Changes Big and Tall
Caddo Common Park LED-Lit Artistrees Premiere; Performance Pavilion Construction Begins
Caddo Common park has a dazzling new look, and there’s more to come.
The installation of three 20’ tall public art trees, “Artistrees,” launches the longawaited Phase II completion of the new community greenspace at the center of Shreveport Common, 869 Texas Ave. in downtown Shreveport.
The Artistrees, named “Diamonds says, “Jim would be over the moon with these beautiful trees named in his honor. He loved the idea of Shreveport Common and enjoyed going to the initial community meetings. Jim loved to see the spark of creativity blossom in someone and encouraged and assisted anyone who was willing to try to make something.”
Allen says he misses Hayes, who passed away in 2020. “We had partnered on public art projects since 2010. We worked sympatico, taking the best ideas and talking through the technical and aesthetic issues until we both agreed to a final design.” Allen, who describes Hayes as very outgoing, and himself as the technical guy, says, “This was our sixth public art project together, but this one I had to finish without him. I missed bouncing ideas off each other.”
Allen describes the trees’ bases as having the feel of cypress trunks. He says the branches and panels are for Jim,” were designed by artist team Bruce Allen and the late Jim Hayes after a year-long community process that gave neighbors “first voice” in the park’s design. In November 2020, Bruce Allen completed the final design of the trees and began offsite fabrication of the electric-blue metal trunks and the yellow and amber, LEDlit panel “leaves.” He recently installed the three Artistrees, two 20’ and one 25’ tall, in the park’s Art Bosque Food Truck Court.
“Each of the 66 polycarbonate panels were designed and positioned at all angles in order to catch the sun at different times of the day,” says Bruce Allen.
“I don’t just like them, I LOVE them,” says Lucinda Bledsoe, who drove to the park twice last week to see the Artistrees, once during the day and again at night to see the panels lit.
Allen said he and Hayes started working on the design six years ago after several community listening sessions. “We were committed to design something that would be dynamic and fit with what the community wanted,” says Allen. “This design is from Jim Hayes’ original sketches,” he adds.
Hayes died last year before work began on the Artistrees. His wife, Christine, designed to create a canopy over the Art Bosque Food Truck area tables. According to Allen, the blue trunks have a shiny, almost reflective quality that was created by a combination of repeated grinding of the metal bases and working with Martin Specialty Coatings for a “candy” powder coat finish.
In addition to the many public and private funders that helped support the project, Allen says the project included 14 local vendors and three people who helped a great deal: Kyle Martin and Paul Morrow from Shreveport and Roy Tijerina from Chicago.
The Artistrees in Caddo Common park can be seen from the Shreveport HUD Choice Neighborhoods offices in Shreveport Common. Tracey Graham, Choice Neighborhood coordinator, says that she is excited to see the Artistrees go up. “The art and programming in Caddo Common park enhance the area, creating a beautiful place for our neighbors to come and socialize,” she says.
Pam Atchison, executive director of Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC), agrees and hopes everyone will come to experience the new addition to the park. “It’s unexpected and unimaginable,” she says. “Through Bruce’s fantastic artistry, the trees are as dramatic by day as they are at night, when the spectacular leaves glow brilliantly.”
According to Wendy Benscoter, executive director of Shreveport Common Inc., Caddo Common park is at the epicenter of the nationally awarded, creative placemaking revitalization of the nine-block urban area.
“This park is a very special place,” Benscoter says, “made possible because so many have come together to make it a reality. The public and private partnerships and the community involvement have been amazing.” She says it was important that the artists spent months listening to the community, especially the neighbors, when designing the park. “The idea for the public art feature to be trees and even the choice of colors came from them. That’s creative placemaking at its best, and there is more to come.”
Construction has begun on the Mike McSwain-designed outdoor performance pavilion on the south side of the park. It is expected to be completed within a year, with a Mister Station and a mobile game kiosk with large-scale and tabletop games. SRAC will continue UNCOMMON Sundays in Caddo Common park. The next event is scheduled for Nov. 21, noon - 4:30.
For more information, visit these websites:
Shreveport Regional Arts Council at shrevearts.org Shreveport Common at shreveportcommon.com
About the Artistrees
• Three Artistrees: Two are 20’ tall, and one is 25’ tall. The canopies are approximately 20 feet wide. They each weigh about 1,000 pounds.
• 2,300 feet of aluminum pipe was needed to create the 135 sections that make up the trees.
• The Artistrees were assembled twice. They were first assembled offsite to adjust how they would fit on-site, dismantled, then moved to their current location and carefully reassembled.
• 66 polycarbonate, amber and yellow, twin-walled, “architectural” sheets were fitted for the 2’x3’ metal frames fabricated for the “leaves.” Each panel was adjusted to a different position to glow from the sun and cast colorful shadows at different times during the day. Each panel is also LED lit.
About Shreveport Common
• The city of Shreveport opened Phase I of Caddo Common park on Oct. 28, 2019. Phase II was immediately announced as Caddo Parish Commission matched private sector funding raised for park amenities.
• Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Caddo Parish Parks, and area artists and arts organizations have resumed programming the park as Covid restrictions have allowed.
• Shreveport Common is located at the eastern edge of Shreveport’s oldest neighborhood, Ledbetter Heights, now a HUD Choice Neighborhoods and the west edge of the downtown business district. Caddo Common park and other public and private transformational projects are based on the communityinformed and Shreveport City Council/ Caddo Parish-approved, Shreveport Common Vision Plan.
• In 2010, the nine-block area of Shreveport Common had one of the state’s highest concentrations of endangered buildings. Sixty-four percent of the buildings were unoccupied.
• The community-informed and city councilapproved Shreveport Common Vision Plan is based on the community’s tenets for the project: authenticity, creativity, sustainability and community with no displacement of the neighbors.
• Today, over 100 partners have invested $54 million in preservation, infrastructure, programming, mixed-rate and mixeduse residential, studio spaces and venues in the nine-block area; 29 construction projects are complete, seven projects are under construction, and 16 are in predevelopment.
• In response to an Artist and Creative Professional Market Demand Study by Artspace, MN and SWAN research, 10 affordable artist-shared spaces are in place at Andress Artist & Entrepreneur Center, 33 units of affordable and marketrate UNEEDA Apartments are underway (Brown/Taylor), and a Makerspace is expected in early 2022. The Shreveport Common team is working with developers and property owners to increase mixed rate residences, private studio spaces and unique retail in the nine-block area.
About the Artist Team
Bruce Allen retired in 2019 after teaching at Centenary College Art Department for 35 years. He is described as an artist/ community activist/entrepreneur.
Jim Hayes, owner of LA House of Props in Shreveport, has been described as an artist/set and furniture designer/mechanic/ engineer extraordinaire. He died last year after a short illness. Before Hayes’ death, the two artists formed the Jim & I Design Collective.