Marc Broussard to be Featured at JAZZLAND in Ruston

From our friends at the Boys and Girls Club of North Louisiana. This will be a great concert, so mark your calendars for May 9. Ticket purchasing details are found below: The Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of North Louisiana will present their annual fundraiser JAZZLAND, a benefit concert for the Boys and Girls Club on May 9th at the Dixie Center for the Arts in Ruston, LA. The concert will feature noted Southern-rock/soul artist Marc Broussard and open with a performance from Dr. Larry Pannell and the Grambling State University Faculty Jazz Ensemble. All funds generated from the event will go directly to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Central Louisiana.

Tickets ($30 balcony seats and $40 floor seats) may be purchased online at on the 2014_JazzlandBoys and Girls Club’s website, and at the Boys and Girls Club located at 300 Memorial Drive, Ruston. Doors open at 6:45pm and the show begins at 7:00. An after party sponsored and held by Sundown Tavern will immediately follow.

Marc Broussard is a singer-songwriter hailing from Lafayette, La. His style is best described as "Bayou Soul," a mix of funk, blues, R&B, rock, and pop, matched with distinct Southern roots. In his career, he has released five studio albums and one EP, and has charted twice on Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks.  Marc and his band are known for their relentless touring and high energy shows that have won them legions of fans.  They have performed sold out shows in thousand plus capacity venues around the country, have been regulars on the festival circuit and have toured with such artists as Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Ronnie Raitt and Willie Nelson, to name a few.

 “We are very excited to bring such a talented artist to Ruston,” said Jazzland committee chair Karen Gordon. “We hope Marc will help us sell out the Dixie and raise as much as possible for the Boys and Girls Club.”

Starting the show will be Dr. Larry Pannell and the Grambling State University Faculty Jazz Ensemble.  Dr. Pannell formed a talented group of former and current Grambling State musicians from all over the country.  “Their jazz stylings were the hit of last year’s JAZZLAND and we are excited they have agreed to come back this year!” Janet Wilson, Director of Resource Development of the Boys and Girls Club, said. “This may be my favorite performance ever at the Dixie! They are playing everything from Barbara Streisand’s, The Way We Were to Al Green’s Lets Stay Together. This group is amazingly talented and if you miss THIS CONCERT- you are really missing something GREAT!” Dr. Pannell graduated from GSU with his undergraduate degree and his Masters degree in Music from LA Tech University. He went on to study at The American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, IL and he and a classmate were the first Black men to graduate from the institute.

For more information please visit or call 318-255-2242.

Art Talk Monday: SoA Annual Student Show

Today's Art Talk Monday is written by Jes Schrom, Assistant Professor of Photography at Louisiana Tech University. The opening reception for the Annual Student Show is tomorrow night, so make plans to stop by and see the exhibition. Louisiana Tech University School of Art Galleries: Annual Student Show

March 19 - April 9, 2013


The Annual Student Show is one of the most popular and well-attended exhibitions offered by the School of Art at Louisiana Tech University. A favorite of students, parents, and faculty alike, the show features a selection of the best student work produced during the year. All art students, from freshmen through graduate students are eligible to submit work to the show, but acceptance is competitive. This year, Cristin J. Nunez, the Assistant Director of Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans, has juried the show and determined the award winners. Her lecture, “Gallery Virgins: How to Court Your First Commercial Gallery” will be offered on Tuesday, March 19 at 5pm in the Taylor Visual Arts Center #103. The awards ceremony, generating much excitement, will follow the lecture in conjunction with an opening reception. In addition to Best of Show, cash prizes will be awarded for one work in each of five categories: communication design, core, photography, studio, and graduate level. Event is free and open to the public and refreshments provided.

Statement from juror, Cristin Nunez, Assistant Director of Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans, LA.

“Thank you to Marie Bukowski for inviting me to jury Louisiana Tech's 2013 student exhibition, and many thanks to Jes Schrom, who diligently kept in touch with me and helped organize my involvement with the University. I am happy to be visiting Ruston for the first time and look forward to seeing the student show in person.

Seventy-nine impressive undergraduate and graduate students submitted art for consideration this year. It was very rewarding to review all of the entries, which ranged from traditional oil painting to video installations to fiber art. Just as there was a variety in media, there was also a variety in subject matter, and although there is no connecting theme between the selected works, it was refreshing to see such differences in the artists' personalities.

