Tag Archives: arts

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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Mid-Century Modern Architectural Tour

The Cooley House Foundation invites you to its Mid-Century Modern Architectural Meet & Greet with Mil Bodron at Parish Restaurant on Friday, October 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets are limited at cost $25 per person.

The following day, there will be a Mid-Century Modern Architectural Tour around town on Saturday, October 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $50 each and a box lunch is included.

For more information, call 318.372.3901.

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/monroe-mid-mod-tour-tickets-50767732655?aff=efbeventtix&fbclid=IwAR1BIw_DCg2nFqIF6ZSOT9utPblatU6LA4m9qzEz5Q9avoXyhVg09wFiRLQ

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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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Culturati Noire

Organizer and ULM alumni Robert J. Brown collaborated with the Eta Chi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha to bring this 7th annual cultural heritage event to fruition. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy live art galleries, a fashion show depicting the progression of African-American history, local, national and international vendors with handmade goods products and services, non-profit organizations and a spoken word performance illustrating the stories of African-American ancestry. This year’s show will promote and support breast cancer awareness.

Culturati Noire

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Kick-Off Party for North Delta Restaurant Week

Iron Cactus North Delta Restaurant Week

Celebrate the beginning of North Delta Restaurant Week at Iron Cactus from 5-9 p.m. October 4 in downtown Monroe. Party on the patio with live music, a deal of a menu, and drink specials from one-of-a-kind ceramic drinkware by local artist Alyssa Guidry.

Iron Cactus will be serving a unreal meal deal in addition to their regular menu. For only $30, enjoy a three-course North Delta Restaurant Week menu:

Appetizer: Choice of Cactus Rolls or a Cup of Queso

Entree: Fajitas for Two

Dessert: Choice of a Brownie or Slice of Cheesecake

Iron Cactus will also have a drink special of $5 margaritas all night long with the purchase of a $20 handmade ceramic glass by local artist Alyssa Guidry. Margaritas will be served directly in the limited edition glasses. Guidry will be making a limited number of Iron Cactus drinkware, so get yours before their gone. After dinner, take your piece of artwork home with you! Guidry will also sell her usual wares.

Before and after dinner, be sure to visit the Downtown Gallery Crawl. Just a few blocks down from Iron Cactus is Art Alley, where you can mix and mingle with artists as they display their work. Free golf cart rides are available to take you to other gallery locations across downtown Monroe and West Monroe.

The festivities continue all week long, where we encourage you to eat local during North Delta Restaurant Week October 4-11. On October 12, enjoy bites from the best chefs of the region at the North Delta Food & Wine Festival’s Grand Tasting. The next day, sample local craft beers on the Endom Bridge spanning the Ouachita River at Brew on the Bridge on October 13.

North Delta Restaurant Week is sponsored by WAITR. North Delta Food & Wine Festival is presented by b1BANK.

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Lunch & Learn: PR 101

Lunch & Learn

As part of its Arts Entrepreneurial Training Program, the Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana is offering Lunch & Learn, a series of lectures and presentations for artists and arts organizations so that they may better their business skills.

The first Lunch & Learn is September 6 from noon to 1 p.m. at the West Monroe Convention Center. Danielle Kelley Tolbird, community development coordinator for the Arts Council, will lead a session on public relations. She will cover how to write a press release, how to approach journalists, and how to use traditional and non-traditional marketing channels to promote the arts.

Lunch & Learn is free for Arts Council members. To join the Arts Council at the special artist rate ($31.80), click here. The fee for non-members is $10. Space is limited, so RSVP by emailing region8cdc@gmail.com. RSVP required to attend. Lunch & Learn is brown bag style, and guests are invited to bring a bagged lunch to the lectures.

About the speaker: Danielle Kelley Tolbird received her Master of Mass Communication with a concentration in strategic relations from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. She successfully defended a thesis on non-profit fundraising, and is passionate about building mutually beneficial relationships with donors, journalists and patrons. Tolbird is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, and currently is the community development coordinator for the Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana. A lover of the arts, Tolbird works for artists and arts organizations professionally, but enjoys dancing, singing, painting and acting in her private life.

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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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Downtown Gallery Crawl this August 2nd

Get excited! The Downtown Gallery Crawl is once again sweeping through the 318 bringing captivating art, marvelous live music, and the most scrumptious of foods. Absolutely free to the public, this dynamic event is located in Downtown Monroe and West Monroe and consists of 9 galleries featuring our most talented local artists and photographers.

Also, be sure to check out our special pop-up exhibit at the Baker Building during the Downtown Gallery Crawl. We as the Arts Council will debut Leigh Buffington’s poster for the 2018 North Delta Food & Wine Festival where signed posters will be for sale.

