Ron Smith introduced himself without prompting. In his corner spot on the second floor of artspace, he is just as eager to learn about the Artwalkers visiting his booth as he is to talk about his art. His paintings are arranged into two distinct groups: rural scenes and music scenes, each displayed on adjacent edges of a corner formed by the intersection of two walls. Ron explains that he listens to music while he paints.
“This may be Journey,” he says, pointing to a painting, “And this may be something else,” pointing to another.
Local artists are a source of pride for many Shreveporters. Their creations give voice to the character of the community. When we hang local art on our walls or gift it to relatives for Christmas, those pieces tend to spark conversation about what makes our home so special.
Homegrown businesses add a different kind of value to our city. Just down the street from artspace is Gina Marie’s Antiques, Oddities, and Curiosities; it’s a new, one-of-a-kind home to everything from taxidermied animals, skulls, and specimens in jars to African masks, decorative prints, and atomizers. Distinct businesses like Gina Marie’s draw visitors to Shreveport, adding dollars to the local economy.
In recent years, thanks in part to nifty tax credits and incentives, businesses have been choosing to open their doors downtown, primarily on Texas Street, helping to revitalize what was once a vital business hub. The Texas Street corridor is significant for two reasons: First, businesses are short, walkable and bikeable, distances apart. More walking and biking means reduced car traffic. Additionally, walkable corridors are linked to higher rates of spending, meaning more sales for downtown businesses, and ultimately, more revenue for City budgets (think streets, water, etc.) Lastly, the health and environmental benefits of walking to and from shops are difficult to overstate.
Second, most businesses along Texas Street are locally owned. Independent, local businesses recirculate more of every dollar spent in the Shreveport economy. These businesses do a better job of helping to create and sustain a thriving economy than franchises do. A robust local economy not only ensures job creation, but also helps to insulate the community from large-scale economic downturns and corporate trends. Take for example the shutdown of Shreveport’s General Motors facility in 2012 that put some 3,000 people out of a job. If those 3,000 jobs were distributed among many locally owned, independent businesses rather than held by one corporation, those jobs simply wouldn’t have been taken from Shreveport en mass, at one time.
The Texas Street commercial corridor, particularly on the West Edge, is on track to become the nexus of a thriving art and cultural district. This ongoing development wouldn’t be possible without the existence of anchor projects like artspace and Robinson Film Center. Our vision for a vibrant downtown is laid out in Shreveport’s 2030 Master Plan, which was adopted in 2010. More recently, the passage of Amendment No. 2 to City Ordinance No. 149, which enabled Rhino Coffee’s sidewalk cafe space, was a step in the right direction. Chatter about bike racks, additional lighting, and more friendly two-way streets can be heard in the wind.
So, take a stroll down Texas Street the next time you’re downtown. Stop to shop and eat. Choose to support local artists, local businesses, and a dynamic, economically robust downtown Shreveport — our vision in the works.
The “First Wednesday Downtown Artwalk” takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. Visual artists display and market their creations, and participating businesses keep their doors open late.
December’s venues included artspace; Marlene Yu Museum; Lofts at 624; Robinson Film Center; Gina Marie’s Antiques, Oddities, and Curiosities; Shreve Memorial Library; Red River Brewing; Fat Calf Boucherie; the Agora Borealis; and Norsworthy Gallery.
The First Wednesday Downtown Artwalk is free and open to the public. The next event will be held Wednesday, February 6, 2019.