The most important criterion for selection was that the student have mature sensibilities. Was the artwork mature in its subject matter, color palette and overall aesthetic? What was the student trying to say, and could I pick up on the message without having to read the artist's description of the work? Did the student have an advanced understanding of his or her materials, and did the finished product look like the artist spent a significant amount of time planning and executing the piece? With my sales background, I am always conscious of whether a piece looks expensive, and for the working student, quality is paramount when pricing the work. Paintings and prints should look well thought out with as much work dedicated to the foreground as to the background. Figures should be proportional, color theory appealing to the eye, and for the many photographers in your program, I was looking for contrasts between value, color, and focus. I am also drawn to the more spontaneous photographs that show a strong appreciation for negative space.

For the graphic designer in the crowd, I look for readability and for the design that brands a product in the simplest, most organized way. Font selection and a reduced color palette are important to me. I believe written communication is most effective when the viewer doesn't have to sift through visual commotion.  And lastly, the three-dimensional artists deserve kudos for their originality and workmanship. This year, some of the most conceptual pieces in the show were sculptural, and I appreciate the sculptors' experimentation with abstraction and scale.

Overall, I could see that many folks in the program have a future in the arts.  Congratulations to all the art students! I look forward to meeting you in March and having more time to see the surfaces of your lovely pieces.”

Juror Cristin J. Nunez, Assistant Director of Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans, LA

Cristin J. Nunez, the Assistant Director of Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans, has worked in the gallery business for three years.  She oversees about 45 artists and their work, managing inventory, client sales, gallery maintenance and student interns.  In 2010, she co-curated Ancestors and Descendants: Ancient Southwestern America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century at the New Orleans Museum of Art and co-authored the show's namesake exhibition catalogue.  The catalogue was loosely based on her Master's Thesis for Tulane University, where she studied a little-known collection of Southwestern Native American artifacts at Tulane's Middle American Research Institute.  She graduated in 2009 with her M.A. in Art History.  A native of New Orleans, Cristin also worked in Development at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago for two years.  In 2005, she earned her B.A. in Art History and Journalism and Mass Communications at Washington and Lee University, where she wrote her Honors Thesis on the video art of Bill Viola.  Her thesis won the Doyon Award for excellence in art historical writing.

The School of Art at Louisiana Tech University has two gallery spaces available to artists working in all media, including: painting, drawing, video, printmaking, installation, sculpture, photography, ceramics, fiber, and digital works. The mission of the galleries at The School of Art at Louisiana Tech University is to contribute to student and community learning through exposure to the work and philosophy of nationally recognized contemporary artists working in the visual arts.

The gallery committee is a fully volunteer group made up of dedicated Tech faculty, responsible for all exhibitions at the School of Art: Mary Louise Carter, Nicole Duet, Frank Hamrick, Patrick Miller, Jes Schrom, and Joey Slaughter.

Additional info can be found at

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Peter Jones, local artist and recently retired Tech Professor of Art. Peter's retrospective is currently on display at Louisiana Tech. [wpvideo kLDdadCX]

I want to start out by asking you about the selection process for the paintings for your retrospective. Specifically about which ones were excluded and why.

I had to pick from what I had on hand. And also I had to make sure I didn't duplicate everything that was in the show that I had at the library that was up from August until October, although I figured it was a different audience. So there's some paintings that were in both shows and some that were not. I also, this summer when I was thinking about this upcoming show, I got a couple paintings from Woodstock from my mother's house, and shipped them down here. Because I wanted to have some of the really early stuff like the '67 landscape from Cape Cod. And the still life with the sewing machine and the eggs, which is one of the earliest serious still lifes that I did in the early seventies, when I turned away from painting from memory and started painting from life again. I did figurative . . . You saw the powerpoint I gave, didn't you?

No I missed that. I was out of town.

