George Rodrigue, the New Orleans-based artist who became world famous for his Blue Dog paintings, died Dec. 14 at Houston Methodist Hospital after a long battle with cancer.



Rodrigue made regular visits to the Destin area in recent years to speak with students and raise money for arts education. The George Rodrigue Foundation, which supports the arts in schools, teamed with the Destin-based Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation for a fundraiser at Seagar's Prime Steaks and Seafood in 2010. At the event, Rodrigue painted an original Blue Dog piece and auctioned it off.



Rodrigue's wife, Wendy, grew up in Fort Walton Beach and attended Fort Walton High School. She and his family released a statement soon after his death. They said Rodrigue was not only a painter, but a "true community leader."



"George remained an advocate of the arts and arts education throughout his life and dedicated himself to inspiring the next generation of artists and educators through his foundation," the statement reads. "While we mourn the loss of a great man, we also celebrate his rich life and legacy."



George Rodrigue Foundation partnered again with Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation for a concert and dinner fundraiser at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa Nov. 7. Rodrigue was unable to attend the event because of his cancer treatment.



"We did have the Blue Dog piano here that he painted. It's a 1913 Steinway that he had restored and painted with the Blue Dog," Mattie Kelley director of operations Deb Nissley told The Log.



A public mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Visitation will immediately follow and end at 2:30 p.m. Burial and a graveside service will take place 1 p.m. Friday at Holy Family Cemetery in New Iberia, La.



The family asks that anyone wishing to pay their respect donate to the George Rodrigue Foundation. To learn more about Rodrigue and his foundation, visit georgerodriguefoundation.org.