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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Unwavering Commitment


Kathy Ross has been a passionate supporter of the Red River Revel for 34 years.

Kathy Ross stands strong in her love of the arts, volunteerism

As a young newlywed, Kathy Ross quickly learned there’s no place like home.

“I recall going to the grocery store and looking for, of all things, blackeyed peas for New Year’s,” the Shreveport native said of her brief time in Canton, Ohio, in the 1970s. “They all looked at me like, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ It was those connections to the South, whether it was food or just the general gathering of people, it just didn’t seem back then that they did a lot of those things.”

Ross and her husband soon moved back to Shreveport, where Ross found her calling as a teacher and, for 34 years now, a part of the Red River Revel. This will mark Ross’ fifth year as the Revel’s visual artist chairman.

“My husband says I’m a professional volunteer.”

Ross’ boss says she’s invaluable. “Kathy is a vital member of our team, and we are so grateful for her love and dedication to the Revel,” said festival Executive Director Logan Lewis. “Much of the quality and curation of artists, as well as the loyalty of those artists to the Revel, are the direct result of Kathy’s hard work and leadership.”

When attending the Revel this fall (Sept. 28 to Oct. 6), each artist you see will have been touched by Ross in some way.

“I oversee every visual artist that you see in those tents. … During the Revel, I am there to help them set up. I’m there to help them move in. I take care of their needs and wants every day of the Revel, whether it’s making sure coffee and tea are made or whether it’s outside helping them with their tents. I take care of all the needs of every visual artist.”

It’s a way for Ross to stay connected with the arts, a love she found as a child.

“I think my grandmother was the most influential, whether it was the art of cooking or sewing or the art of creating wonderful parties for us. I’ve always had that in me.”

But Ross chose not to pursue art as a career.

“I don’t like to color outside the lines.

It takes me a little bit longer. If I have a project, I dwell on it too long, and that’s why I was never really able to use it to my potential. … I’m so, I don’t know if the word is envious, but I just admire how the artist’s brain works. They can think about painting something and sit down and do it. I have to labor and think. I overthink everything. I’ve always had that passion for it whether it’s from a distance or me personally doing it.”

In recent Revel years, Ross noticed that first-time artists needed help acclimating to selling their work publicly. So, Ross devised a solution called the Emerging Artist Initiative.

“I saw so many talented artists who did not even know how to price their art – what it’s worth. They didn’t know how to set up a booth that would entice a customer to come in. … I meet with (the artist) and tell them what they need and what’s going to happen. But until you’re there selling your art and yourself, you just don’t get it. You just don’t understand.”

But instead of getting discouraged, Ross wants the newbies to become educated.

“The first year, I want them to learn what it’s going to take. Unfortunately, what you may want to paint may not sell. You may have to go back to ‘What does the public want?’ They need to learn that. The second year, you’re ready. You’re just a little more organized — a little more crowd-friendly. Then, it’s our hope that those artists become constant enough that they will move into a tent next year.”

And Ross feels like a proud mama. “I’ve watched these artists prosper and grow and go on to do great things at other festivals.”

But it is at this festival, the Revel, where Ross enjoys showcasing homegrown talent.

“Shreveport has so many artists. I don’t think the community is aware of that. Sure, we recruit lots of people from other states. But I’m just a huge promoter of Shreveport. I like for people to leave the Revel thinking this is a great community event, whether they spent all of their time in the visual artist alley or listening to the music. I’m so passionate about it. I just want people to walk away and think, ‘Wow! These people walk among us all and look at how creative they are. I’m going to take that back and spread the word.’ Come visit us. Come see what we’ve got.”

One thing the Revel has is someone who loves what they do and does it for free.

“Kathy truly loves our community and excellent visual art,” Lewis said. “It is becoming increasingly rare for people to give their time, money and dedication out of a sense of civic duty, expecting nothing in return. Kathy never waivers in this regard.”


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