Beginning in the mountains in Arkansas, the Ouachita River meanders through Louisiana’s delta into the Mighty Mississippi. In the parish that shares its name, the Ouachita River cuts between the cities of Monroe and West Monroe. Many residents view the river as a divider between the two communities, but the Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana and local artists are working to change that mindset. The Ouachita River is not a divider, but a unifying factor connecting people together.
Brew on the Bridge literally bridged the gap between the two towns on Endom Bridge spanning the Ouachita River on October 13. As part of the North Delta Food & Wine Festival, Brew on the Bridge is a family-friendly party with craft beer, makers, artisans, and live music.
This year, the Arts Council added the element of live paintings, with local artists participating in “Paint the Ouachita.” The finished works from Paint the Ouachita will travel around the region as part of an exhibit as part of Year of the River 2019, a bicentennial celebration of the first steamboat trip up the Ouachita River, changing the economy and livelihood of residents.
Monroe mayor representative Rod Washington and West Monroe Mayor Staci Albritton Mitchell participated in a cook-off at Brew on the Bridge. Blind panelists tasted both dishes, and declared Mayor Mitchell the winner. As a trophy, the Arts Council asked local artist Kyle Snellenberger to create a piece representative of the river. He donated his finished mixed media piece to the Arts Council to loan each year to the winning mayor.
Snellenberger, who owns Ouachita Antique Woods, fused together two pieces of Sinker Cypress wood found from the Ouachita River to represent the cities of Monroe and West Monroe. He then added art resin to emulate the river. Mayor Mitchell will hang the artwork in West Monroe City Hall until the next cook-off.