Come celebrate the arts and our creative community on Thursday, August 2nd from 5-9 p.m. This is an event you will not want to miss! If you can’t attend the Crawl this time, don’t worry. This event occurs on the first Thursday of every other month. For more information about the Downtown Art Gallery click here.

-Joanna Calhoun

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Why the Arts Council is hosting a band instrument drive

Isaiah Jones didn’t own a flute. Three of his school’s flutes were in disrepair, so he engineered a single instrument using the three. Now he’ll be studying computer science and engineering at LSU.

“At our school, the instruments are mostly worn out,” Isaiah said. “The band did the best with what instruments we had. Even though they were in disrepair, our band directors would pay out of their pockets to fix them.”

Far too often, arts programs in schools are underfunded. Isaiah told the Arts Council that if he had the money, he would make sure Carroll High School (where he graduated as Student of the Year this spring) had more instruments. When Arts Council board member Debora Colvin heard this story, she decided to start the Let’s Band Together! instrument drive so that more children like Isaiah have the opportunity to study music.

Isaiah Jones

Isaiah’s love for the arts started in the 6th grade when he learned to play the clarinet. He’s since mastered the flute, piccolo and cello. While in foster care during high school, he joined the Strauss Youth Academy for the Arts on scholarship where he enjoyed learning to sing, act, and dance. When asked what he would say to the donor who funds SYAA’s scholarship program, Isaiah said, “I would thank them for their outreach because the program establishes diversity for people who want to be in plays but just can’t afford it. I really would thank them.”

Isaiah’s talent in the arts has pushed him toward a career in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). He scored a 30 on the ACT and was recently accepted into the LSU Honors College. He hopes to one day become a software developer in the gaming industry.

“Coding is a form of arts,” Isaiah said. “Coding is about being flexible.”

Research shows that children involved in the arts are more optimistic about enrolling in college, score higher in math and language, and are more likely to graduate high school. Isaiah is no exception.

You can help more students like Isaiah succeed by participating in Let’s Band Together! and by donating to our arts education program today.

Click here for more information on arts education.

Strauss Youth Academy for the Arts

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Meet Talented Music Student Deterrius Johnson

One of the biggest goals of the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council is to bring access to arts education into the public school systems of all the parishes we serve. Whether it be marching band, dance, visual arts, orchestra, or choir, we believe it is our community’s obligation to provide our students with these life-changing opportunities which cultivate imagination and creativity. Yet after conducting research, we found that there are still currently 9,922 rural public school students without a single opportunity for an arts education class.

We were happy to have the chance to visit Franklin Parish High School and get to know student Deterrius Johnson, also known as DJ, who is a qualified Talented Music student. DJ is currently a rising senior and has been enrolled in his school’s choir classes through middle school and high school. DJ first shared with us that music has always been a huge influence in his life. His mother was in their church’s choir at King Jesus Worship Center since he was born; he joined that choir as well when he was 9-years-old and continued singing ever since.

“I’ve been singing most of my life. My momma said when she used to sing in the choir, she could feel me jumping in her stomach when she was pregnant with me,” said DJ.

DJ Johnson

DJ explained that that he was so thankful for the Talented Music program and for his school’s choir program because he felt as if it gave him a time to shine and grow in his overall confidence. He paid regards to his choir director who taught him several techniques such as how to control his breathing and how to conduct his warm-up exercises. Not only is DJ a singer at his home church and high school, he is also a music minister for three other local churches where he plays piano and organ. Music is clearly such a huge part of DJ’s life, and he wants to keep it that way. After graduating, he plans to attend college and major in classical voice performance where he will focus on the genres of opera and gospel.

Some ideas that DJ wants to make known to the community is how much of a positive impact arts education provides. He wishes there were more public support for arts programs because they are continually cut short and neglected versus other aspects in school systems. He wishes that people did not view music as short-lived flashy concerts and focused more inwardly on how the arts can transform one’s inner spirit like it does to his.

“It’s not just about shows- it’s really about what you feel on the inside. Music is like a way to escape. If I’m in a bad mood, all I have to do is sing and I’ll be alright. It uplifts me,” said DJ.

Just as it does for DJ, arts education literally changes one’s being and one’s future. The Arts Council is creating many initiatives to bring the gift of arts into schools, and one way we are doing that is by the creation of a 2018-2019 Arts Teachers’ Wish Lists. We gave teachers around the 318 the opportunity to share items they need to complete their arts classrooms.  When you give, 100% of your donation will go directly towards the completion of the teachers’ classrooms.

Complete an arts teacher’s wish list today by clicking here.

-Joanna Calhoun

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