fund raising will be to have a slush fund which will back up “admissions” and help pay collaborative artists a fair and generous minimum award for their work.  We are hoping to build a fund with enough financial power to supplement admissions and guarantee a minimum $200 per artist for each event.

It ain’t hush-hush… it’s a slush-slush fund and we’re proud of it.  Come on let’s build a slush fund for artists – WHAT AN IDEA!

In the beginning we did not charge admissions, but acquiesced when the tip jars only produced embarrassment.  It is time to reach out to friends of The Whirlybird and together build an Artist Fund which will be a shining example for all art & culture lovers.

First Goal Reached – Now, Whirlybird Artist Fund

WE DID IT!  The building and the move have been paid for thanks to the help of The Whirlybird Society and Fanclub (AKA, Friends and Family, Whirlybirders, Whirlybird Nation) – the debt is now free and clear…

We are suspending our tiered membership fund-raising drive, but NEVER FEAR we will honor the EXCLUSIVE “tiered” perks once the events are back in action post-Covid.  Thank you, thank you.  You know who you are and so do we – your names will be at the door on the The Whirlybird Society and Fanclub VIP list.  We continue to dream….

Don’t forget to tell friends who have the inclination and the wherewithal to contribute to the Whirlybird Artist Fund (and, of course, two of your favorite artists).  You can send the link below via email or text by simply copying and pasting:

https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=3KPFSZM8YTYWA

Thank Y’all.