Fundraiser Benefits The Bossier Arts Council
How long has Lauren Ross Simmons been painting?
“Since I was old enough to hold a paintbrush.”
That’s around 40 years. In that time, the Shreveporter and mother of two young children has been developing her talent. So much so that she makes her living as an artist. On June 12, you will be able to see Ross Simmons’ talent up close. She is the featured artist at ARTini, the year’s major — and only — fundraiser for the Bossier Arts Council (BAC). The event — including a martini competition among some 15 local restaurants and bars — will be at Shreveport’s Sci-Port Discovery Center from 7-11 p.m.
“Sometimes, I think artists are not taken very seriously.” Ross Simmons said. “So, it’s a great honor to be recognized.”
ARTini returns for its 11th year after being canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“That’s how we keep our programs alive,” said Robin Jones, who is approaching her sixth year as BAC’s executive director.
“We do get some city support. We do get donations throughout the year. But as far as a fundraiser, this brings in the bulk of our program money.”
Money which pays for programs that, in turn, help local artists.
“We live in an underserved community where art isn’t always valued,” Jones said. “We also have a huge concentration of local artists, and those artists need support. They need classes. They need entrepreneurial training. They need resources. We provide not only those things, but we also have students and children who don’t always have access to art supplies and instruction. We supply all of those things for our community.”
Being ARTini’s featured artist means Ross Simmons will be ARTini’s only artist. Her work, which she describes as “Pop Art,” will be displayed throughout Sci-Port. Many items will be for sale.
“I think any time you can get exposure, whether you sell a piece or not, is always a good thing,” Ross Simmons said. “Just to help get your name out there, and then for people to learn who you are as an artist, and to see your body of work as a collection, sort of tells a story.”
Ross Simmons will tell a story with more than 50 pieces of art.
“They’re huge, like five-foot-tall pieces,” she said. “Most of them are three, four and five feet, so I like to paint on a large scale.”
Ross Simmons tends to focus on entertainment. She’s done a painting of the late musician Jimi Hendrix. She recently finished a painting of E.T, the extra-terrestrial. And then there is this, which will be on display but not for sale (it’s already sold):
“There’s a big piece that I did that’s five feet tall by four feet wide,” Ross Simmons said. “It’s all of the Looney Tunes characters, and they’re under a disco ball. I took bedazzled sunglasses and chains and designer logos that I made out of resin, so they’re all kind of tricked out, dancing under the disco ball.”
So, how would you like a martini to go along with your art?
Restaurants and bars will be competing for prizes — each a one-of-a-kind, custom piece of Ross Simmons’ art. We Olive & Wine Bar in Shreveport is a returning participant.
“Every year, we try to do (a martini) that is unique just for ARTini,” said We Olive owner Virginia Calhoun. “We don’t offer hard liquor in our store. We just do beer and wine. But we try to implement our products that we sell in the store. So, the extra virgin olive oils, any balsamic vinegars, we try to put that in the recipe and get really creative with it.”
As for what makes a good — and hopefully for Calhoun — award-winning martini?
“Definitely, it’s ingredients,” Calhoun said. “And a little creativity is key. The ingredients are going to help it have that great quality taste. Being creative with the type of martini makes it more fun, instead of just something that’s a run-of-the-mill, generic martini.”
The only requirement is that competitors use Absolut Vodka. The rest is up to them. This year, Calhoun is going with a garnish of watermelon rind pickled in a peach balsamic vinegar.
“It gives you a very prideful feeling,” Calhoun said of when she sees someone savoring one of her martinis. “There’s an excitement to be able to create something that someone else enjoys and gives them satisfaction, pleasure and enjoyment.”
While martinis and artwork will be in the spotlight at ARTini, the Bossier Arts Council is not losing sight of the bigger picture.
“We want our community to value local art,” Jones said. “We don’t want (people) to go to big box stores and purchase artwork. We want them to see that we have incredible artists right here in their backyard. When they purchase that artwork, it’s one of a kind.”
To purchase ARTini tickets, and to learn more about the Bossier Arts Council, you may visit www.bossierarts.org.
To learn more about Lauren Ross Simmons and her artwork, you may visit www.art-by-lauren-ross.myshopify.com/.