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Meet the Artist: Linda Lavender Ford

No matter who they are, every person in Northeast Louisiana can immediately recognize the name Linda Lavender. When I heard that name, I thought of the all the flashy Twin City Ballet recitals I have attended, the iconic Ballet Under the Stars performances in Kiroli Park, and of course the famous Christmas Gala plays I went to every year of elementary school; to sum it all up, I thought of extravagance and the biggest arts powerhouse in our area. However, I realized when I was presented with that name, I thought of literally everything other than an actual individual, and that made me start to think. The name just felt like an unattainable and unidentifiable person; why did everyone know the name Linda Lavender but they did not know Linda Lavender?

As it is the last week of my summer internship for the Northeast Arts Council, my final assignment was to “write about whatever I wanted to and to have fun with it.” Not to mention, I was also finally given the approval to write in first person. I racked my brain for an underrated event I have always wanted to share about or an influential artist I’ve always wanted to know more about, and then it came to me: Linda Lavender.

I emailed a couple questions to Linda with the mindset she would never reply; where would an unbelievably successful local celebrity find the time to type out lengthy answers for a teenage intern? And then I got an email informing me Linda Lavender Ford wanted to have a phone interview with me. With my heart pounding out of my chest, I grabbed my phone and dialed her number. I expected to have a speedy five minute Q and A where I read off the questions and she rapidly gave her answers, but I ended up having a lengthy heartfelt conversation which I will remember for the rest of my life:

So now, what do I think of when I hear the name Linda Lavender Ford?

I think of a small girl who was born in Mississippi and grew up in West Monroe- a little girl who was from a very poor family with a mother who was a factory worker and a father who was a mechanic. That little girl’s parents made sure they could give their daughter the best training in the best dance studio available. When the little girl grew up to be a teenager, she was discovered and was invited to become a dancer and hostess for the KNOE television show, Happiness Exchange.

I picture a stubborn teenager telling her mother she didn’t want to teach dance when she graduated high school because she was going to school in New York City to be a performer, even though her family could not afford to send her to the dance academy. However, when that recent West Monroe High School graduate began to teach dance, she knew it was her calling.

I see a young woman who built Linda Lavender School of Dance from the ground up and founded the Twin City Ballet Company. That company is now an honor member of Regional Dance America and has four directors and three season performances. In addition, it gives dancers the opportunities for scholarships and the ability to further their dance careers.

I hear a woman, who has taught dance for 57 years, asking me about myself and telling me how she is proud of me for aspiring to be an arts educator one day. I hear her giving me the advice to make every effort to bring the best I can to my students and to continually keep my mind open to learning.

Most importantly, I know a strong and driven woman who recognizes the talent every individual possesses and who utilizes art to allow them to see the worth in themselves. She is a kindhearted and humble woman who pays respect not to herself, but to the power of the arts and to divine intervention.

“I still say that this area is especially gifted with talent. I always say I can’t imagine a child not getting to dance. I just feel like it’s a terrible mistake when they do not get to because I know what it has meant to me and what it means to so many people.” -Linda Lavender Ford

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Arts Council awarded grant to record oral history of Don Cincone

Don Cincone

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities awarded a $5,000 Rebirth grant to the Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana to record an oral history of local artist Don Cincone.

The project’s goal is to locate and document all known Cincone works in an online database, and to document Cincone speaking about his works and the inspiration behind them. The project will also support public programming where Louisiana residents can view Cincone’s artwork and interact with the artist.

The first public programming event is An Evening with Don Cincone from 6-8 p.m. November 13 at the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens. Former journalist and current art curator Kay LaFrance-Knight will interview Cincone about four paintings featured in the Biedenharn’s Images of Christ exhibit. Admission is free, but an RSVP is required as space is limited. Guests may call the Biedenharn to reserve their seats.

“I’m lucky I get to view Don’s artwork every day at our office,” said Barry C. Stevens, Arts Council president. “Don is not only a talented painter, but he is one of northeast Louisiana’s treasures. I’m so glad the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is recognizing his contributions to our state’s arts and culture.”

Cincone was born Don Wills in a sharecropper’s home in Alto, La. in 1936. Denied access to study at Northeast Louisiana University due to segregation, he attended Southern University, joined the Navy, toured Europe and studied the Masters in the great museums and cathedrals while on break. After his service, he moved to California and worked with an art dealer who “renamed” him Don Cincone for marketing purposes. His work was used in the Dick Van Dyke film The Art of Love (in which he was not credited), and his work is featured in personal collections and museums around the nation. He has influenced dozens of young artists in the region, and is revered as a painter, minister, and veteran.

Other public programming activities include a grand re-opening reception of the Arts Council’s collection, a biographic exhibit opening at the Northeast Louisiana Delta African-American Heritage Museum, a screening of The Art of Love during the 2019 Northeast Louisiana Summer Film Series, and an interview focusing on his military service at the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum.

These programs are funded under a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The opinions expressed in the programs do not necessarily represent the views of either the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council

The Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana seeks to nurture a vibrant regional arts culture through support, promotion and education. The Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana strives to be a transformative force for the community by encouraging a passion for the arts, promoting partnerships and collaboration, and ensuring access to the arts for all. Activities of the Arts Council are supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works.

