Arts Are Abloom in the Chuck
A spring preview of arts events in southwest Louisiana
The Chuck,” as many have come to call Lake Charles, has become known as a “Cajun Vegas” of sorts, thanks to our multiple casino resorts. The casinos draw visitors from out of town and have done wonders for our local economy. What we Lake Charlesians want you to know, though, is that after taking in the delicious food, great entertainment, and buzzing crowds the casinos have to offer, you can head north on Ryan Street. There, you’ll find the heartbeat of the arts and culture that make our city all that it is: the galleries, street performers, artists, museums, and events of downtown Lake Charles.
We have three cultural districts in Lake Charles: the Nellie Lutcher District, the Cottage Shops District, and the Charlestown District. These were developed to build partnerships between artists, business owners, and local and state government, while also creating an incentive for communities to renovate historic structures within the districts through the use of state historic preservation tax credits. These efforts have brought the arts closer to the forefront of the city’s priorities. The cultural district program also has an incentive in the works that will allow art purchases to be exempt from sales tax. These steps encourage and reassure artists and arts organizations while making the arts a little more accessible.
The Charlestown Cultural District encompasses the downtown area of Lake Charles, giving a warm welcome to all things art. Lake Charles’s full calendar of cultural events works to bring the masses closer to this hub, especially during springtime.
Live at the Lakefront kicks off the spring calendar each year. Falling on the last three Fridays in March, the Live at the Lakefront concert series, presented by the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA at no cost to attendees, brings live music, a market of local artists, and a variety of food trucks to people hungry to get outdoors after being cooped up during the (not-so-harsh) southwest Louisiana winters. The 2019 series brought nine Louisiana bands to the stage, including the Givers, a Lafayette-born band that has become a regular on the festival circuit; Lake Charles favorites the Flamethrowers, who belt out covers in a way that makes them wholly their own; and Wayne Toups, a local favorite sometimes called the “Cajun Springsteen.”
A quintessential celebration of all things spring and all things art, Spring Art Walk takes place on the last Friday in April, and like Live at the Lakefront, is presented by the Arts and Humanities Council of SWLA. This event puts the talented and eclectic local artists of the area front and center. As you stroll through historic downtown Lake Charles, you can browse a market of at least fifty pop-up shops that line either side of Ryan Street and show up in some of the downtown businesses. The market features handmade items ranging from ceramics to charcoal drawings. It’s the perfect place for artists to come together and boast the beautiful array of talent that we have here in our city. Throw in a lineup of performers like the Ladies of the Lake Fire Dancers, ACTS Theatre Company, Young Band Nation, and the Kabuki Dancers, and you have an evening packed full of enriching attractions for the family.
Following closely after Spring Art Walk, the City of Lake Charles brings you Downtown at Sundown, a concert series that happens on Ryan Street right between Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center and the beautiful Calcasieu Parish Courthouse. Local musicians and art and food vendors contribute to a triumph of culture and arts set on the backdrop of downtown Lake Charles. And these are just a few of the area’s spring attractions: you can also catch the Black Heritage Festival, the Lake Charles Civic Ballet’s spring show, Assemblé, the Lake Area Ballet Theatre’s spring gala, the Lake Charles Symphony’s spring concert, and the many presentations brought to us by the theatre group Banners at McNeese. In addition, there are numerous exhibits year-round at our many galleries—the Art Associates Gallery, Gallery by the Lake, the Black Heritage Gallery, and the Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center, among others. Lake Charles is truly abloom with the arts, and next time you swing through to pull that slot-machine lever, remember to check and see what else we have that may pique your interest. You won’t be disappointed.