Okay. I can show you some slides from that. I was doing these invented, expressionistic figures and landscape. Then I saw the joys of painting a figure from life again. I began this series of full length portraits. And then I discovered there were these still lifes that were appearing around the figures. And I thought, you know, I can do those and arrange them however I want. I don't have to worry about a model. And so I started doing still lifes. And that's where it all got going. But it grew out of a desire to figure out a way in the late sixties to paint at the end of the whole modernist thing. I'm digressing here, I figured at that time, as Hans Breder, my teacher in Iowa said, "Painting is dead. It died when Ives Klein painted a canvas blue." This was in '67. I was taking a drawing class in graduate school. And I thought if painting is dead, hey it's a new ballgame. And so I started doing things that were based on the early clumsy Cezanne figures and landscapes. I figured Cezanne is the genius of early modernism. You can't work from the end of Cezanne. If you're going to work from Cezanne you've got to go back to the beginning. So I did this expressionistic drawing. And I remember running into Guston. I didn't know what he was doing at the time. He was getting into his figurative phase in the late sixties. And I thought, hm, that's interesting. He's doing people killing each other, and I'm doing sort of the same thing. But it was different painting entirely. So I wanted to basically tell a narrative that students could make some sense of, from where I started, the very early work I shipped down from Woodstock. Stuff I did when I was a kid.  The earliest piece I did when I was five years old. So I hung that and then I put the photo right next to it. Because I wanted to make it clear that you don't lose that response to color. I don't remember doing that particular pastel at five. But the one with the India ink lines on it, I vividly remember doing. I must have been six or seven. I remember responding to the black and yellow together thinking wow, this is really cool. And of course years later, I'm painting lemons on black backgrounds. So it's all the same thing, but it becomes harder to paint freely when you know more.  When you're a kid, you don't have to worry about dealing with form, and space, and perspective and all that stuff. You can just design on the picture plane. I was lucky that I had my father who was a wonderful artist and a very good teacher. And he basically encouraged me to make what he called designs. This was 1946-47. The whole abstract movement in America was just getting started. He was coming out of the mural projects for the government, which ended during World War II. And he had done a number of commissions. So he was working with easel painting, but I think drifting towards a more abstract approach. So he encouraged me and really liked what I was doing. So I had this early career as an abstract painter, which I was never able to live up to. When you start trying to paint abstractly, when you don't know enough but you know too much you start trying to paint like somebody else. When you're a kid you just do whatever. As Picasso said, he started off drawing like an old master and then he had to learn to draw like a child. But I just did the usual thing, started off doing kid's stuff. And by the time I was nine I figured I have to learn to draw a horse from memory. I couldn't do that so I quit. Most kids do that. So I wanted to tell a story, but I had to also pick it out of the pictures I had available. A lot of the work I've done over the past thirty years is no longer here. It's sold. So I was trying to piece together a narrative.

There's a reclining nude that's in the retrospective. Is that one of the pieces from when you weren't painting from life?

No, that's painting from life. I was very lucky. I was living in Vermont and designing the state magazine for seven years. I moved up there from Virginia. And trying to raise two kids. I wasn't doing a lot of painting, but I showed a couple of landscapes in a local juried show up there. And I got a note from somebody saying that we have this group, we meet every Friday to draw the model. And so I said aha I need to do this. So for three years, three hours every Friday afternoon, we had forty-five minutes of gesture drawing. An hour of ten-fifteen minute poses. And then an hour of an hour pose. And it was great. To get back into drawing from life. This would have been '76, so it was almost nine years since I left grad school. I had not had the chance to draw the model regularly for those nine years. So I did tons and tons of drawings. And then I started doing these studies on canvas, and that's one of them. But that's painted really fast, because you have an hour to get the pose down. I did a series of those. They really got me on board. Because painting the figure and drawing the figure, it's like playing music. It's like playing scales. It's basic. So I did that until I came down here. I showed a bunch of drawings in a show when I first started teaching here. Joe Struthers gave me a show, so I matted up a bunch of drawings and I had some of these figure paintings as well as some still lifes. Basically when I taught that figure painting class in the spring, I was drawing on that experience. That got me back into the figure. But they're all studies. I tried working on a figure away from the model, and it got too stylized. It ended up looking like a stiff Bronzini. I prefer painting the model from life. Painting it from memory, I don't want to go there again. Although I can do it better from memory than I used to.

Your work sort of has this focus of looking back at the old masters. Vermeer, Chardin.


If you move past that read of this reflection on art history, what further meanings are there in your work?

