Seventeen years giving Shreveport a broader sense of self and art
On September 10, 2004, pixie dust settled over a historic building that had started life as a Montgomery Ward in downtown Shreveport. Some self-proclaimed “lost boys”—Academy Award–winning artist, illustrator, and filmmaker William Joyce, Hook screenwriter and executive producer James Hart, and sculptor “Stickman” Patrick Dougherty—opened a window to “Neverland” for a Peter Pan centennial exhibit that would serve as the grand opening of a place where the public could connect to the arts in wonderful, new, exciting ways: Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s artspace.
Artspace Artistic Director William Joyce had not yet won an Academy Award for the short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore when Shreveport’s first arts center opened, but he was already world–renowned as the author of popular children’s books, including Santa Calls and Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo, as a two-time Emmy Award winner for Rolie Polie Olie, and for his animation work in Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. Joyce would go on to art direct seventeen years of exhibitions for artspace and be a part of the shift in how northwest Louisiana experienced art. “My hope with artspace was that it would change the narrative of art in the public’s mind—that all people would begin to see art as accessible, feel comfortable with art, and get excited about connecting with art,” said Joyce. “I wanted artspace to fundamentally transform the way people involved themselves with art. I hoped the exhibitions at artspace would touch every demographic and include every artistic discipline. I’ve not been disappointed. I’ve loved every exhibition—been proud of all 175 of them.”
Seventeen years later, there is plenty to be proud of. Artspace started in a magical way with the Peter Pan Centennial, which included an exhibition of clips from the original Peter Pan manuscript by author Sir J. M. Barrie, Mary Martin’s original costume from the stage production, original movie cells from the Disney archives, giant Neverland tree houses created by Patrick Dougherty, and the US premiere of Finding Neverland a few blocks away in Shreveport’s historic Strand Theatre. An artspace exhibition in August 2006 presented the words and faces of the devastating natural disaster that touched so many in Louisiana—Faces of Katrina. The story of an elephant keeper from the Audubon Zoo who never left her elephants during the storm, words from then Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, and other personal accounts by more than one hundred Gulf Coast evacuees, survivors, rescuers, and the volunteers who helped them made up William Joyce’s documentary tribute. In January 2009, artspace introduced a diverse audience to the Art of Tattoo in an exhibition of art by local professional photographer Mike Silva that looked into the history of the American tattoo and how it had transformed the art form from taboo to mainstream. More than six hundred people attended the event, where hardcore Harley–Davidson riders mingled with grand dames of Shreveport society and crowd members became the exhibition themselves—showing off their ink to any who asked about their personal tattoo experiences.
Artspace now supports an entire artist ecosystem, hosting world–renowned artists, including soundsuit artist Nick Cave, tattoo artist Shawn Barber, Emmy-winning puppeteer Wayne White, skateboarder Steve Olson, and many more to exhibit in the professional gallery space known as “mainspace.” In conjunction with these exhibitions, northwest Louisiana artists answer calls to produce and install corresponding installations in “coolspace.” A third floor of artspace provides room for a learning center or “studiospace.” Artspace also serves as a venue for art sales.
“Artspace has become the anchor for northwest Louisiana to see, get to know, and purchase local art—the cornerstone of accomplishment for northwest Louisiana artists” said SRAC director Pam Atchison. “It opens doors for artists to think about the installation of their work in a space dedicated to art and with the support of professionals such as SRAC’s Creative Director Josh Porter, as well as a place to educate about art and to bring artists and collectors together.”
The “Arts Making Connections” planners of 1991 envisioned the arts as a common thread revealing to all people what it means to be human. For almost two decades artspace has been a place where the creation, production, presentation, and exploration of art has helped artists and observers express emotion, process trauma, and build community. In Joyce’s words, “artspace has given Shreveport a broader sense of self and of art.”
From Pan to puppets, tattoos to fine art and fashion, you can catch a glimpse of the seventeen years of exhibitions at artspace at artspaceshreveport.com/artspace-exhibitions.