64 Parishes

Finding respite in 64 PARISHES during the COVID-19 crisis? Subscribe today to support our mission and contributors.

Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana

Paint the Ouachita

A celebration of the river, steamboats, history, and beer

Paint the Ouachita

Photo by Doug Breckenridge

Brew on the Bridge

In 1819, the Steamboat Monroe made its way up the Ouachita River for the very first time. As legend has it, native and immigrant settlers in and around the old Spanish Fort Miro were so enamored by the vehicle—and the promises of economic development it brought—they decided to change the name of the town to Monroe.

In 2019, Monroe and the region along the beautiful Ouachita River will celebrate Year of the River, a year-long series of festivities headed up by the G. B. Cooley House Foundation and its partners. The Arts Council of Northeast Louisiana is proud to be one of the eighty-five celebration partners and kicked off Year of the River a little early, in October 2018, at the Arts Council fundraiser Brew on the Bridge.

With the cooperation and encouragement of both the City of Monroe and the City of West Monroe, the Arts Council shut down vehicular traffic to Endom Bridge spanning the Ouachita River. By creating a family-friendly party over the river, Brew on the Bridge unified the two towns with both of their best assets: the Ouachita River.

With craft beer tastings, food trucks, live music, and vendor booths, it may seem like any other Louisiana festival. But the view of the Ouachita River and the unification of two cities is what makes Brew on the Bridge so special.

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo and West Monroe Mayor Staci Albritton-Mitchell even met in the middle for a Mayors’ Cook-Off. After shaking hands and declaring the day the beginning of Year of the River, the two served their best fish dish to a panel of blind judges. The victorious mayor received a piece of artwork made from Ouachita River driftwood by local artist Kyle Snellenberger of Ouachita Antique Woods.

Other local artists gathered on the bridge as part of Paint the Ouachita, a plein air event where the artists literally painted the Ouachita as they saw it. Brew on the Bridge attendees were able to witness the art process of different artists with different styles and mediums. The finished works will travel around the region as part of Year of the River. The traveling exhibit will make stops at the Schepis Museum, Jackson Parish Library, Garrett House, West Carroll Parish Library, and more.

The Ouachita River means so many things to so many people. To early settlers of Monroe, it was a gateway to sell crops and products to the world with access to the steamboat. To Louisiana residents today, it’s a place to fish, play, and relax. In the eyes of artists, it’s a place of beauty and inspiration.