With seven UNSCENE! events produced since October, some people are still UNclear about this UNpredictable Arts event.
So, let’s try to “shed light” on the purpose and practice of the monthly “happening,” UNSCENE!. As Artistic Director (and recent Emmy nominee) Brandon Oldenburg puts it, “UNSCENE! sheds light on the people, places, authentic architecture, history, art, and potential of Shreveport’s first UNcommon community: Shreveport Common.” This is a small downtown niche destined to become a cultural neighborhood conceived and fueled by artists; a place that—to look at it now—seems more conceptual than real. Therefore, a team led by Brandon Oldenburg with professional artists Brady Blade, Angelique Feaster, PoeticX/Hugh Hamilton, and Diego Martinez, create monthly events designed to feel like organized artistic improvisation and planned to create the environment for people to stumble upon the fun.
Each month, UNSCENE! “sheds light” on a different area within the nine-blocks of Shreveport Common with the help of a national or regionally renowned artist who works with a team of Northwest Louisiana artists to create a new work that is the centerpiece of the UNSCENE! happening. Mainstays that anchor the event include a Juried Arts Market, Food Trucks, Live Entertainment, and serendipitous moments such as discovering a juggler, a nighttime LED lit dance by the Shreveport Hoopers, and a delicious cup of Kerns Courtney’s coffee.
Currently, this nine block area doesn’t see a lot of foot traffic. Weeds grow up through the concrete on vacant lots, buildings sit UNoccupied, and most people are just driving through, failing to see the potential. Each month, UNSCENE! takes a moment to “shed light” on the opportunities and the daily victories. The gears are turning and plans are in motion to revive this area, and many of those plans are starting to come to fruition. The Shreveport Municipal Auditorium is beautifully restored to its original splendor along with the two-block Grande Promenade on Elvis Presley Avenue; James and Louise Burton are expanding their studios and producing the James Burton Festival this August; the Oakland Cemetery, with new pathways and restored gravestones, welcomes visitors; the design for a 1.3 acre green space—Caddo Common—is underway; and, the Central Fire Station has been restored and re-purposed as the Central ARTSTATION, an Arts Incubator and home to the Shreveport Regional Arts Council. Private development is also moving forward: The McAdoo has been beautifully restored and repurposed by the Volunteers of America, the Calanthean Temple and the former “Florentine” are under renovation by passionate individuals investing not only personal funds, but also their own blood, sweat, and tears. Peak into the new Epic Aquaria Aquarium Shop with its artistic displays in the 700 block of Milam Street; welcome the new owners of the former Creswell/Hamilton Apartments; and see how the Holy Cross Church is ever improving its splendid architecture and grounds.
It’s great to have this revival of architecture, but a revival of community must parallel this plan. To get started, the UNSCENE! Artistic Management Team wanted to “shed light” on some of the important cultural assets that define Shreveport Common: minicine?/Swampland, Inc. and their successful MSPS (McNeil Street Pump Station New Music Festival) and the exciting Texas Avenue Community Association (TACA) Makers Fair, adding a Drive-In movie experience and lots of live music.
The weather has been the most UNexpected challenge UNSCENE! has faced. In December, a midst pouring rain and temperatures that dipped into the thirties, UNSCENE! pulled in the global participatory art project created by French artist, JR, “INSIDE OUT” to engage the neighbors—residents of Providence House, Hope House, Mercy Center, the McAdoo, the Fairmont, and VOA Lighthouse participants—as well as “hoped for” artists and neighbors for a photograph session that created larger than life “Paste Ups” on the side of the historic Ford-Andress Parking Garage. UNfortunately we were not able to catch a break with the weather, and heavy rains took out most of the posted pieces over the next month. Because of the fact that the Ford-Andress Garage is a historic building, we had to wait for 10 days of sunny weather with temperatures above 60 degrees before being able to power-wash the wall for cleaning. Plans have been made to reprint the photographs and recreate the wall, as soon as consistent warm and sunny weather heads our way.
In early 2014 pro skateboard pioneer turned artist, Steve Olson came for a 6 week residency engaging his artist team to build a skateable sculpture. Steve produced an artspace exhibition with seven other skaters-turned-artists who exhibit globally, give talks to local schools and colleges, and spend a day creating art with kids, while they slid through globs of paint! The sculpture is not for the timid or emerging skater; it is designed for the serious skater! The sculpture is skated regularly and couples posing for engagement photos have been spotted on it. Plus it’s a place to visit and sit on the many levels. At the May 17th UNSCENE! choreographer Luther Cox Jr. will debut a new dance work engaging the sculpture.
March brought the tribute to Stan “the Record Man” Lewis—a vital part of Shreveport history, as well as the musical history of this country. Stan recorded many Motown favorites such as Brady L. Blade, Sr. & The Hallelujah Train, Ernie Johnson, Carl Sims, Vickie Baker , Bobby Rush, Aretha Franklin, Ike & Tina Turner, and more. UNSCENE! reunited the love affair between Stan and Shreveport, and brought back some of the DJ’s and musicians Stan discovered, recorded, and later distributed at Shreveport’s Stan’s Records.
April brought the BIG SCENE—a collaboration that would “shed light” on the renovated and just opened—Municipal Auditorium with the Texas Avenue Makers Fair, the Holiday in Dixie Parade, and the debut of a new musical performance by New Orleans artist, now Shreveport resident, Theresa Andersson collaborating with Inter City Row Modern Dance and Musicology International choir conducted by Sereca Henderson, with digital artist Joe Bluhm illustrating the whole show live.
This week, May 16 & 17, UNSCENE! moves forward with “musical architecture” from residency team, New Orleans Airlift. This project will open over two days, but will have a six–month life as musicians perform within the house using instruments imbedded into the architecture of the construction.
In June, a farm to table culinary experience with Shreveport native Sara Rich and her husband and partner Evan of Rich Table in San Francisco pairs Art and Food. July brings the art of Wayne White who is most known for his set designs on Pee Wee’s Playhouse—you’ve got to check out his documentary “Beauty is Embarrassing”—and August has ART BATTLE which will pit teams of artists against each other in a sort of Iron Chef style match judged by a panel of national critics.
UNSCENE! has much more to offer and so much left of Shreveport Common to showcase. The dream is that the Artists of Northwest Louisiana get a chance to create something new—even a chance to experiment and possibly fail—and people of Shreveport and Bossier City come out to celebrate this re-imagining of Shreveport.
A native of Shreveport, LA, Casey Jones has set his roots in the artistic community in which he was raised. Upon earning his degree in design from Louisiana Tech in Ruston, he worked for many years on local magazines.
In 2006 Jones opened his own photography studio, and created a space where he could experiment with his camera. Jones is currently working as the Marketing Director for the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and has been with the organization for almost 5 years.