Opens Nov.2 Rainbow City, an inflatable art installation, takes center stage
New things are sprouting on the western edge of downtown Shreveport as Shreveport Common is set to unveil the centerpiece in its plan to revitalize the area — Common Park.
“That whole nine-block area of Shreveport Common was once a very thriving corridor,” said Henry Price, president of the board for Shreveport Regional Arts Council. “Then it became blighted. This is an opportunity for a renaissance for the whole area. is the nucleus for that.”
Common Park is a one-acre green space in the geographic center of the nine-block area known as Shreveport Common. Several buildings in the area have been or are being
restored through a variety of public-private partnerships. Similarly, Common Park is rising from the rubble of a blighted lot bounded by Texas Avenue and Cotton and Common streets.
The goal of the park is to create an outdoor oasis for the entire community. The vision for the park grew out a community survey in which residents were asked what they wanted to see in the area.
“The number one response that we got when we asked what’s never been here that you wish were here was that downtown needed a common gathering space,” said Pam Atchison, executive director of the SRAC.
Common Park features lots of mature shade trees and plenty of grassy space where folks can spread out blankets and fellowship with friends. A babbling brook surrounded by native Louisiana flora meanders through the park, as does a walking/jogging trail. It also includes a food truck patio to entice downtown employees to enjoy lunch al fresco. And misting stations in the park will help combat the summer heat.
What park-goers will not see are the see-saws and other playground equipment present at other city parks, such as Betty Virginia Park on Line Avenue. Atchison said the input from residents helped shape Common Park.
“It’s not a playground for children,” Atchison said. “And it’s not just a performing pavilion downtown. They told us what they wanted in it, and I think they’ve gotten everything with the exception of one wish.
There was one individual who really wanted a fishing hole in the middle of the green space, but there will be no fishing downtown.
“We really wanted to populate this part of downtown for millennials or double-incomeno-kids or active seniors. We wanted a place you can sit and read a book, or hear a book read, or hear a story told.”
That does not mean children aren’t welcome in Common Park, Atchison said. The open, grassy spaces and gentle berms throughout the park will provide “natural opportunities for children just to take a nice little roll in the grass like we did long ago and far away.”
As with other projects in Shreveport Common, the Common Park is funded through a public-private partnership, including $1.2 million from the City of Shreveport. Some of the private donors for the project include the Caroline W. and Charles T. Beaird Family Foundation, Sandi and Jeffrey Kallenberg, Coca-Cola and Fred Phillips. Other donations have come through the Community Foundation, Give for Good and other private donors.
Oschner LSU Health Shreveport is another sponsor of the park. As part of its mission to promote healthy lifestyles, Oschner will host Healthy Food Truck Wednesdays at the park. Food trucks that offer healthy menus will be able to set up in the park for no fee on Wednesdays. Those who come to the nosmoking park to eat on Wednesday will be encouraged to walk the trails as they wait for their food or before they return to work.
This will be phase one of the park’s construction and rollout. As part of phase one, the footings, electrical work and other infrastructure have been included for planned additions and expansions to the park. Atchison said that is one way that planners are looking to the future of Common Park.
“We hope that the park is one of those experiences that no one will ever say it’s done, it’s complete, it’s over with,” she said. “We hope that it will continue to grow as people use it and think of things to do.”
To that end, the park was designed with sustainability features included. The babbling brook and the park’s sprinkler system are fed from an underground reservoir that captures and recycles rainwater. And future art installments will be planned in collaboration with engineers to keep sustainability top of mind, Atchison said.
Wendy Benscoter, executive director of Shreveport Common, said the ultimate aim was to create a useful space in downtown Shreveport.
“Primarily, the goal was to try to create a space that could be programmed in a wide variety of ways,” she said. “No, that does not include rugby or soccer on the green. Those are too hard on the grass. But it might be a game day with checkers or chess. Or it might be bocce ball or cornhole. Ways for us to get in there and have fun with the community.”
Atchison said plans include at least 30 weeks of formal programming in Common Park. That will include live music and other live performances as well as exercise and yoga classes. The infrastructure also is in place to set up tents for festivals and other events.
“It will be programmed so that we will have something going on there all the time,” Price said. “It’s going to be done in such a manner that there will be something there for everybody. With the programming we are looking at, it’s going to be an attention-getter.”
The first major event scheduled for Common Park is Rainbow City, an installment created by the FriendsWithYou Artist Collective of Arturo Sandoval III and Samuel L. Borkson.
Rainbow City features 40 air-filled sculptures, including “Gumball,” which was designed by Shreveport fourth-grader Isaiah Roberts. Shreveport artists William Joyce is the artistic director for Rainbow City.
“Rainbow City is not just balloons and bouncy houses,” Joyce said in a news
release. “It’s a place about possibility, about heart, about innocence and hope. Rainbow City is about the power of art to open up and change everyone’s way of thinking about art as a vital part of our community and culture.”
The Rainbow City opens Nov. 2. The day is set to begin at 10 a.m. at artspace with a makeand-take art activity.
Attendees can create masks, banners and other parade props. At 1 p.m., the parade will proceed from artspace to Common Park for the opening of this free exhibit.
“When we have that parade, that is going to be monumental,” Price said. “It’s going to grab attention nationally and internationally.”
Rainbow City will continue through Dec. 21. Other festivities include Brunch and Brass on the Avenue on Nov. 2, the Common Groove weekend with Tipsy the Band Nov. 8-10, PJs, Pizza and Food Trucks with William Joyce on Nov. 24, and the Sportspectrum Turkey Trot on Nov. 28.
FRIENDSWITHYOU/RAINBOW CITY EVENTS
OCTOBER 25-DECEMBER 21 FriendsWithYou Retrospective Exhibition @ artspace FREE! And Open to the Public
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2 10 a.m. Parade Make & Take Activity @artspace 1 p.m. Rainbow City Opening Parade, Artspace to The Common Park FREE! And Open to the Public
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3, Noon - 3:30 p.m., Brunch & Brass on the Ave., curated by Sylvester Marshall and catered by Southern Fork Catering (www. friendswithyoushreveport.com/events/brassand-brunch-with-shreveport-jazz-ensemble-andsouthern-fork-catering) NOVEMBER 8-10 Friday - Sunday, Common Groove Weekend with “Tipsey the Band” Friday Night (Ticketed Event!)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15-17 Pace Rainbow Weekend and disco dancing with “That Girl DJ” Rainbow Sunday Brunch by Kristi Graff (Ticketed Event!)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 7 p.m. “The Interns” take the stage (Ticketed Event!)
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 5 p.m., PJs, pizza, food trucks and William Joyce. Featuring movies by William Joyce and FriendsWithYou (Ticketed Event!)
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 28, THANKSGIVING DAY, 8 a.m. - noon, The SportSpectrum “Turkey Trot” (Register www.sportspectrumusa.com)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 7 p.m., Disco 3000 featuring Lomax and Friends! (Ticketed Event!)
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6, 7 p.m., Friends Fest with live electronic music by Space Kadet (Atlanta, GA) and Ryan Visor! (Ticketed Event!)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7, 10 a.m.-noon, Whimsical Waffles, PJs and Nicholas St. North (Ticketed Event!)
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, Noon - 3:30 p.m., Balderas Brunch by Chef Gabriel Balderas, Cabo Verde (Ticketed Event)
For a complete list of Rainbow City events and ticket information, visit friendswithyoushreveport.com.