Yeah, it's not a pastiche of the old stuff. These are paintings that are done in the aftermath of the big modernist push. And so, they really have to be about self expression. They have to be about finding something fresh and new. They have to be about design. So you can't turn the clock back. There are artists like Jacob Collins in New York who claims that the entire past 150 years have been a mistake. That starting with Cezanne it all started going downhill. And that Bouguereau and the academic painters in the nineteenth century represent the highest evolution of art and we need to return to those. I think that's bologna. You can't turn the clock back. Some of my very favorite artists of the twentieth century are more abstract. I love Paul Klee. I love Matisse. I love Picasso. I love Braque. There's a whole slew of painters that I admire and really respond to. Of the American painters, Guston and DeKooning are artists that I particularly admire. Not so much Pollock, although he's terrific. I never cared much for Motherwell. Klein I like. I started going to art school at the end of that whole abstract expressionist movement. And of course what really confused everybody was the advent of pop art. Which, if you were to get with the whole idea of action painting or abstract expressionism, to have something that is basically manufactured, with silk screens and comic books. It just threw everybody for a loop. And that's about the time people at most of the universities basically stopped teaching. They just let you go. Pinkston and I basically learned to draw on our own. Because nobody was explaining anything. Because it wasn't necessary anymore. Basically I like the dialogue between the abstraction and the representational object. Because the representational object has meaning to the viewer, and the meaning to the viewer may have to do with totally different ideas than it does to me. But that's okay, because as a friend of mine that's a poet says, once you set it out there and send it forth, somebody's going to read it and see something entirely different. And that's fine. That's part of it. You may not have put it there, but all of those readings are part of what the poem's about. I like the fact that what I'm trying to do is make works that people can come back to, and look at again and again and find new things in. One of the things I've been very pleased with in the work that I've sold over the last thirty years is that a lot of the owners of my work, and of course they don't sell for a ton of money, a lot of the owners of my work have come back for a second and a third and a fourth painting. Because they like the experience of living with it. I had a sort of quasi-epiphany at the Dallas museum one time. I went over there, and the middle there's this sort of knave it's like a cathedral. And there's an Oldenburg. I love Oldenburg by the way. But you know, it's this rope that's holding up this great big circus tent, and it's sticking out of the wall. And then there's a giant Motherwell Spanish republic painting. Number whatever. Once you've seen one of them, you've pretty much seen them all. So there were these giant abstract paintings that could only be seen in a museum, because you can't live with them. And basically you see that and say yeah, that's a Motherwell. And what are you going to get out of looking at the 150th iteration of that big black and white painting. Well you can read the caption and yeah, it talks about Motherwell. People in a museum spend more time reading the caption than they do looking at the painting. Then I went upstairs, and there was a Daumier genre painting about this big, mid nineteenth century. And it was a group of men in a print sellers office. Chiaroscuro. And they were these guys. It was a portfolio with prints in it. And it was the most beautiful little picture. I thought, I could look at that thing everyday in the morning and get sustenance from it. Human experience painted beautifully, it spoke to me. I thought, okay I want to paint still lifes like that. I want to paint still lifes that you're going to look at more than you read the caption.

I've heard your work described as a sort of reaction to the de-emphasis of rudiments and basic drawing and painting skills, and also as you talk about now, this restriction of how much content you get to put into a work in the modernist, and maybe you wouldn't describe it that way, but . . . 

Yeah, you know Guston famously said, "I got sick of all that purity. I wanted to tell stories.

What do you think is the state of affairs today in terms of emphasis on craft and mastery?

I think it's an interesting situation. A lot of different kinds of art are acceptable and are respected. We don't have that single narrative anymore. Of course, the art world is still ruled by big money, and so there is a bizarre situation where stuff can be a hundred thousand dollars or stuff can be. This guy with the silver paintings, twenty-seven years old, just got his MFA a couple years ago. And he sold out a show at six to nine thousand dollars a pop. They're reflective silver emulsion paintings with discoloration on them. And they became so popular that someone bought one for ninety thousand dollars, because they couldn't wait for him to paint another one. And then another was put up at auction and sold for 375 thousand dollars. Now, for a twenty-seven year old that's got one thing going for him, to make that kind of money. I don't see how he's going to have a career. And he's a bright guy. He knows what he's doing. And his work is quite lovely. But if he does anything else, are people going to like it? Are they going to pay big money for it? So there is that element of money in the art world that always distorts things. Leon Golub, the social commentary painter said, 'If the art world wants a million dollar painting, it will create it.' In other words, artists do whatever they want. But the market, it's not simply a reward for good and original work. It likes to believe it's sorting things out. But it throws out a lot of good stuff, and keeps a lot of junk. And they're constantly revising the canon, but it doesn't always work out the way it should. There are thousands of artists who were very good at one point who have not been heard of in fifty years.

Can you tell me about the Woodstock community? Of course we all know about the music festival in '69. But tell me a little more in depth about what it was about and how it influenced you.

Yeah, I grew up in a town where everybody that my parents knew was an artist or a writer.

One aspect of your art that we've left out for the most part is your photography, which is interesting because it seems experimental in ways that your painting isn't.

