The following is an article that appeared in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana newspaper, The Morning Advocate on Friday, Feburary 23, 2001.
By CYNTHIA V. CAMPBELL
Hundreds of old bottle caps decorate the doors and walls of the UCM Museum in Abita Springs. It's a zany place that puts smiles on everyone who walks into the door. To start with, the place is pronounced, "you-see-em-mu-se-um."
The offbeat museum and gift shop is the creation of owner and artist John Preble who said he wanted a place that reminded people of the old-time roadside attractions.
"My family and I went to Albuquerque about five years ago and found Tinkertown. It's what I call an art environment. My sons, who were 5 and 10 years old at the time, were so excited about the place because there were buttons to push. I decided it would be a challenge to do a Southern version."
Using more than 50,000 used and discarded objects, he has succeeded
beyond imagination. Walking into the entrance/gift shop, the visual
attraction explodes with color and fanciful patterns. The ceiling is
layered with bottle caps, computer chip panels and parts of old radio
Starting with the entrance, a salvaged vintage gas station, the museum
is a series of buildings, including a 90-year-old Louisiana Creole cottage,
exhibition hall and colorful house of shards, decorated with thousands
It takes a few moments for your eyes to get accustomed to the darkened
exhibition "hall." Here, Preble has created a series of tableaux.
The whimsical handmade scenes of Southern life in Louisiana include
"What I do is take a theme like Mardi Gras and then bring it to the next level," said Preble. One of his favorite scenes is titled "Tragedy on Dog Pound Road."
The former PTA president of the Abita Springs Middle School, Preble plans to keep the museum a family attraction. He wants youngsters, as well as their parents, to understand that art can be fun.
Touring the museum with her 8-year-old son Mike, Nancy Berulis of Slidell said, "We just came in after finishing a Boy Scout rally on the Tammany Trace. I happened to see the museum on the Web. The front of the building is so deceptive. I had no idea of what he had done in the back.
"It's whimsical. It's wonderful," she said. "There's something here for everybody. Mr. John must have a wonderful sense of humor. To be able to go through other people's trash and make art out of it is wonderful."
The UCM Museum, 22275 La. 36, is one block east of the only traffic
light in Abita Springs. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Closed Mardi
Gras and Christmas. Call 504-892-2624 or 892-8097. The Web site is