BATON ROUGE — Thanks to the insights of LSU Press author Danny Heitman,
teachers from across the country will be using the life and legacy of bird
artist John James Audubon in their elementary and high school classrooms as
another school year begins.
Heitman, the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon
at Oakley House,” was recently selected to participate in a national, three-week John James Audubon symposium for
educators sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The symposium, held on the campus of Indiana University in
Bloomington from July 6-July 31, connected educators with top experts who spoke
on Audubon’s role as an artist, writer and scientist. The symposium was
intended to teach educators how to use Audubon’s experiences to teach lessons
in art, literature, science and other disciplines.
Heitman was selected to teach at the symposium because of the
research he conducted for “A Summer of
Birds,” which chronicles a pivotal year that Audubon spent at Oakley Plantation
in St. Francisville in the summer of 1821. Published as a trade book for the general
public by LSU Press last year, the book attracted rave national reviews and was
hailed by renowned Audubon scholar Christoph Irmscher as “a spectacular feat.”
The book is being adapted as a documentary by Louisiana
Public Broadcasting that is slated to appear statewide in December.
“In 1821, Audubon was depressed, destitute, and quite
possibly about to give up on his ambition to create ‘The Birds of America,’ the
most comprehensive pictorial survey of American birds up to that point,”
Heitman said. “His summer at Oakley House Plantation renewed his sense of
possibility, restored his spirit, and set him on the path to become the world’s
greatest bird artist.”
Audubon’s summer at Oakley also opened him to birding wonders
throughout Louisiana, said Heitman, an award-winning columnist for The Baton
Rouge Advocate and a frequent contributor to several national publications,
including The Christian Science Monitor and Smithsonian. “Audubon was very well
traveled, but he said that of all the places he’d gone, Louisiana was his
favorite place in the Union,” Heitman added. “Audubon did more bird pictures in
Louisiana than in any other single place.”
The symposium drew teachers from Hawaii, New York, an
American school in Guatemala, and many points between.
“I was delighted to discuss Audubon’s Louisiana period at the
NEH symposium, and I’m glad that his Louisiana experiences will be used as a
source of instruction for students around the country,” Heitman said. “This
would not have been possible if LSU Press had not brought my story into print.”
Since 1935, LSU Press has published approximately 3,000
books, more than half of which remain in print. The Press has won four Pulitzer
Prizes, more than any other public university press.