Sure. It's how I can rediscover the joy of discovery that I felt when I was a kid making those abstractions. Because an abstract photograph is still based on reality. It's not an abstract painting. But you can reference abstract painting. I've always loved photography, and I've done it off and on. Basically the only photography I did when I came here in the '80s, besides taking pictures of my kids, and taking pictures of paintings, was Susan and I would document things. I like documentary photography a lot. As the art director of a state magazine, I became very interested in photojournalism. But when I got my first digital camera in the 2000s, I bought it to document my mother's estate. And I thought, I'm going to go out and take some pictures to illustrate some color theory. So I just started shooting color relationships. And I thought, oh that wall looks like the shutters in a Vermeer painting. And this looks like a Diebenkorn painting. And so I shot that. And I was driving home from school and the light was perfect on that and made a perfect half circle. And on a whim, after putting paintings in the Peach Festival show, I framed up a couple of these photos and put them in there. And this thing won first place, and that was bought. And I thought, damn! And then I had to hunt down the people who bought the paintings and go 'that print is not archival, here.' And switch.

Can you tell me about what motivated you to begin your academic career in art history, and then what motivated the shift to art making?

Well it was being in Europe and taking photographs, among other things. But I went into art history because I had majored in fine arts at Ameryst. And, you know, there's no money in art. You either have to teach, or whatever, but you're not selling paintings. Plus I didn't feel like I was good enough at that point. Because if you go into the family business, your parents are adult artists by the time you're a kid. How do you learn this stuff? As it turns out, everybody that I knew in Woodstock whose parents were artists, they all went into the art business. Everybody did. Writers' kids became writers. Artists' kids became artists. And I talked to my advisor at Ameryst, and said go into art history. Don't try to become a painter. He was bitter anyway, because he was a figurative painter, and this was in the fifties and everything was abstract. He was a painter, but he had a Ph.D. in art history so he was the art historian. So I took off, and I graduated. And I spent a year working in New York just to get my feet off the ground, get a little bit older. And I ended up working in a camera store with a friend of mine. And started taking photographs. My father had died when I was fourteen, so he wasn't around to show me anything. But I set up a darkroom. And got out his enlarger and started teaching myself to make prints. And my kid brother who died at twenty-one, he wanted to make films. And so we would go out, he with his movie camera, and me with my 35mm camera, and clamber around the Hudson river in 1962-63. So when I was going to graduate school in art history, which was what I did after I did that stent in the camera store, I was making photographs. I'd been going to the art students' league in the summer and drawing. So I was still tossing back and forth. But going to Europe in '64, I decided I wanted to keep making art. I really would have liked to stay and Europe and make photographs. I wasn't that good a photographer at that point. I didn't have the experience. And I would have been drafted possibly and sent to Vietnam. So I came back and went to grad school. The other thing that took me into that was the fact that my brother was killed in an auto accident at twenty-one. He was the one who was determined to make a film and do all this stuff. And I was the responsible one who was just going to get a job or whatever. And I think I said, you know, I'm going to do what I want to do. So I went out to Iowa, when I got back from Europe, and I enrolled in painting class, and had to start climbing the hill from way down. Because I didn't have nearly as much experience as most of my fellow students. Because I had only been drawing in the summers. And there was very little painting and drawing at Ameryst. It was mostly art history. And these kids out of big ten schools, some of them had come out of programs where they had been making prints and they were really good. Some were not so good. It was an interesting three years. I think it makes sense looking back, but at the time it felt like a strange move. And I remember lying awake one night and saying what am I doing? I'm wasting my time. Staying up until five in the morning feeling depressed and guilty. I got married and spent two years in New York working at a variety of jobs, including a custom photo finishing lab. So I absorbed a lot of New York at that point, went to shows and was aware of what was going on. And when I taught in Virginia at Sullens College, that got me in with colleagues and stuff like that, and my vision started to evolve. But I put it on hold more or less when I was in Vermont because when you have one and three year old kids running around, and you're trying to juggle two careers and do freelance stuff, you don't have a lot of time to make art. So coming to Louisiana Tech was the key. It got me the show in New York because I got the work done. It got me a chance to basically get a second MFA, come down here and hang around Ed Pinkston. Learn how to teach, learn that you can actually teach people how to draw. It doesn't just happen. That was a revelation. So I figured, hell, I can teach people how to paint. So it's been a very gratifying experience. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. And when you get into a classroom and start teaching, you also teach yourself. You learn. So that was for a long time it was just a really nice balance. But it was my brother's death and the photographs in Europe in '64 that tipped me into the creative end.

I think that's all the questions I have. It's difficult to cover everything.

