Shreveport Regional Arts Council

Funding Received: 2013
Shreveport, LA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
March 11, 2014

Steve Olson with model of “Skateable Sculpture;” photo by Mary Catherine Rollo

The six-week residency of Steve Olson, World Champion Skateboard Performer and multidisciplinary artist, revs on at full speed! Every day brings increased excitement and mounting anticipation. Today is the big UNveiling of Olson’s “Skateable Sculpture” situated in the heart of Shreveport Common. The Shreveport Regional Arts Council is ready for thousands of people to come and watch three professional skaters “christen” the sculpture! Zumba exercises to original music with a live band gets the day going! Ten bands will perform throughout the day; the Juried Arts Market and Food Truck Market are brimming with entrepreneurial opportunities.

Steve Olson has quickly become a friend, mentor, role model and an unofficial neighbor to many people in Shreveport – he hasn’t met a stranger. Steve has brought a solid definition and vision of how an UNcommon Cultural Community has a “vibe,” a pulse—an engagement!

“It’s been great. Everyone is so nice and hospitable. You say hi, they say hi back—these are complete strangers,” Steve Olson said. “Then the people at Shreveport Regional Arts Council have been so nice and cool. It’s really cool that they’re going for the sculpture because A.) It’s never been done, and B.) Why not? It should be in Shreveport because they have the foresight to see something that could be really cool. I just think the support is so amazing and I’m all about it.”

Over the weeks, Olson has become even more so a part of the community as he visits local junior high and high schools and colleges speaking to students about how to use art and sports to cope through life’s challenges. “It’s about making good choices, knowing right from wrong,” Olson said.

On January 25, Olson continued bonding with the youth during “Kids Breaking the Rules with Steve Olson” workshop at artspace. Kids of all ages ran, slipped, slid and rolled in paint over canvases to create abstract art with Olson. “It’s cool to see kids become uninhibited and messy,” Olson said. “They’re hesitant on their first ride. Then they realize it’s okay; they are being allowed to get messy.”

Recent Wins
On January 31 Olson and seven of his fellow skateboarding extraordinaire buddies from all over the United States rolled out the carpet and rolled out the skateboards for the Opening Reception of their group exhibition “Generationless: Skateboarders Are Artists, Too.” The collection of skate-inspired work was joined with skate decks designed by regional artists and the abstract art pieces created in “Kids Breaking the Rules with Steve Olson”. The art gallery was packed out from the top level where skate films were projected across the walls, to the mezzanine where a full smorgasbord of skate-themed food was served, to the first floor where the legends and the local skateboarders rode the newly installed skate ramp through mainspace gallery.

And, of course, a huge winner was/is the February 15 UNSCENE! with Steve Olson as the “Skateable Sculpture” takes its place as a major interactive art installation just across from the historical Municipal Auditorium. From noon to night the streets are packed with the people enjoying a meal from the food trucks, buying art from the arts markets, dancing to music from the long line-up of local musicians, and mesmerizing demonstrations from fire hula hoop dancers!


“Skateable Sculpture” public art designed by Steve Olson and fabricated by Steve Olson and UNSCENE! Artist Team; photo by Mary Catherine Rollo

On February 13 we celebrated another exhibition opening featuring more than 100 local artists’ work. The second annual Critical Mass critic series opened at artspace art gallery in Shreveport Common with regional literary, performing and visual artists competing for the Best of Show title and prizes. Three nationally renowned critics attended and critiqued the exhibited work and awarded the coveted $2,000 Best of Show Awards with the promise of a solo exhibition/publication to Taffie Garsee for Visual Art and Katie Bicknell for Literary Art.

In August, these critics will return for the August UNSCENE! to judge an intense Artist Battle. Though several months away, the art community is already buzzing about the Art Battle that will pit artist against artist in a fun, friendly competition.

To top it off, on February 17, Chef Evan Rich of RICH TABLE makes a visit in preparation of the June UNSCENE! with RICH TABLE. From morning until night, Chef Evan Rich will meet with social service organizations, local chefs and farmers, artists, and many more to discuss how the community group and individual can be involved in the fresh food movement to sweep Shreveport Common this summer.

Olson’s presence in Shreveport Common has opened a door to a new community of skateboarders, extreme sports-enthusiasts, and many more young and non-traditional artists. The challenge we face is finding new and innovative ways of continuously engaging this audience in the arts community. Art involves so many styles and depths and it is important to have every demographic and art preference properly represented in Shreveport Common. The “Skateable Sculpture” is one of the early and continuing steps in working to attract younger people while keeping established arts enthusiasts interested and alert.


Local skateboarders gather to skate with Steve Olson and other guest skateboarders at the opening reception of “Generationless: Skateboarders Are Artists, Too;” photo by Mary Catherine Rollo

One of the most important challenges is determining if we are “on the right track”. To discover the answer, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council – with the help of local artists – is going straight to the source and asking the audience “what’s next” – what’s as of yet “Unseen” for Shreveport Common. We can then work towards making these ideas become our implementation reality while we engage our community in the birth of Shreveport Common. It is our belief that by peaking interest, we will attract and “sustain” the interest of the very people we hope will permanently populate Shreveport Common. UNSCENE! is an excellent vehicle—a consistent driver with its every month engagement—to achieve this community interaction.

In the weeks that Steve Olson has been in town, we’ve had teens and young adults drop into the workshop in hopes of getting a glimpse of the skate ramp in process. Olson and UNSCENE! artist team have been great in taking the time to talk to these youth, explain the design and construction process, and answer any questions. And at the Generationless opening reception, we met a young man who was skillfully sketching caricatures of Olson and the other guest skateboarders. Excitedly, he showed his work to members of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council staff and is now a member of the Northwest Louisiana Artists’ Directory and is preparing his proposal to be a commissioned artist for an upcoming UNSCENE!

Leading up to this month’s UNSCENE! we are reminded that art is ageless, and skateboarding is “generationless”—proven at the “Generationless” opening by the skateboarder father donned in a suit and tie with his deck tucked under his arm while teaching his 7-year-old son to ride his own board.

We are also witnessing that people are breaking the bounds and enjoying what is non-typical. Those who have never stepped foot on a skateboard have found a new appreciation for the sport. It’s about breaking the rules and creating something beautiful.

“The ‘Skateable Sculpture’ represents breaking boundaries. We’re doing something that’s never been done before,” Olson said. “Do what you love and do it with passion.”