I am a native of Shreveport, Lousiana, a good-sized city situated along a good-sized river in Northwest Louisiana. Shreveport experienced its economic boom following Henry Miller Shreve’s famous Great Raft solution in 1839. The Red River was then a viable avenue for commercial transport for goods ranging from cotton to timber. The city’s growth occurred during the beginning of the great Victorian period in architecture. This coincides with many other large cities. Shreveport is blessed with gorgeous architecture and downtown area to be most proud of. Gothic and Georgian-style churches, detailed masonry, row-style shopfronts are among the few attributes to grace the urban pocket of our city. Sounds fantastic…..most are in horrible disrepair and inhabited by vagrants. Since the mid 1970’s Shreveport’s downtown has been left to rot due to a plague of biblical proportions infesting many American cities-URBAN SPRAWL! Why shop downtown when you can go to MEGALAND Superbox Center built by Titan Developer X. The large chain centers will never go away but there has to be some happy medium, a truce of sorts! We can keep our suburban areas and have a viable and inhabitable urban district as well. After all- who are we without our history?
I feel that any activity of creativity is born from the same internal source. Whether someone is a writer, inventor, architect, musician, visual artist, performing artist, teacher (the list goes on…), one requires inspiration. Writers become blocked, teachers become discouraged, architects become conformists; we all experience the same roller-coaster of emotions and production in our professional lives. I have found in the past few weeks that while my preferred source of inspiration is a little too far away at the moment I can spark some creativity on a smaller scale….simply by changing up my medium and looking in unexpected places. I was reading an upscale design and gardening magazine a few days ago and found myself marking every fifth page and jotting down things in my sketch journal. I took some things I found in Ryan’s father’s workshop and made a pretty neat little mixed media sculpture. I’m on a ROLL! There are not enough hours in the day to do all the things I’ve jotted down or placed in my mental to do file! I do remember times when I wouldn’t produce any pieces for months or years. Always the same excuse…I’m not inspired…I’m mentally exhausted…I’m too busy doing other things (like paying the bills or taking care of others). No excuses. The powers-that-be have blessed us creatives with abilities that most people wish they had. We have a duty to use them and to have fun. Our outlets should not be chores but retreats, places of pleasure and creation!
Every Saturday bright and early, my boyfriend and JRyanArtist founder Ryan McCutcheon and I tote our goods to our local farmer’s market which has recently begun to accept artists as vendors. I am a studio artist and graphic designer but our booth is populated mainly with craft items. We have some prints of my watercolors and graphic canvases but our dollars are made from knick knacks. I felt a little silly this past weekend and thought to myself, “I am a fine arts graduate and professionally trained artist who is selling little wooden signs and hand-stitched bags with birds on them….what have I become?” I realized though, while painting little cabbages on wood and stitching my little birds, I was having fun. I take pieces of wood that someone has thrown out and give them a new purpose, to look cute on someone’s door or camp house, etc… It’s okay to deviate from the masterpiece every now and then and have a little “crafty” fun. (Making a little extra money from it is okay by me too!) I am not a peddler of menial craft items! I’m just enjoying myself making something different and whimsical so folks can see it and ask, “Where’d you get that?”
If you are in the near vicinity of the Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana area, come by the Shreveport Farmer’s Market. It is every Saturday from 7am until noon.
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Saturday June 18, 2011 JRyanArtist and Beetle and Bird Studios will have a booth to showcase art and a few craft items at a festival celebrating the public debut of the proposed revitalization plan for a specific area of downtown Shreveport. JRyanArtist and team are responsible for a temporary installation illustrating “the cotton exchange” at the dead end of Cotton Street near the old Arlington Hotel. The mural is inspired by Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” mixed with a market/ street vendor environment. The style is derived from my love of Victorian Era accents (not the lace and “froo-froo” business) but the darker, industrial and artistic sides of both the British and American Victorian periods. On a recent trip to London, Ryan and I took in as much of the city as possible and it impresses me to see the beautiful, workable and livable juxtaposition of new and old architecture. Shreveport has a wonderful, unique and beautiful downtown. I am excited to be a part of this transformation and hope wholeheartedly than Shreveport residents will embrace this revamp. Parisians thought Houseman was crazy when he rebuilt the city but his vision is now iconic Paris. Shreveport deserves a Renaissance, especially on the heels of our newfound film industry. Where are a community with immense talent and amazing resources and by utilizing both these attributes we may attract new and intriguing citizens, industry and artisans.