It's good, I enjoyed it.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.  In addition funding for the Holiday Arts Tour is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and administered by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Dustin Rockwell, owner and operator of Cool Beans Cafe on California Ave. behind the biomedical engineering building, across from Griff's. [wpvideo PhnkGKD4]

You got the red beans and rice already?

Yes. Lunch special!

That's cheap. ($3.99) 


Do y'all make it here?


Can you tell me why you decided to open a coffee shop?

I've always wanted to. I found the perfect location, so I went ahead and did it. Other than that, you know, I just had to do something with my life, and this is what I decided to do. I can't really say why.

Tell me what you've done previously career-wise.

Previously, just a bunch of joe jobs. I worked convenience stores. I worked construction. I worked at a tattoo parlor. Nothing like this, I can tell you that. I've always just had a boss and worked a 9-5.

So this is the first business that you've owned and operated yourself. How does it compare to what you expected it to be like?

It's a lot more work, obviously, than I expected. It's just something you've got to have patience with. Got to be creative. You've got to be able to attract the customer to come in. It's just different. It's not the same as working for somebody, you know. Making a pay check. You really have to work for your customer base.

Let me ask you, what all do you serve and offer now?

Coffee. We're doing the lunch specials. Red beans and rice. Tomorrow I'm going to do barbecue. Pulled pork sandwiches. Pizza rolls. All kinds of sodas, chips. Juice. Snickers ice cream bar. Whatever I feel like could be handy for the students to take out and eat on the way to class.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to get more art in here. I want to sell t-shirts. Expand my menu. Just listening to the customers and see what they want, and I'll go get it. Hopefully they'll come back and keep coming back.

You have Ricky Sykes' work on the wall now. How'd that come about? How'd you meet him?

I went to the Turbo Goat. I'm friends with Chris Bartlett. And I saw his work in there, and I thought it was really interesting. So I picked up one of his cards and just called him. And he was really excited about hanging a few pieces in here. So it's just a matter of getting out there and talking to folks.

Do you ride a bicycle?

I do.

What are some of your other hobbies?

I used to be a dj. As a matter of fact, we're going to throw a party up here Saturday night. Other than that, I just like to hang out. Haha. Right now I'm too busy for hobbies, to tell you the truth. I'm up here six days a week, and I'm constantly just trying to figure out ways to get people in the door. So I don't really have much time for a hobby.

Yeah, so you guys open at six, and you're open until . . .

Ten o'clock at night.

How does it compare to working for someone else?

It's very much more stressful. I feel like with just a regular joe job, there's not much room for advance. But I feel like here, if it starts picking up and doing well, it'll really pay off. But yeah, I love it up here. It's like a second home. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing right now.

You're not from Ruston, right?


Where are you from?

I was born in Alabama. Grew up in Crossett Arkansas. And we moved here in 2000. So I've been here for ten or eleven years.

I think it's interesting how you didn't go to college, and now you're working almost literally on college campus. What's that experience been like so far?

So far it's been good. Everybody's been real nice. I like it here. I really do. I'm just thankful that I could get this location. It just kind of fell in my lap somehow. I don't really understand it, but here I am . . . Ok, so let me start from the beginning. The reason all this came about is, like I said, I was a dj. I had a roommate who was helping me, he would set up the speakers and the amps and all that, and then I would perform. Weddings. I did a show at Rabbs. I did a show at 3 Docs, back when it was still Cue Stick. And we were looking for a space to store all our equipment 'cause we had a ton. And it was just sitting at my house. So two blocks up the street up here, I saw space for rent. We checked it out. It was owned by the Flernoys, Bob and Patricia Flernoy. And just talking with them, Bob made a comment, this would be a really good place for a coffee shop, it being so close to campus. And I thought he had a point. It was a good location for a coffee shop. The students could just walk over and hang out. Well I didn't really think much about it. And a week later, my roommate passed. He died. So I was pretty much out of the dj business at that point. I couldn't do it all myself. So I remembered what Bob had said about the coffee shop. So I pursued it down there. We got into it. I made a business plan. We worked out the lease. And we had also talked to some contractors. They were recommending a ten thousand dollar handicap ramp, and a seventy-five thousand dollar fire wall. Which we weren't expecting that, and that was going to be too much for the owners to do. They pretty much wished me the best of luck and sent me on my way. Well, I started looking around at other places. I started looking at other places. I saw this place next door was up for rent. I called Frank Cadarro, we checked it out. He asked me what I wanted to do with it. I told him I wanted to open a coffee shop, and he said no you don't want this spot, you want this spot. I said okay, but I don't know if I could swing the rent. It's kind of up there. But we worked it out. We looked at the budget. We added in the Daylight Donuts and the espresso and all the goods. We felt like we could do it, so I went for it. And here I am. So that's a little more back story on how this came about.

