Admit it. There’s a lot of awesome things going on in Shreveport these days. If you’re an art lover like me and you happen to miss an art opening that piques your interest, you say to yourself “that’s okay, I’ll stop by sometime soon and check it out.” But you never make it there and end up regretting it (i.e. Ben Moss’s excellent show going on at Bossier Arts Council until July 31st – I swear I’ll make it Ben!). Enter the Midsummer Museum Crawl where you get whisked to exhibits at the Meadows Museum, Norton Art Gallery, and Louisiana State Exhibit Museum. This terrific new event gets you to the shows you’ve wanted to go to and adds some great music, food, drinks, and transportation to sweeten the deal.
Having recently interviewed the new director Sean FitzGibbons for Heliopolis and taken the opportunity to support the organization as a Friend of the Meadows, this is originally how I learned about the event. Sean and his team invited Thom Johnson (Studio Highland), Paige Powell (whose artwork graced the cover of the most recent print issue of Heliopolis), and Joshua Chambers to create the installation Further. Music was provided by The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and the dimly lit rooms invited guests to explore the space.
After a specialty cocktail of absinthe and champagne and grabbing a few of the artfully constructed desserts, I explored the effects of pouring colored oil on clear plates displaying the swirling colors via an overhead projector. Artwork by Paige Powell juxtaposes Shreveport landmarks with magazine photographs to make quirky collages, with my favorite being the inflatable ducks taking over the Duck Pond.
Upstairs had Thom Johnson’s cloth pillars paired with recorded music from Nate Treme. Upon reading the artist statement this installation proved to be quite moving and rather than attempting to “figure it out,” just sitting quietly in the room provided the personal connection that Thom was intending. On the other side of the hall were two installations from Joshua Chambers which played with the idea of space and invited the audience closer to the pieces to discover their true intent.
To get to the next venue, organizers used the services of two buses which ended up being a lot of fun and gave you a chance to meet fellow art lovers.
Norton Art Gallery
The Norton is a jewel in Highland where you discover something new every time you visit, or remember just how amazing it is to stand in front of Peter Ellenshaw’s “Himalayan Mountains, Thyangboche Monestary, Nepal.”
For the Midsummer Museum Crawl crowd, the real gems to experience were the food provided by Drake Catering and Hunter Sloan’s Inked exhibit. Drake Catering impressively tied into the theme of Inked by offering spring rolls stamped with squid ink and quesadillas dashed with chili powder to make a portrait of an elephant when put together. Hunter Sloan’s photographs and interviews with subjects who had tattoos were extremely interesting and enlightening. Whether it was a discreet symbol or an entire tattoo suit, the message of “everyone has a story to tell” echoed throughout the room. We found Sloan’s positioning of his models and depth of his photographs to be just as compelling to the stories of the subjects inscribed on each tag.
After Inked our group split up and explored some of the private collection as well as the George Rodrigue Foundation’s gallery of high school art contest winners and their take on the theme of “Monsters, Myths, and Legends.” Once we saw that we only had an hour left for the event, we hurried back onto the party limo and headed out of Highland to the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum.
Louisiana State Exhibit Museum
Certainly the most overlooked museum on the tour, the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum has recently seen an increase in popularity as the host of a variety of community events including the recent Ark-La-Tex Craft Beer & BBQ Festival. For those who have not visited before, the Museum’s main attraction is the dioramas depicting Shreveport history such as farm life and scale oil wells, as well as taxidermies of indigenous animals and Civil War era weaponry.
Midsummer Museum Crawl attendees had the opportunity to explore the works in Mary Louise Porter’s Louisiana Vibrations: Red River Valley. The real treat for us was the ability to have a guided tour by Porter throughout the gallery, where she provided the locations of the paintings as well as inviting discussions on technique and perspective. Porter’s work often involved using plaster or strips of canvas and integrating them into her landscapes to add depth and to work with elements of the painting, drawing the eye to light rays or crop rows. After filling up on meat pies and listening to the always entertaining sounds of Winston Hall on piano, we loaded back on the limo to return to the Meadows.
All-in-all, this event provides art lovers an entertaining way to explore the first-rate museums in our community and, if you’re like me, focus my limited free-time to do so into a three hour block. In the future I’d prefer the event to go from 5pm – 9pm, rather than ending at 8pm, to avoid cramming in an hour at each stop plus travel time between them. This is exactly the type of event that our community needed – supporting existing museums who are shining a light on local, novel artists. Seeing how this event sold out, I would assume that the organizers would see this as a success and will be repeating it in the future. Please follow each of the museums via email and social media, and stay plugged into what they’re working on next.