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SRAC Is Making New FriendsWithYou

Stumble upon the fun in a Rainbow City in Shreveport’s new Common Park

SRAC Is Making New FriendsWithYou

Photo by Danny Liao

FriendsWithYou Fine Art Collaborative’s Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III

The Shreveport Regional Arts Council (SRAC) is embarking on its newest, most exciting journey to enliven the Northwest Louisiana arts community. With Academy Award–winning illustrator-author-filmmaker William Joyce and internationally renowned Los Angeles fine arts collaborative FriendsWithYou, SRAC is planning eight weeks of experiences this fall to celebrate the grand opening of the city’s first urban park and greenspace, the Common Park, located in the west edge of downtown Shreveport Common. 

The action comes to Shreveport starting on Saturday, October 26, as crowds make their way through downtown in a raucous Rainbow City Parade to open Rainbow City in the Common Park. The public is invited to join hundreds of community marchers, bicyclers, costumed characters, and one brandnew inflatable “friend” designed by local ten-year-old artist Isaiah Roberts, which will lead the parade and then take its place among the forty fun-filled characters in Rainbow City.  

FriendsWithYou, the artist team of Samuel Albert Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III that led the 2018 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with their “Little Cloud and the Rainbow” float, promises that their interactive sculptural forms will create a “stumble upon the funplace where visitors and neighbors become friends. They will transform Shreveport Common into a place where magic, luck and friendship” come together. The Rainbow City installation features forty brightly striped bounce houses and giant inflatables soaring as high as fifty feet. Visitors are destined to experience an unexpected, unprecedented, uncommon community. The installation and its exhibition are open with no admission through Saturday, December 7, 2019.   

SRAC and the City of Shreveport, with the support of a National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town” program grant, are bringing Borkson and Sandoval to Shreveport, where they will work with Joyce to create and oversee a series of projects. Rainbow City in the Common Park is at the center of the FriendsWthYou project, but there is much more to this story, and SRAC is also telling it at artspace in downtown Shreveport through the first-ever retrospective of the duo that started FriendsWithYou. In celebration of Borkson and Sandoval’s seventeen years as a fine-arts collective, the retrospective exhibition will include sketches, maquettes, digital designs, films, and scenes from the Netflix show True and the Rainbow Kingdom. 

The SRAC FriendsWithYou project centers on the arts and city-led revitalization of Shreveport Common, a historic yet long-blighted neighborhood of downtown Shreveport. Local artists will introduce the FriendsWithYou project to residents of five social service organizations in the neighborhood and work with them to contribute artwork and become “friends,” hosts, and docents to Rainbow City. 

Borkson and Sandoval work in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, large-scale experiential installations, live performances, virtual reality, and animation. They are known for work that reaches beyond the contemporary art world into popular culture, particularly their inflatable sculptures and immersive installations. They create experiences that draw audiences into a magical world where the line between imagination and reality is blurred. 

“We are excited to bring the magic, luck, and friendship of FriendsWithYou and a Rainbow City to the people of Shreveport and their new Common Park,” said Borkson and Sandoval. “Our goal is always to share the hope of personal, physical, and community transformation through our art. We plan to activate the entire city to be a part of this experience. We are excited about the possibilities and about making unique and experiential art in Shreveport—pushing the art to see the possibilities. 

Red Ball Oxygen is a major sponsor for Rainbow City, supplying the helium that gives the inflated sculptures their height. Alex Kennedy made the generous donation after hearing how the installation will bring the community together “on Common Ground. The Shreveport project represents the first time the Rainbow City will be installed outside of New York City’s High Line Park and Miami’s Art Basel. Kennedy noted, “I’m proud to see Shreveport at the helm of an international arts experience and happy we can make this public art installation open to all people with no admission!” 

The Common Park with its Rainbow City will be open daily with dynamic programming, including school tours with hands-on STEAM activities showcasing how elements of the Rainbow City illustrate geometric principles. Weekends will include a rainbow of diverse exercise programs and creative movement, with live performances by area musicians and dancers, hands-on activities, Friday night Dancing in the Park, Saturday night Movies in the Park, and Sundays in the Park with Yoga and Brunch featuring healthy culinary treats by the region’s outstanding chefs. Sundays also feature afternoons with artists animating the Common Park. Special activities programmed throughout the six-week Rainbow City experience include a Día de los Muertos celebration, PJs and Pancakes with William Joyce, a Thanksgiving Day picnic, and a Best Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole contest.