An Uncommon Cultural District in Downtown Shreveport, Louisiana

Posted by Mrs. Pam Atchison, Jul 26, 2013 0 comments

Pam Pam Atchinson

Shreveport Common is a nine-block “Creative Community,” located in the Louisiana-designated 25-block Cultural District of Shreveport, where residents get Historic Tax sales tax credits for purchasing original art. Shreveport Common is distinguished as a Creative Placemaking project by artists at the helm of revitalizing this historically rich yet blighted community.

Shreveport, Louisiana is the birthplace of music and art that has played a significant role in our national history. There are 11 cultural venues within one block of all sites in Shreveport Common; 12 sites are National Historic Landmarks. Renowned musicians such as Cab Calloway, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, Huddy Ledbetter got their start here. Municipal Auditorium was home to the famous KWKH Louisana Hayride radio broadcast, heard across 10 states.  The Calanthean Temple, America's first sky-scraper that was designed, funded, and built by African Americans, boasted a rooftop stage that attracted musicians from all over the country.  The area is so rich in musical heritage that Robert Plant (of the rock band Led Zeppelin) drove 180 miles to Shreveport following a concert in Dallas to walk the streets for inspiration –specifically Sprague Street, once home to the Blue Goose musicians.

The organizational partnership behind Shreveport Common includes public and private investors who are implementing a National Endowment for the Arts MICD 25th Anniversary funded Vision Plan. Teams of artists, developers, municipal department heads, and non-profits are executing a portfolio of 36 strategies based on authenticity, sustainability, creativity, and community.

Only 800 residents currently live in the area, most in transitional housing. However, new affordable artist housing and exciting market-value, mixed-use developments will join current Section-8 housing. The Vision Plan also engages the area’s social service organizations by forming innovative collaborations with artists’ Pay-It-Forward and Workforce programs. A plethora of functional and aesthetic Public Art, both permanent and temporary, will be combined with consistent programming designed to drive and sustain vibrancy in the district.

Louisiana Historic and New Markets Tax Credits along with Affordable Living Tax Incentives have stimulated individual developments in the City but have not, before now, been united by a Vision Plan and dedicated “all-star” team to create a Creative Community. The city looks to Shreveport Common to be the catalyst that creates the vibrancy needed to sustain the Cultural district.

In order to capture the authenticity of the area and maximize opportunities to build upon its heritage, Mayor Cedric Glover appointed “community-expert” task forces in nine fields: developers, artists' services, public art, greenspaces, housing, homelessness, street vendors, neighbourhood communication, arts programming, and transportation.  Each task force considers its specific role in the context of the musical, artistic, literary, architectural, and historic diversity of the area.

The upcoming monthly series UNSCENE!, funded in part through a grant from Artplace America, NEA "Our Town," and the North Louisiana Community Foundation, will team national artist Residencies with unconventional regional juried artists to produce temporary and permanent works that recall the area's cultural heritage. The artists, under the direction of 2012 Academy Award winner Brandon Oldenburg, will work collaboratively to animate this burgeoning area on the precipice of revitalization. The desired result is the development of a creative community where you stumble upon the "UN" … UNprecedented, UNexpected, UNabashed, and UNcommon!

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