16 arts organizations represented at the Northeast Louisiana Arts Summit

This past weekend the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council held its first Northeast Louisiana Arts Summit, as a part of the Art Council’s Arts Entrepreneurial Training Program.  The summit featured three separate sessions, a Board Development Workshop, Developing a Consistent Brand, and Grant Writing 101. Board and staff members from 16 arts organizations in northeast Louisiana attended to learn more about how to continue to improve their nonprofits.

Board Development Workshop

This session was lead by Pam Atchison, executive director of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC).  It taught summit attendees how to form and maintain a board.  Atchison presented a slide show on the traditional board model and the 7 overarching responsibilities of a board member.

Developing a Consistent Brand

The second session was lead by the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council’s own community development coordinator Danielle Kelley Tolbird.  Tolbird’s presentation gave us useful information on branding covering topics like brand credibility, creativity, and identity.  Her talk was full of tips and tricks to propel your brand’s image forward.

Grant Writing 101

Ending the day was a session lead by Margrit Brazda Poirier, owner and founder of Grants4Good LLC.  Poirier, via live webinar, showcased her over 20 years of grant experience.  The talk consisted of how to find the proper grant for your project, what it may pay for, the language and information to use when applying, and the importance of research and planning before approaching your potential funder.

This was a fantastic event that was bursting with information and networking opportunities.  Keep up with Arts Council events here.  Get involved here.

Meet the Artist: Kelsea McCrary

Kelsea McCrary at Crawl

Photo by Hidden Productions

Meet the Artist is a brand new blog series where we will be interviewing local artists that are transforming our area. With the mission to nurture a vibrant regional arts culture through support, promotion and education, we think it would be a great delight for the 318 to get to know our hometown artists’ stories and learn what amazing feats they are accomplishing to help our area flourish!

With the Downtown Gallery Crawl having celebrated its 10th Anniversary on June 7, we thought it would be perfect for the community to get to know the current President of the Downtown Arts Alliance, Kelsea McCrary.

Q: What are you currently involved with in the area?
A: I’m currently involved with or on the board of: the Downtown Arts Alliance, Twin City Arts Foundation, Downtown West Monroe Revitalization Group, Ouachita Business Alliance, ARROW Public Art, Monroe Renaissance, the Louisiana Trust for Historical Preservation, L Club for ULM, and maybe a few others. I am also actively involved with the Northeast Louisiana branding initiative and North Monroe Baptist Church. 
Q: Tell me some more about your background; what was your childhood like, when did your interest in art begin, what made you decide to major in art?
A: I’m from a musical family; growing up (and still to this day), I was in studio dance classes. Dance was a main impetus for choosing ULM. I always asked for sketchbooks and art supplies; I read a ton, loved the library, and had an educator and pianist for a mom, so my life was pretty centered around learning of all types of subjects, especially the arts. I don’t really think I thought of it as more than a hobby until I arrived at university, and took my first “basic design” class. I remember walking out, calling my parents, and saying “that syllabus just explained my brain to me.” I changed my major and didn’t look back.
Q: How did you become affiliated with the Downtown Arts Alliance, and what do you plan on doing as its President?
A: I first came on board about 4-5 years ago as a curator of one of the galleries. Then, I became Vice President. I was then voted in as President about three years ago. My term actually comes to a close this summer, but within my term we have totally re-branded: new logo, new look, new website, new videos, new everything. We’ve expanded our board, adjusted our sponsorship focus to include micro-funding and a “friends” program. We have also really focused on arts awareness, education, accessibility, and public projects on both sides of the river while really pushing forward into a more robust digital presence with a heavy emphasis on social media.
Q: After Thursday, what does it mean to you to have the 10th season of the Downtown Gallery Crawl in the books?
A: It means our next chapter begins; we continue to reinvent ourselves while keeping our mission statement in mind of education, awareness, exposure, and connectivity. This event is such a beautiful example of a labor of love from the many wonderful volunteers that comprise our board, and we absolutely love the six times per year that we get to work to make this happen.
Q: To you, what is the biggest highlight regarding the Art Crawls, and what is a change you would like to make for the future?
A: The Crawl has become one of the most diverse events in our parish. Crawlers of all income levels, backgrounds, races, and experiences attend our events. The arts tend to be a uniting force that bring people together who wouldn’t normally be in the same crowd. We love being a part of that. One thing we want to focus on for the future are more of these underserved populations, while continuing to nurture the creative community we already have here in the 318.
Q: Where do you go or what do you do to get inspired?
A: I go outside. I love living in Louisiana – even in the middle of the summer. I spend time around my nieces, and I usually call my grandparents as much as I can. It’s not so much inspiration as it is a reminder of what’s important and who matters.
Q: Other than art, what are some things most people do not know you are passionate about?
A: I totally geek out about Greek mythology and the Tudor dynasty. I also really enjoy experimenting with cooking and trying to find healthy alternatives to meals 
Q: What is the most touching or rewarding moment you have experienced in your art career?
A: Every time I stand on Art Alley, South Grand, DeSiard, or Antique Alley during a Downtown Gallery Crawl, I see families, young people, longtime patrons, college students, and groups of Crawlers of every type interacting with the artists, talking with our Gallery Directors or Curators, or just walking around both downtowns having a good time. I am reminded of the depth of the work that we do, and the privilege that it is to be part of such an effort. When I made that decision as an 18 year old to pursue the Fine Arts, you can bet that I didn’t think it would lead to this.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to all of the artists out there?
A: Find out what your weaknesses are as early on as you can and work on those. I had a professor tell me once to “paint the hands first,” meaning, do the hard things as quickly as you can. At the same time, speak out about your strengths and capitalize on them. Don’t be afraid to say what you enjoy and what you are good at doing. Lastly, take a business class. I mean it.
Q: What is your dream project for the future?
A: I have several, and I’ll keep them under wraps for now, but an absolute dream would be to see a perception shift for our area. To see our citizens realize the opportunity they have to capitalize on what is already here in Ouachita Parish and the surrounding cities and towns and to be extremely proud of it. I’d also like to continue helping our future generations of creatives and artists recognize the network that exists and help enrich their ability to put down roots and contribute to our growing arts and culture community.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to mention that I did not ask?
A: The best way to improve where you live, no matter where it is, is to do something about it. That sounds cliche, but we know it to be true and of value. To change something, to contribute to a place, to make it better- those are enduring legacies. And honestly, it is really fun to work on these plans with people you like and happen to get along with. Arts and culture are a wonderful area of life to plug into, and we always have room for more.
The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council is extremely thankful for what Kelsea is doing for our area, and we admire her dedication to what she is so passionate about.
– Joanna Calhoun

