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Monday, April 20, 2020

Critical Mass 8

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COVID-19 Deals a Blow, but the Show Does Go On!

What began in 2012 as a way to ensure that visiting National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman “saw” the art of Northwest Louisiana artists, grew into one of the most high-energy, vibrant reflections of the passion and talent of local visual, literary and performance artists.

For seven years, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s (SRAC) annual open invitational exhibition and critic series, Critical Mass, exhibited up to 200 of NWLA’s most talented artists in SRAC’s downtown gallery, artspace, and advanced professionals in the arts of NWLA through a system of formal critiques that resulted in the naming of a “Best of Show” winner in visual, literary and performance art. But on Friday, March 13 – the date of the scheduled opening reception for the Exhibition and Performance – Covid-19 forbade the gathering of more than 10 people in any public location, and left artists, art patrons and SRAC officials in shock. Critical Mass 8 was closed to the public, and artspace has been closed now for more than a month.

Professional critique is a significant piece of Critical Mass with SRAC inviting nationally acclaimed critics to Shreveport curated by Robert L. Pincus, Ph.D., a contributor to Art News, Art in America and The Wall Street Journal, to review local visual, literary and performance art and name a “Best of Show” winner in each category. Visual (Shantay Robinson) and performing critics (Manny Mendoza and Lauren Smart) were already in Shreveport and were able to complete the review of the artworks hanging in artspace. Robert Pincus, critics’ curator, and Kwame Dawes, literary critic, could not make it to Shreveport due to Covid-19 but performed their work off-site. So, as the adage says, at least the critical review portion of the show “did go on.”

The bigger part of the “show,” however, and the part that drives success for the artists and buy-in from the local art patrons, suffered a severe setback and created great difficulty for NWLA artists. Artists rely on support from the public through the sale of their work, and Critical Mass 8 facilitates that. To support local artists, SRAC has created an on-line version of Critical Mass 8, which includes the critical reviews: https://artspaceshreveport. com/critical-mass-8. The public is invited to go to this site to review the art and purchase local art.

The Arts Council plans to re-open Critical Mass 8 in late May with a celebratory reception honoring the artists and an opportunity for the public to come and purchase the artworks; the exhibition will be open through Thursday, July 2. Follow SRAC events at www.shrevearts. org or www.artspaceshreveport.com.


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