Downtown’s newest oldest “uncommon” place designed as
Shreveport’s first Cultural Community, an intimate
9-block urban Arts Community built, and rebuilt,
on Authenticity, Community, Creativity and Sustainability
Shreveport Common was conceived after a devastating fire engulfed the Shreveport Regional Arts Council’s (SRAC) headquarters on August 25, 2009. Few would have thought that the senseless act of a person would have spurred the rebuilding of a once-great commercial and institutional neighborhood. Mayor Cedric B. Glover, City Council members and department leaders pledged a “new day” in the glow of the still-raging fire. This was followed closely by parish and state leaders who independently affirmed the importance of the Arts to the region and committed to their future. Within days, the historic Central Fire Station was identified as the new headquarters for the Arts, housing SRAC’s administrative offices while serving the individual artists and arts organizations in a dramatic new way. This decision, in Mayor Glover’s words, has the potential to “change the landscape of downtown Shreveport.”
The Central Fire Station, soon to be repurposed to the CENTRAL ARTSTATION, is sited pivotally on a principal artery and entrance into downtown, surrounded by a blighted neighborhood which is filled with architectural treasures and possesses an amazingly rich history of diversity, tolerance and creativity. In addition to asking SRAC, its board, and other supporters to raise the funds to renovate the building, Mayor Glover asked SRAC to apply for the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts, 25th Anniversary, Mayor’s Institute on City Design grants. After a four-month selection process, Shreveport Regional Arts Council was awarded one of 17 grants nationally in the amount of $100,000 to match funds for the Vision Planning and public arts components for the district.
The boundaries of the newly named Shreveport Common Cultural Community are Louisiana Street, Milam Street, Oakland Cemetery, Austen Place and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, and include a new “gateway” to downtown at the Common Street Viaduct. After a 9-month grass-roots, community-involved effort, including door-to-door listening sessions with neighbors, property owners, stakeholders and potential developers, the Vision for Shreveport Common is for an urban cultural district powered by the forces of the Arts and Humanities – one that will stimulate the physical and economic renewal of this neglected area and identify it as a place where artists and others can live, work and play.
Watch the Video Below of Mayor Glover’s
Presentation on SHREVEPORT COMMON
With SRAC renovating and repurposing of the historic Central Fire Station to CENTRAL ARTSTATION, came the challenge by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover to find ways to revitalize the surrounding, underused 9-block area by creating a Cultural District. The planning and design of that downtown area, newly-named Shreveport Common, began in late July of 2010 with a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) grant. Shreveport was one of only 21 communities selected for a Mayor’s community initiative for: “… planning of arts districts, to promotion of design and the arts as central to a city’s livability, to transformation of public sites through cultural activities, to festivals and public art.” NEA, MICD, 2010
Under the direction of Mayor Glover, an alumnus of the MICD program, SRAC was chosen as the “driver,” in the arts-driven Creative Placemaking project which, according to the MICD, “…animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.”
In accordance with two-decades of successful Creative Placemaking projects, the Mayor asked that SRAC:
1) RESTORE and REPUROSE HISTORIC BUILDINGS – Ensure that downtown’s greatest collection of un-used or under-used historically significant buildings be restored and/or repurposed through the creation of a Cultural District.
2) CREATE and ANIMATE PUBLIC SPACES – Develop public green - open – spaces that bring people together on common ground for the common “creative” good. We were challenged from the beginning to identify a central gathering space that would become, well, The Common!
3) SAFEGUARD the AUTHENTIC CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE – Guarantee that the new Cultural District is based upon and true to the authentic cultural significance of the area: the architecture, our music heritage, the visual, performing, cinematic, and other art forms, and reflects the diverse ethnic culture that was and it returning anew to the area.
4) CREATE a GATEWAY into DOWNTOWN SHREVEPORT – Motivate I-20 traffic to exit Common Street (versus Spring Street) and welcome citizens and visitors into downtown through a vibrant neighborhood.
5) DRIVE Shreveport’s Cultural Economy through the Arts!
SRAC is partnering with public, private, non-profit and community sectors to transform the Shreveport Common area, first with its commitment to anchor, resuscitate and animate the area by restoring the Central Fire Station as its headquarters. SRAC has raised nearly $5 million in mostly private funds to renovate its new home, Central ARTSTATION, after a tragic fire destroyed its former home. Plans for the Central ARTSTATION include an Arts Resource Center, Artists office co-op (where rent is “paid forward” by community service), an Artist-in-Residence Tower, a flexible space “Black Box” theatre, and gallery spaces for artists.
Secondly, in June of 2010, SRAC launched a year-long, comprehensive, inclusive Planning and Design process led by Gregory Free, a Historic Preservation Planner, Designer, Restoration Specialist, and a leading voice in Creative Placemaking. His team of architectural, landscape, urban planning and organizational experts have been talking with, and listening to the neighbors: public, private, non-profit and community individuals and groups. A 50-member Advisory Committee meets every 3 weeks to ensure the planning and design process is broad-based, comprehensive, and that it engages all current residents, businesses, and organizations interested in Shreveport Common. Key partners in this project include the City of Shreveport, Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR), Shreveport Community Development, SporTran, Shreveport Green, The Community Foundation, Texas Avenue Community Association and many funders including the NEA Mayor’s Institute on City Design, the Educational Foundation of America, The Beaird Foundation and private donors who have already contributed over $5 million to make the vision a reality. SRAC Roster Artists and the larger arts community are instrumental in the development of new programming and new artwork ideas for the project.
The Shreveport Common project has caught the attention of the National Endowment for the Arts Chairman, Rocco Landesman, as an “Exemplary project.” Mr. Landesman, and Educational Foundation of American senior director Heidi Ettinger, made rare visits to Shreveport in February and March of 2011, proclaiming this to be the “Playbook” for the arts revitalizing neighborhoods.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN SHREVEPORT COMMON?
NEW Temporary Public Art Approved!
Designers selected to create the CommonLink!
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