Strauss Presents: Smoke on the Mountain, June 14 -15

Running June 14th and 15th, you will be able to relive Smoke on the Mountain, a Strauss Theatre production that was so popular they revived it as a dinner theatre production.

Set in the 1930s, this musical tale introduces the singing Sanders family, who perform their traditional and bluegrass gospel songs for the members of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, NC. Pastor Oglethorpe welcomes the family to the church, where their individual stories and beliefs are shared during the concert.

The audience serves as the members of the congregation. They will experience live music in an intimate and interactive setting. Lasting approx 2.5 hours, the cast is comprised of Josh Madden (Stanley Sanders), Jacob Branson (Dennis Sanders), Hannah Matherne  (Denise Sanders), Nicole Goode (June Sanders), Kelly Flores (Vera Sanders), Spence Young (Burl Sanders), and Alex Matherne (Pastor Oglethorpe).  The dinner portion of the show will be catered by Chef Pat Nolan.

The show is being held in the Strauss Main Stage lobby June 14th and 15th at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets are $45 (+tax) and can be purchased by calling the box office at (318) 323-6681 or by following this link. Stay informed about events at Strauss here.

smoke on the mountain cast

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Northeast Louisiana Summer Film Series – All Over but To Cry, June 20

The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council presents the documentary film All Over but To Cry, directed by Louisiana native Jennifer John Block as a part of the Northeast Louisiana Film Series.

The year was 1957, and Louisiana residents awoke to find their homes surrounded by rising water levels. Why? Hurricane Audrey had crashed ashore 12 hours earlier than projected.  Little did they know a massive tidal wave would soon follow.

Join us as we share the stories of eight survivors of this storm that devastated coastal towns. Doors open at the Flying Tiger Brewery at 4 p.m. with the film to screen at 7:30 p.m. Come early to grab a pint and a taco from Skinny Phil’s Food Truck. Tickets are $5 for non-members and free for members. Become a member here.



Still To Come:



Third Wednesdays this summer at Flying Tiger Brewery. $5 tickets for non-members. Films begin at 7:30 p.m.

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Downtown Gallery Crawl celebrates its 10th Anniversary

That’s a wrap! The 10th Season of the Downtown Gallery Crawl wrapped up Thursday, and it was a success! Free to the public, this dynamic event located in downtown Monroe and West Monroe consisted of 9 stunning galleries, delicious food trucks, handmade market vendors,  and multiple live performances by talented musicians.

The Palace Gallery featured photographer Caleb Bostick’s work. Coinciding with his show was finalists’ photographs of the Monroe-West Monroe Convention & Visitors Bureau and BayouLife Magazine’s annual Photo the ‘Roe photography contest, which Bostick won last year. Best of Show winner, RJ Ojeda, will have his breath-taking photo featured as the July cover of BayouLife.