Of course, you're not the only coffee shop in Ruston. What do you feel is different about Cool Beans?

We're so close to campus. We have a drive-thru. And it's not drab and dreary in here. I wanted it to be lively, so I painted it in lively colors. And I don't know, I just thought it would be a really nice place for people to come, hang out, study. Have study groups close to campus. People can just walk over. And I just wanted it to be friendly. A lot of coffee shops, you go in, they just ignore you, or they just take your order and send you on your way. I want to be friendly with people.

What's the most rewarding part of working here and owning the place so far?

So far, just seeing it come to life, you know?  I love it up here. It's a second home. I love talking with the customers.

Do you have a family?

I do. I live with my father. My mother's still up in Arkansas. I've got two sisters. They're both college graduates with families of their own. Hopefully one day I'll be able to afford to start my own family. That's another reason I wanted to do this. I wasn't getting anywhere with the convenience store jobs or any of that. So I had to take a chance with this, and try to be able to earn enough money to start a family.

Tell me about the design of the place. Your logo and color scheme. 

Cool Beans was a saying . . . It was suggested to me just to be Beans. And I thought, oh well, that's good, but I like Cool Beans better. So I went with that. And I took that idea to Rapid Signs, and we kind of played around with it. They came up with a few designs on their own. It wasn't exactly what I wanted. I wanted a character. I wanted a cool bean character. So we googled it, and we found some examples, and the examples that we came up with looked more like a potato than a bean. Haha. So they added the indention to the top of his head and the indention to the bottom. I think they changed the sunglasses around a little. And that's how the logo came about. When I saw it for the first time, the final draft of it, it was perfect. I figured it was catchy enough. Cool Beans. People can remember that. And they see the little bean character, and I hope that sticks out in their head.

Do you want to tell me about the kinds of coffee you have here?

Yeah. The One Love is an Ethiopian bean. It's a medium roast. But our specialty is the Jamaican Blue Mountain. It's a shade-grown bean, so it has more of a complex flavor to it. And they're just really premium espresso beans. The main complaint people have with coffee is bitterness, and it's not bitter at all. It's kind of a mellow, smooth taste. I like it. Everybody else likes it. Marley Coffee is a new coffee company. It's founded by Bob Marley's son. They're picking up speed, doing a lot of advertisement on facebook and twitter. It's gaining popularity.

Are you a Bob Marley fan?

I am a Bob Marley fan. Haha.

As a former dj, I'm sure you have a lot of opinions about music. What are some other people you like?

I've been kind of out of the loop lately. Deadmaus, I went and saw him. I used to love DJ Micro. Franky Bones. Bad Boy Bill. I was also really big into the alternative music scene back in the nineties. That was back when I was a teenager, so that fell right in my demographic. First concert I went to was Marilyn Manson. Haha. I've seen Pantera, and Rob Zombie. But now that I'm in my thirties, I just pretty much listen to classic rock. Haha.

It's strange how that happens.

It is strange how that happens. When I was a kid, it was MTV. Now it's VH1. I guess that's just life. You go through changes all the time.

What's your favorite coffee drink? How do you take your coffee?

I like mine sweet. So I like the white chocolate mocha or the mocha. We still get a lot of people coming in for the espressos or the Americanos. Our ice latte, people love it. People really like the ice lattes. But me personally, I like sweet.

I think that's all the questions I have. Thanks for speaking with me.

Oh yeah man, thanks for interviewing me.

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Kenneth Robbins, Director of the School of Performing Arts talks to me about the Tech Theatre department's production of Our Town, opening this Wednesday, October 26th, at 7:30 PM. Our Town will run two weeks, Wednesday through Saturday. For tickets, call 257-3942 or visit the Howard Auditorium lobby between 1:30 and 4:30 Monday through Friday. This interview has been edited for length.

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 Our Town starts next week; can you give me the show times?

 Yes, it starts on Wednesday night, the 26th of October, and plays that week the rest of the week through Saturday the 29th. 7:30 PM curtain. And then the next week Wednesday through Saturday, November 2nd through 5th.

 And when and where can people get tickets?

 The box office is open Monday through Friday from 1:30 to 4:45. And that's located in the Howard Center for Performing Arts in the lobby. The telephone number is 318-257-3942.

 How much are the tickets?

