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Shipping container art displays at UNSCENE! (photo by Casey Jones)
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The Big Scene on Texas Avenue. (photo by Casey Jones)
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Theresa Andersson performs at UNSCENE! (photo by Casey Jones)
A series of events that aims to rejuvenate a historical area while simultaneously creating advantageous networking opportunities for local artists, SRAC’s unique UNSCENE! happenings are making quite the scene in downtown Shreveport.
The Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) created the idea for UNSCENE! about a year ago with intentions of using art and artists to build up the Shreveport Common area. SRAC was able to lock down a portion of their funding through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“The core reason we’re doing this is to bring awareness to the area, but also because we are an arts council… we reach out to these different national artists and ask them to come do a residency of sorts,” said Casey Jones, SRAC marketing director. “We’re able to pay the national artist and the local artist to create something. And they learn from each other.”
These learning opportunities generate valuable networking opportunities for Shreveport’s artists. And according to Jones, several local artists have gone on to book shows in bigger cities as a result of connecting with the bigger, national names. “We had hoped for that to happen, and we’ve just been amazed at how quickly it has happened,” Jones said.
UNSCENE! unveiled the Big Scene on Saturday, April 12. The Big Scene featured all-day live music and entertainment, including headliner Theresa Andersson, a native of Sweden now living in New Orleans. A multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Andersson performed that night with local choreographer Luther Cox Jr.; a youth choir led by Sereca Henderson of Musicology International; and Joe Bluhm of Moonbot Studios who presented live, audience-engaging paintings and animations on the stage screen.
With hundreds of local crafters and vendors lined up along Texas Avenue, this was the second time UNSCENE! partnered with the Texas Avenue Makers Fair for their series events. Additionally, the Big Scene included the Holiday in Dixie Parade, which rolled through the Shreveport Common area that evening before the headliner performance.
Projects introduced at the Big Scene that are set to continue throughout future UNSCENE! events are the three large shipping container art installations. The Voodoo Mini Mall by Su Stella is filled with Voodoo and Louisiana-themed artwork and crafts, complete with a black-lit room at the back.
Amanda Roe, who lives in Natchitoches and went to school for sculpture and installation, explores the meaning behind the fairy tale question of why Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall in her shipping container showcase.
“You put certain objects together, and they form a story,” said Roe. “Everything snowballs…and then you put those materials together to make it work within the space.”
Local artist Emily Daye’s “Dream Department” installation is based on a dream she had about Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird working in a law firm. The most interactive of the installations, the desks inside Daye’s shipping container are all filled with random odds and ends with which participants can create their own art, and then display it.
“You can come in, and you can touch everything. That was really important to me, because a lot of times with art you’re told not to touch,” Daye said. “You can make anything you want. You can leave something for people, or you can take something if you just have to have it.”
These local artist installations will re-appear at the next UNSCENE! event with Airlift, a New Orleans-based group of artists who collaborate to create extraordinary projects, highlighting underground art and artists. The group is widely known for building, and then playing, “Musical Houses.”
“They took wood and instruments, and created a house out of instruments. You can actually play the house,” said Jones. “All the music goes through the house and out the chimney.”
Airlift and UNSCENE! are teaming up to build one of these Musical Houses for the Shreveport Common area. The installation is set to debut May 17 and will remain on display for an extended period of time, but not permanently.
With a variety of art-driven happenings planned for Shreveport Common, UNSCENE! shows no signs of slowing down now. Upcoming events feature culinary experiences with Rich Table, a puppet parade with Pee-wee’s Playhouse designer Wayne White, and Art Battle.
What Jones describes as “the ‘Iron Chef’ of art,” Art Battle is currently scheduled as the final UNSCENE! event. Artists will put together teams with a variety of talents who will use designated materials to create their own work of art, competing to be the best team of each round.
The monthly mini-festivals presented by UNSCENE! are set to wrap by the fall of this year, but there is still plenty of time to experience these one-of-a-kind, local happenings. What has certainly become a massive undertaking for organizers is proving to be beneficial in bringing life to Shreveport Common and support for the local artist community.