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Monday, July 12, 2021

Bossier Arts Council Celebrates 40 Years

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Agency to throw party to thank community

More than just a traditional birthday celebration, the Bossier Arts Council celebrates its 40th anniversary with a party for the community.

“We’re calling it our 40th birthday,” said Bossier Arts Council Executive Director Robin Jones. “We just want to say thank you to the community, so we are having a big birthday party.” Party-goers are invited to enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and punch, as well as birthday cake and cookies. Cranked Up Cookies & Confections is creating a giant, artsy birthday cake for the event and 100 cookies with the Council’s logo.

Bossier Arts Council (BAC) has served the community and provided resources for local artists, gallery space, live theater performances, public artworks, community events, scholarships, Arts in Education and more for four decades. And now, thanks to the influx of new businesses to Bossier City’s East Bank, more people are discovering the BAC. “Now that all of the restaurants are here, we’re getting a lot of increased foot traffic and a lot more families than we had ever had before,” said Jones.

Jones says it all began in 1980 when a group of artists got together with city leaders in Bossier to discuss the need for a service agency for the arts. Back then, the group called itself the Bossier Arts Association. She says they received a small grant provided with the help of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and funds matched by the city.

The BAC is located in Bossier City’s old municipal building located at 630 Barksdale Blvd. Live theater happens upstairs in what used to be a courtroom. Now it’s the East Bank Theatre (the BAC’s longest-running program). “Our dressing rooms were holding cells,” said Jones. “We still use the holding cells, but they’re dressing rooms now.”

Recently, the theater has been utilized to give new playwrights a low-cost venue to produce their plays. Jones says the BAC is kicking off a fresh start for the East Bank Theatre this fall with a stage production of “Clue,” the classic board game. Tickets are currently on sale.

BAC provides a host of services and events for the public to enjoy. Among these is an annual student art show during December and January. All Bossier Parish art students may feature one piece of art in the show. Judges select first, second and third place winners, along with a Best in Show winner. “Whatever the student wins, we match that and give that to their teacher for their classroom,” said Jones. “We give several thousand dollars in awards away each year.”

Inside its building, the BAC also showcases the work of local artists in both the main East Bank Gallery and an emerging artist. The emerging artist gallery is for artists who have had less than six solo shows. “We teach them how to write an artist statement, how to write a bio, how to market themselves, how to make sure their work is properly wired and hung,” said Jones.

iMacs and PCs with updated software are also on hand in the building for artists to use who don’t have the resources to access software such as Photoshop or InDesign.

The organization holds one fundraiser a year, Artini, which funds 25% of the BAC’s annual budget. The location of the event changes each year. Jones says Artini 2021 was the biggest to date. Funding also comes from private donors, the city and markets and other events.

Another significant program put on by BAC annually is Digifest SOUTH, a digital arts festival for students from Caddo, Bossier and surrounding parishes. The festival typically sees the attendance of 4,000 students. Due to Covid, this event has embraced a hybrid model encompassing five months of STEAM events rather than one or two big field trip days. August is science month, September is technology, and engineering, art, math will also be featured.

Jones says artist and retired educator Steve Porter has been a huge supporter of the arts council and has always displayed his students’ artwork at the student art show. Jones says Porter created a large mural for the BAC available for party attendees to paint during the birthday bash.

Porter shares equal praise about the BAC and the work it does in the community. He first became involved with the BAC around 2010. He says one of the most impactful things the organization does is help students obtain art supplies. He cites one particularly talented student who had a great need. He says the BAC stepped in to help. “By the time it was over with, that student had enough supplies to work with for a year. It was great,” said Porter. “These are things that people don’t realize happened, but the children and the lives they have touched – that is the important thing.”

The Bossier Arts Council’s 40th Birthday Celebration occurs on Thursday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m. at 630 Barksdale Blvd. The event is free to the public.

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