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Buddy Flett and Friends- Renzi Center Blue and Jazz Brunch
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Artistic mask provided by one of the Renzi Center students
The Renzi Education & Art Center was founded after The Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows received the donation of a large, dilapidated house on Egan Street in the low-income part of Shreveport's Highland area. Since that day in 1997 when their doors opened, “The Renzi” became the place where vulnerable neighbor children could go after school and be safe from the dangerous elements that surrounded them. The Center grew to include children outside their Highland neighborhood.
The sisters, artists, and community activists are now involved to create a haven for children and adults to explore, learn, and create under the guidance of professional teachers and artists. Their programs, which include an afterschool program, film school summer program, and fall weekend workshops, are free and open to the community. Stan Carpenter and Chuck Loridans are professional artists who spend their afternoons at Renzi teaching kids their crafts. Both artists tell stories of how their time at Renzi has not only enriched the lives of the children they teach, but changed their own lives as well.
“I’ve been there about 12 years,” said Stan Carpenter, who spent many years as a photographer for The Shreveport Times. “I try to teach my students photography as a way to express something personal and as a way to remember their friends and family. Since most of the students have never done any photography I keep it simple, do a lot of complimenting their creative eye and try to keep it fun. One of the best things I see in the kids is a self-esteem boost when they print a really beautiful or funny photo and can't wait to show it to family and friends.”
Chuck Loridans joined the staff back in 1999 and has been there longer than any of the other teachers. He originally had his doubts about getting involved but was coaxed into coming on board by Donna Service and Donna Moore. Chuck helps his students develop their own comic book stories and teach them the history of the art form. He has many wonderful memories of students who have grown up and moved on, and keeps in touch with as many of them as he can. He tells the story of one of his students who he feels surpassed him. “Charles was in the first class I ever taught. He just graduated from Centenary and about to start Med School. He had a show at the Turner Gallery that blew me away. The Renzi Center is where my heart lives. No matter how much the world bears down on me and seems to crush my spirit, I go to Renzi and I feel joy the way most people haven't felt since they were 10 years old.”
Dr. Loren Demerath of Centenary College is one of the organizers of the annual Sunday Brunch fundraiser that took place April 5 at The Shop, located at 2002 Southern Ave. Dr. Demerath was inspired to create the fundraiser because of the number of musicians who have taught Renzi students and who wanted to get involved. Musical great Buddy Flett headlined an all-star lineup, including Tim Brogan, Leonard Service, Ted Lindsay, and Randy Guynes. Other musicians featured were students from Caddo Magnet High students who gave their adult counterparts a run for their money. Others on board were Joel Boultinghouse, Jimmy Caskey, Rafaela Demerath, Reiah Kirkendoll, Tim McCoy, Nia Savoy, and Greg Walton.
When Dr. Demerath speaks about the Renzi, his passion for the center cannot be ignored. “The Renzi Center is a jewel in the Shreveport Highland crown. Its format of paying artists and musicians to come in and teach kids how to do art and music in various forms has been really successful. It's helped the kids' outlooks, their confidence, and their grades. It's given them a fun, creative, safe place to go after school, and the artists and musicians love it, too.”
For more information on The Renzi Education & Art Center, call (318) 222-1414 or visit www.renzicenter.org.
By Deborah Allen