Shreveport Regional Arts Council

Funding Received: 2013
Shreveport, LA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 29, 2014

By Tiana Kennell

Since the last time the Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) blogged we’ve experienced more incredible happenings in Shreveport Common that have helped to identify this area as a true Uncommon Cultural Community. Through creative placemaking we are building an arts district and reviving a historic part of Shreveport. One of our key processes for enlivening the neglected 9-block area is through the production of the monthly “happening,” UNSCENE! that centers around a nationally renowned Artist in Residence collaborating with a local Artists’ Team to create a new work of art. We’ve wrapped up the April BIG SCENE and the May New Orleans Airlift residency to produce the CALANTHEAN CANYON “Music Houses,” and we are in the midst of the residencies with June’s featured artists Rich Table and July’s Wayne White. As we look back over the last eight months since the inauguration of UNSCENE!, we are proud to see many of our goals accomplished, many of them still developing, and many unexpected wins attained. However, those wins have not come without challenges.

Photo by Tiana Kennell Inter City Row Modern Dance Company dancers perform original choreography on Skateable Sculpture, "Dance By Design."  Photo by Tiana Kennell[/caption]

The Shreveport Common Vision Plan is made of many elements, so is not surprising that not everyone can imagine or understand everything about it yet. It is also improbable that each individual idea and vision will be the same. What’s happening in Shreveport Common is new for all of us and we all want the best, therefore we can be passionate about our feelings and thoughts. This can lead to conflicting views, but we have learned that bettering communication can resolve many of these conflicts; and we continue to be challenged “not to assume” that just because we said it, everyone or anyone heard it.

Since the induction of UNSCENE! and the beginning of the Shreveport Common planning stages we have strived to involve the community and provide regular updates through Shreveport Common Neighbors Meetings, Juried Roster Artists Meetings, Artist Retreats, and updates by website and social media and more. More recently we had an UNSCENE! Artist Gathering inviting all artists and other interested parties to the open forum discussion. Attendees met with the UNSCENE! management team, who imparted statistical information and progress, talked about upcoming opportunities, and told of their personal experiences as UNSCENE! managers during this project. More importantly, we listened. The audience asked questions and shared their ideas. The open forum became a brainstorming session and a time of reflection on the progress of Shreveport Common. It became a reminder that while each person has unique wants and needs, we must learn to respect each other and be willing to communicate directly. In a May publication of the local publication Henry Harbor we went further to explain creative placemaking in depth and how UNSCENE! plays a major role in this movement.

Recent Wins
The key part of building a community is coming together. In April we joined forces with two longstanding community favorites—Texas Avenue Makers Fair and Holiday in Dixie—to create The BIG SCENE! Thousands came out to buy one-of-a-kind finds from Makers. The Holiday in Dixie Parade stayed true to Louisiana tradition with floats, marching bands, dancers and parade souvenir tosses. UNSCENE! performers took to the streets and stages with music, dance and spoken word. And the evening ended with an unbelievable collaboration of looping musician Theresa Andersson, the dancers of Inter City Row Modern Dance Company, the Musicology International children’s choir, and digital artist Joe Bluhm’s live illustration via projection screen during the stellar performance.

In May the New Orleans Airlift team was our residence artist, working several weeks with local visual and performing artists and builders to make Calanthean Canyon, located next to the historic Calanthean Temple. Using pieces of material donated from other Shreveport Common historic venues undergoing renovations, and musical instruments and other materials imbedded into the architecture, the group created “musical houses”. During the two days of UNSCENE! the public attended two free concerts as the performers demonstrated how to “play the houses” and were able to become the performers.

The experience was unforgettable, and the outcome is long lasting. 1.) We learned that The New Orleans Airlift team attended the October debut of UNSCENE! when we partnered with MSPS New Music Festival where they “discovered” the great local talent in the area. Some of those artists joined the local UNSCENE! residence artist team or became volunteers in May. 2.) The New Orleans Airlift residency sparked a special interest with the “underground” artist community. We met these artists, forming new relationships and future opportunities. 3.) The Calanthean Canyon has become a new performance venue for local artists. Omen Art group and singer Reneesance have explored new ways to artistically utilize the Canyon, and many others are organizing performances, including Mahogany Theatre with their production of “For Colored Girls…” 4.) The ongoing use of the Calanthean Canyon shows that we are reaching our goal to leave an indelible mark on Shreveport Common. The same can be said after Inter City Row Modern Dance Company’s extraordinary performance in May of their original choreography on the “Skateable Sculpture” that mirrored the public art installation designed by February’s resident artist Steve Olson.

Photo by Casey Jones The community gathers for a day of discussion about the new design for Caddo Common green space.  Photo by Casey Jones[/caption]


Paving a (figurative) new road takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. It’s a balancing act of preserving a history, securing a successful future, and respecting the people in the community. It’s not enough to have a passion and a plan. One must maintain open communication, be willing to compromise, adapt, and be humbled… but carry on. One must learn to strive on while keeping one’s eyes on the prize. We revel in the success of the artists whose income increased by participating in UNSCENE! and from the commissions that have come after their involvement. We are elated by the increasing number of people who now know what Shreveport Common is, what it is becoming, and are taking initiative to be a part of it.

The physical makeup of Shreveport Common is changing, too, with the renovation and construction of new and historic sites, such as the Ogilvie-Weiner house, the Elvis Presley Avenue Promenade, the Municipal Auditorium, Caddo Common, the artist studios on Texas Street, and other upcoming developments.

As we continue on we find it important to remember that it takes a village to raise a community, and the more we work together, the better Shreveport Common can be.