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Ouachita River inspires artists at Brew on the Bridge

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.

Liz Zanca at Brew on the Bridge

 

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.

Kyle Snellenberger

 

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19 arts organizations benefit from Arts Council’s first Lunch & Learn

Lunch & Learn

The Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana’s first ever Lunch & Learn benefited 19 arts organizations and 26 individuals on September 6. The Lunch & Learn series is part of the Arts Council’s arts entrepreneurial training program, which equips artists and arts organizations with business skills to assist with professional development.

Danielle Kelley Tolbird, Arts Council community development coordinator, led a presentation called PR 101. Attendees learned how to write a press release, how to segment audiences, and how to approach journalists.

Future Lunch & Learn topics include approaching museums and galleries, and income and sales taxes. To be the first to RSVP to Lunch & Learn, be sure to sign up for the Arts Council e-newsletter here.

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October Brown Bag lineup announced

The Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana will once again host its free Brown Bag Lunch Concert Series at noon on Wednesdays this October at Anna Gray Noe Park in downtown Monroe. The public is invited to pack a picnic lunch or buy lunch from The Cookout food truck. The October Brown Bag Lunch Concert Series lineup includes:

  • October 3 – Mason Granade
    A long-time series favorite, Granade has performed for over 30 years and is a regular at local venues. Granade is influenced by The Eagles, America, and The Beatles. He is the worship leader at Bethel Baptist Church, and is featured in R-Squared films New Hope and Flag of My Father.
  • October 10 – Josh Madden
    Host of KEDM’s The Set List, Madden performs at local venues and teaches both guitar and piano to budding musicians. His musical influences are Ray Charles, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and Dave Matthews.
  • October 17 – The Lady & The Trouble
    Duo Joel Jordan and Katie Anzalone will bring vintage blues, R&B and Americana sounds to their premiere Brown Bag performance. The Lady & The Trouble have played at the Arts Council’s Northeast Louisiana Summer Film Series, as well as Peaches Records, Disko Obscura, and Secondline Brewing in New Orleans.
  • October 24 – The Waterboys
    Featuring powerful harmonies, acoustic and electric guitars and a bountiful rhythm section, The Waterboys are three local musicians: Brandon Muey, Brian Burris and Morgan Decelle. Having performed for more than 16 years, the trio has played alongside our area’s best entertainers. Their eclectic mix spreads from classic rock to today’s hits.
  • October 31 – The Oden Family featuring West Monroe High School music students
    No tricks and all treats will be served at this Halloween Brown Bag performance featuring husband-wife duo Greg and Kristen Oden. The Odens are music educators at West Monroe High School, and have performed in Carnegie Hall. Joining the Odens are their children Blake and Morgan, and their students.

In case of rain, Brown Bag will be moved to First Baptist Church of Monroe. Brown Bag is sponsored by CenturyLink, KEDM, Origin Bank, and the City of Monroe. Complimentary cookies are provided by Mulhearn Corporation. Kilpatrick’s is providing a tent to keep the musicians cool and in the shade. Water and lemonade are provided by First Baptist.

Young Local Artist Annelise DeLancy

At the impressive age of 17, Annelise DeLancy is a young local artist who already has her own solo art exhibit at the Schepis Museum. A recent graduate and art student from Caldwell Parish High School, we thought Annelise would be the perfect individual to speak to about arts education.

When talking to Annelise, she explained that she had always been in love with visual art. When she was very young, Annelise created her first artwork with her aunt who introduced her to oil painting. It was then that her passion for art was sparked, and it stuck with her ever since.

“I’ve always been obsessed with art. My grandma says that I came into the world with a pencil and color in my hand.”

Although Annelise had the desire to learn more about the intricacies of art, her public middle school did not provide art education classes at the time. It was not until high school, she able to enroll in an art class. There, she was finally able to learn the artistic techniques and concepts.

“We learned primary colors, secondary colors, shades, lines, textures, patterns, everything– and how they fit in with each other. Art is kind of like a puzzle; you piece it all together in your own little way and make it unique.”

However, it wasn’t instantaneous for Annelise how she would make her “puzzle” individually unique. Annelise explained that it actually took her a year to discover her own painting style: rustic vibes, wildflowers, cotton fields, and country living. Once Annelise was able to find her true artistic identity, her art started flying off the walls. Annelise chuckled that one woman even offered her a thousand dollars for one of her paintings in her high school’s art show- which she humbly declined. Soon enough, word got around, her social media presence grew, and the Schepis Museum formally invited her to have her own solo exhibit!

“I had one lady offer me one thousand dollars for one, but I turned it down because I wasn’t really in love with that piece. I think I sold it for a hundred dollars.”

Just as it did for Annelise, arts education transforms a student’s life. Annelise shares that art is an outlet for her to express herself, and it allows her to convey who she is in a way nothing else can. She says the way she interprets life is different because of art. When life hits her in ways she doesn’t expect, she now has art to melt away her stress, anger, sadness, and transform those feelings to colors onto a canvas.