The Downtown Arts Alliance, a non-profit organization, organizes every Crawl and ensures there is “new fine art from local, regional, and national artists 6 times a year.” Its goal is to allow the arts and community in the 318 to grow and prosper, and they surely are going above and beyond.

The Downtown Gallery Crawl occurs on the first Thursday of every other month, so be sure to mark your calendars for August 2 – you won’t want to miss out! For more information about the Downtown Gallery Crawl, click here.

-Joanna Calhoun

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New Music on the Bayou features international contemporary composers

As New Music on the Bayou has come to an end, it is safe to say that this 3rd Annual Music Festival was a hit! From May 31st through June 2nd, five free concerts, plus one ticketed finale, took place in all different locations throughout our area. Not to mention, every music rehearsal was open to the public. At these concerts, contemporary composers from around the world were able to work with local musicians to showcase their breathtaking new works.

New Music on the Bayou is a non-profit organization with the mission to inspire northeast Louisiana with “fresh ideas of the performing arts” as well as to inspire visiting composers with the “unique nature of our area.” As a music composition student, I was absolutely delighted to attend the concert located in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall at ULM.  From the whirring electronic media to the rich singing of a cello, this concert definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. Seven talented composers were featured at this concert, and they all brought their own eclectic style and flair to the stage. One composition that stood out to me was Simple Scenes by Roger Jones. Conveyed through a piano and cello duet, Jones painted an intimate portrait of the beauty of everyday native northern Louisiana scenes that often go unnoticed. This piece definitely opened my eyes to the realization of how indescribably special our area is and how it is like no other.

The Arts Council is proud to support New Music on the Bayou. New Music on the Bayou was funded in part by a decentralized arts funding (DAF) program grant.

If you missed this year’s New Music on the Bayou, no worries! The festival will be back in the summer of 2019. For more information, visit the New Music on the Bayou website at

-Joanna Calhoun

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Downtown Gallery Crawl happening Thursday, June 7

Local, live, vibrant, social, and free just a few of the words that could be used to describe the community experience that is the Downtown Gallery Crawl of Monroe/West Monroe. Having showcased the works of artists such as Emily Caldwell, Cliff Tresner, Alyssa Guidry, Vitus Shell and numerous others, the crawl is never dull with great art, music, food and people.

This being the end of the Downtown Gallery Crawl’s 10th season, I am sure it will not fail to wow. Support your local art community and attend the crawl on Thursday, June 7 from 5-9 p.m.

If you cannot attend this time around, be sure to like, follow, and subscribe for Crawl information here.


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Meet the Interns

Ansell M. Jordan II

Ansell is a Louisiana Tech theatre student with a concentration in set design. He serves on the LA Tech Student Government Association public relations committee, and the executive board for Prism the LGBTQ+ organization as advocacy and outreach officer. As a multimedia designer/artist with the goal of becoming a scenographer, Ansell’s main artistic focuses are working with paper, painting, and scenic design.

Joanna Calhoun

Joanna Calhoun

Joanna is a music composition and business sophomore at Tulane University and a 2017 West Monroe High School graduate. She is passionate about music, visual arts, and food. Joanna is excited to share the great and enriching opportunities that are available in our community.

Meet the Intern: Ansell M. Jordan II

Ansell M. Jordan II

”Art is a crucial aspect of all our lives”

A native of Monroe, Louisiana and lover of all things art, I take pride in working and studying as an artist in both the visual and performing arts.

The bulk of my collegiate artistic work has happened during my time as a visual and performing arts student at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM).  During my time at ULM I partook in many organizations and artistic ventures.

In the summer of 2017 I made the decision to transfer to Louisiana Tech University (LA Tech) to better suit my life and career path.  There I study as a communications in theatre student with a concentration in set design.  I serve on the LA Tech Student Government Association public relations committee, and the executive board for Prism the LGBTQ+ organization as advocacy and outreach officer.

I work excessively hard both in and out of my schooling to make sure what I see as my future becomes a reality.  As a multimedia designer/artist with the goal of becoming a scenographer, my main artistic focuses are working with paper, painting, and scenic design.

Though I do not see staying in the Twin Cities in my long-term plans, this is home, and art is a crucial aspect of all our lives; I try to do my part to preserve and support it by attending events and volunteering in my free time.  This is part of the reason I am so happy to be working with the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council.  I see it not just as beneficial to me, but as another opportunity to help my community and the arts flourish.


Meet the Intern: Joanna Calhoun

Hello! My name is Joanna Calhoun. I am a 2017 West Monroe High School graduate and a current sophomore at Tulane University in New Orleans. At Tulane, I am studying music composition and business. I am extremely passionate about music, visual arts, and food! As the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council’s new communication intern, I cannot wait to share the great and enriching opportunities that are available in our community.

Joanna Calhoun