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From plantation houses to the French Quarter to the Superdome, Louisiana is home to a number of well-known architectural landmarks. Lesser known, though equally important, is the complex process that shapes the state’s built environment. Louisiana’s architecture reflects a blending of ethnic—particularly Native American, French, Spanish, and British—building traditions, as well as the influence of climate, natural resources, and economy.
Louisiana has a rich tradition of both fine and vernacular art. Created by professionally trained artists, fine art includes painting, sculpture, photography, among other genres, and tends to be found in the state’s largest cities. In contrast, vernacular art, generally made by individuals without formal training, appears throughout the state. Made for everyday use or decoration, vernacular art includes genres like quilting, woodcarving, and basketmaking.
Though always part of a global community, Louisiana has a unique history that distinguishes it from other parts of the United States. Inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years, Louisiana later absorbed the influence of its French and Spanish rulers in the colonial era, along with its African and West Indian residents. Though statehood eventually made Louisiana more like other states, it continues to retain a distinct identity even within the South.
Louisiana literature resembles southern and, to a lesser extent, American literature in many ways. Indeed, some of the state’s most prominent writers—Walker Percy, Ernest Gaines, Anne Rice, and Lillian Hellman, among others—are known around the globe. Unlike most Americans, however, antebellum Louisianans spoke primarily, though not exclusively, French. Hence, the state also has a rich, distinctive French, often referred to as Creole, literary heritage.
Shaped by the state’s multicultural heritage, Louisiana’s musical traditions are among the most unique in the United States. Well known for its contributions to the genres of jazz and rhythm and blues, Louisiana played a particularly significant roll in the development of swamp pop, Cajun, and zydeco music. Lesser known perhaps is the importance of New Orleans as a center of classical music and opera in the colonial and antebellum eras.