“I take my crazy emotions and make it into something beautiful.”

To see Annelise’s beautiful artworks like this one, be sure to visit the Schepis Museum in Caldwell Parish from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday. Her exhibit will be featured until August 31st, so be sure to visit soon.

Imagine if Annelise never was able to enroll in her first high school art class. Our full research shows that there are still 9,922 rural public school students without a single opportunity to attend an arts education class. Donate to the Arts Council today to help assist our arts education initiatives.

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Meet the Executive Committee: Alex Schott

The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council is excited to announce that we have elected multiple accomplished and influential people onto our Executive Board. We think it would be great for the community to get to know the leaders of our Board and how each of them are using their own unique abilities to promote the arts in our area! This week, we had the pleasure to interview our newly elected Administrative Vice Chair, Alex Schott.
Q: Tell me about your background; where are you from, what was your childhood like, what is your family like?

A: I’m originally from New Orleans, which is where my father is from. Our family business, Schott & Company Meats, was firmly established in New Orleans for over a century, beginning in 1879. My mother’s family is from Nicaragua, which they fled during political unrest in the late 1960s and came to New Orleans, and where she would eventually meet my dad. I’m your typical child of the late 1970s and 1980s- not too different from the upbringing displayed by Netflix’s “Stranger Things” kids. My days were spent riding bikes, playing Atari, watching MTV and visiting our local record store on a weekly basis to get the latest new release… and that I would proudly play on my double tape deck boom box.

Q: What is your current job, and what else are you involved with in the area?

A: For my day job, I’m CenturyLink’s director of internal communications, which involves serving as the front lines of communications for nearly 50,000 employees. My other job is dad and husband. My wife and I have two rambunctious boys, aged 10 and 12, so the majority of my free time in the area is spent doing activities with them, which includes baseball, soccer, boy scouts, bike riding, foosball, and hanging out on the bayou when we can.

Q: What made you decide to pursue a career in communications?

A: It certainly wasn’t planned. I was initially going the law school route while an undergrad at LSU, but after working at a few law firms, I felt a different career path should be explored. Long story, short… I wound up graduating in political science and moving to California to get a Masters degree in film and media studies. Having always enjoyed experimenting with new technology, it was during this time that I was self-taught in web design and coding and became involved in digital communications in the early days of the internet. I parlayed that into a career that has seen me serve in a series of roles from media relations, public relations, business development, public policy, digital media, employee communications and executive communications.

Q: I know you have only been living in Ouachita Parish for a couple years; how is your life different compared to living in New Orleans?

A: It’s obviously a lot smaller that any city we had ever live and, though my wife and I lived in California for a few years, it was first time we’ve moved with kids. We also knew no one. However, within the first three days, we made great friends who helped ensure that we acclimated to the area quickly. This is a very family-oriented area, and my kids love it. It has been a great experience.

Q: So far, what is your favorite thing about Northeast Louisiana?

A: The people here are awesome. Small town life suits us well! When it comes to raising two children, I have to say that there is a unique sense of family and safety that allows them to grow up in a way that isn’t an option in most larger cities. We love the neighborhood we are in, and it’s great not to have to deal with traffic every morning. It’s really the small things you don’t realize you’re missing out on until you leave a big city.

Q: What special asset do you believe you bring to the table on the Board of Directors?

A: With a PR/communications and digital-focused background, I think I can help provide guidance on creating greater awareness around the Arts Council and as it builds a larger digital presence in the new media landscape. The board is really committed to growing the Council’s membership and the ideas that are being shared are very exciting for the area. I believe having a communications background will help us bring those ideas and projects to life.

Q: What are some things most people do not know you are passionate about?

A: Outside of my family and work, my biggest passion is music. I’ve always loved music, but it wasn’t until 5 years ago that I actually decided to play music and picked up a guitar. It was a game-changer for me as it helps me relax and is so therapeutic. While it’s a great creative outlet and it keeps my mind sharp, it’s not something anyone would pay to hear so I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon. By the time my kids go to college, I figure I will be good enough to play in a band so I can embarrass them covering “Free Bird” in the bars around their school. Kidding, of course.

Q: What are you most looking forward as the Arts Council’s new Administrative Vice Chair?

A: I see a tremendous opportunity for the Arts Council and the board is really engaged in making a positive difference for Northeast region. I am looking forward to keeping the momentum going. I have seen the Council do so much in the past couple years and I want to make sure that creative and energy only increases.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to mention that I did not cover?

A: I do this when I interview people… How about 5 quick favorites?
Favorite Book – Catcher in the Rye (I named my son Holden)
Favorite Movie – If you ask me today, “There Will Be Blood”… if you ask me tomorrow, “Dr. Strangelove”
Favorite Band – Pink Floyd
Favorite TV Show – Seinfeld
Favorite Team – New Orleans Saints
We as the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council are so excited to have Alex on our Executive Board. We admire his energy and humor and also is experience and intellect. We know he will be a great leader not only for the Arts Council but also for our arts community as a whole.
-Joanna Calhoun
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