The executive director of the Bossier Arts Council has an appropriate attitude about her calling in life. She says it’s her goal to “help the public connect to the arts and how it shows up in their lives. Art is all around us. It exists in so many different disciplines, and sometimes we forget that.”
One of the ways she seeks to remind us of art in our lives is the Bossier Arts Council’s [BAC] annual fundraiser called ARTini.
In case you’ve never heard of it, ARTini celebrates various forms of creative expression and encompasses the culinary, musical and visual arts by having local mixologists create signature martinis and compete for the coveted titles of Judges' Choice, Peoples' Choice and Most M’artisanal.
ARTini Committee Chair Emerie Holtzclaw explained the concept. It’s basically a cocktail-making contest among area bartenders to raise money for all the BAC programs. But like most martinis there’s a twist.
“Everyone knows the traditional martini is made with gin,” Holtzclaw said, “so when we say ARTini, it’s the art of a martini, but we use vodka. It is definitely a little more well liked, and it is proudly sponsored by Absolut.”
This year’s 13th annual cocktail competition will be held June 10 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
at Louisiana Downs Casino & Racetrack. The evening has been dubbed Destination ARTini. “It’s inspired by the 1980s Miami,” Pope explained. “If you think ‘Miami Vice,’ that would be the best thing to help people in choosing their outfits.”
If you go, you’ll get a painted martini glass and a voting olive for your $75 ticket price, according to Holtzclaw. What’s a voting olive?
“Every year, we have different restaurants and bars and casinos and hotels that participate by curating their own martini,” Holtzclaw said. “Everyone that comes gets their own voting olive and gets to cast their vote after tasting all of them and vote for their favorite martini. There is a voting box at every participant’s table. So, they go back to their favorite and cast their vote. We tally those votes at the end of the night. The winner [receives] the People’s Choice Award. We have some local celebrity judges, and so we’ll have a Judges’ Choice. We’ll also have a Most M'artisanal, which translates to the most creative.”
“We’re super excited about our competitors,” Pope added. “We have some of our area favorites like Fatty Arbuckle’s, but we also have some new area business like the III Amigos on the Boardwalk will be joining us. We have a lot of the mobile bartenders who are doing a lot of bartender catering; they’re going to be joining us this year.”
At press time, there were about 17 competitors lining up their best spirited efforts to capture the prizes. And they will be unique. Each year, BAC chooses a featured artist to highlight in the event. The artist creates all the awards for the event as unique pieces of art.
“This year, our featured artist is Paige Powell,” Holtzclaw said. “We felt like her art fit the theme extremely well.”
Pope said, “We decided we wanted to play with the ’80s and the color palette, all that good stuff. Paige [Powell] just popped out. Because one of my favorite pieces from her is of Cross Lake. It’s so simple, it’s just the bridge, but it has a special meaning to me and because her use of color and what she does with a lot of our favorite places in Shreveport/Bossier, it all just came together perfectly. This was the theme; she was the featured artist.”
Pope said once she notified Powell, the artist went into overdrive working on her creations for the event. “She said she was an ’80s kid, so she was ready to go. I cannot wait to see the complete body of work that she’ll have available for purchase that night.”
But unique art is only a part of the evening, Pope emphasized. Some of the entries are being revealed, and they are piquing her interest, and she hopes they will the public’s. “Some of the names are coming in, the names of their cocktails. I’m just going to say this, I am excited about Abby Singer’s cocktail. I don’t want to give it away just yet. But it’s going to be very interesting. They’re naming it Cocaine Bear after the film they just had here. A little taboo, but I’m very interested to see what that looks like.”
Pope, who assumed the helm of the Arts Council seven months ago, said the goal this year was to keep the celebration uniquely Bossier City. “Every year we choose a Mover and Shaker, who is a person who had been supportive of the arts community and supportive of BAC. That person [this year] is Councilman Vince Maggio. He has been so beautifully supportive of us over the years. Of course, he is supportive of efforts there in the East Bank as a whole.”
As to her tenure at BAC, Pope said, “It has been quite the adventure. There have been some scary parts, but I’ll tell you for every scary part of this journey, there have been portions of the journey that top the scary. I call it the non-profit ride. It wasn’t a completely strange space to me. I volunteered my services as a board member there. Bossier Parish wasn’t completely foreign to me because I worked a decade with the public library system. I was just excited for another opportunity to continue serving the public.”
In leading up to this year’s mixology meet, BAC brought in Peter Lyons to entertain early ticket buyers. Lyons has won the Most M’artisanal Award twice for his creations. Pope said, “It was absolutely amazing. He recreated one of his winning cocktails for them, giving them how to make it, so they left there with recipes.”
Usually, the event hosts live music, but there’s a twist in that this year, as well, Pope said.
“We’re doing deejays this year. Deejay Yoshi, we had a really good time with at Christmas in the Sky and the [Red River] Revel, he is curating a musical journey of the ’80s. His mental catalog of music is so expansive you wouldn’t believe it. People will have an opportunity to, literally, dance all night long.”
The dancing, the judging, it’s all for the purpose of helping BAC raise the necessary funds to do what they do all year. The money from the event supports the Bossier Arts Council's programming, local artist support and outreach projects for the year. “ARTini has become an area favorite for some people. We appreciate their support over the years, and we appreciate the continued support,” Pope added.
This all fits with Pope’s belief about the role art plays in all our lives. “How we function, how we exist as human beings, where we live, what we’ve done, what we’ve eaten. Our earliest understandings of it came from what?
Art. Art that was on caves, cave drawings. That is what told us who we were and how we lived. I think we have to begin to commit to art that way. It’s just such a part of us.
“I think a part of that is ARTini, and we want to be able to continue what we do at Bossier Arts Council and ARTini and do it for years to come.”