 Adults, $10. Students with ID is $5. Non-Tech students and senior citizens, $6.

 And they're on sale now, correct?


 Who chose Our Town as the play, and why?

 The faculty chose it last year when we had our discussions regarding our forthcoming season. And I'm glad we did, because it fits in really quite well with contemporary times, matters, and issues.

 In what way?

 In 2001, a very famous theatrical company in Connecticut called the Westport Country Playhouse was looking for something that would address the audience's needs in regards to reacting to 9/11. Which had just happened. And they decided to open their 2001 season with Our Town, because it is the quintessential American play. It revitalizes the whole concept of who we are as Americans. And I find that to be rather effective today, because we're, what, ten years out now. Ten years ago, 9/11 happened. So I think it's time again for us to revisit this wonderful play, all about being proud of being Americans.

 Do you see similarities between the archetypal town in Our Town and Ruston?

 Absolutely. Our Town is Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, but it can be any town anywhere in the world. In fact, this particular play was produced quite commonly in other countries. So I think the universality of the subject matter is very, very effective. Yeah, Our Town is Ruston, Louisiana.

 How's the context over time between when Our Town was written and now changed the meaning of it and how it's received.

 That's an interesting question, because I really can't address that universally. I can just look at it from my personal point of view. I know that revisiting this wonderful play, I first was introduced to it when I was a junior in high school. And I think that still is something of the case throughout the country. You too?


 I fell in love with it. Not just because of the subject matter, but also for the way Mr. Wilder managed the theatric space. It's a minimalistic approach. And there's no such thing as plot time necessarily. It's the universal time. I think Thomas Wolfe is the one that said “time is nothing more than the coming and going of light.” And in many ways Wilder has accepted that idea. And so we bounce around in time throughout the whole play. It does progress. First act is 1901. Second act is 1904. And third act is 1913. But still, it could just as easily be 2001, 2004, 2013, for that matter.

 It's been a long time since I read the play. I read it in high school or junior high. I know life and death, and life after death is a big theme in the work. How do you think that will relate to the culture in Ruston, the church culture, and also the international and multi-religious culture?

 Even though this play deals very clearly with a religious context, it's not specific. The whole concept seems to be we're all on this planet, and we're all striving to make the best of it as we can. And it doesn't really matter what church you go to, because the universality, the human nature of the play is going to address the concerns and the issues. There are references of course to the congregational church. That's where the marriage takes place in the second act. But all of that is peripheral. It's not a real wedding ceremony. It's a rite of passage. The first act is called Daily Life. Second act Love and Marriage. Third act is Death. Even the stage manager says, some of the things that the dead people say may hurt your feelings. That's just part of it. And that's not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. It simply is. One of the things that Mr. Wilder stresses in his play is the nature of numbers. Over and over, the words millions and billions and thousands and hundreds are used quite readily in the play. The final act, even though we're listening to dead people speak, they're talking about the nature of the universe. And there's nothing more humanistic than that, to be contemplating the fact that we are looking at a star, and it takes millions of years for that light to get from that star to earth. It's quite extraordinary when you look at it released from the constraints of a particular religious idea. And look at it from a human idea.

 What relevance do you see this place as having for young people and for college students?

 Oh, it's extraordinarily relevant. The rite of passage is very clearly defined. One of the wonderful things for me is, as I watch this play, I can remember how it was when I was young. How I felt whenever I felt as if the world was against me or for me or whatever. Because this play captures those essences. It allows us in our memories to return to a nostalgic era. And recognize ourselves in the actions of these young people that we see. Much of the traditions of the so-called American dream are either created by this play or being validated by this play. The American dream of a white picket fence around a home, that's there. The American dream of the girl or the boy next door as being the love of your life, that's there. All of these things are endemic to this particular play. And it's exciting to see the young people, the audience, the cast members, buying into this notion so willingly and so effectively.

 Do you think these traditional elements we're talking about with the American dream, do you think they're realistic, do you think they're unrealistic? How do you see them as coming into play with real life?

 Mr. Wilder's quite clear in his statements about realism. One of the things he was doing in 1937-38 when he wrote this play was responding to the so-called realism that had been taking over the American theatre. Realism to the point that you needed three walls in order to create the image of an American home. He does away with that. He's very clear in his statements of recognizing traditions and conventions as they're being applied and utilized on the stage. And saying, it is nothing more than a convention. We don't really need it necessarily. So he all but discards all of the traditions of realistic theatre. And in their place, he has a bare stage. It's what he calls a platform and a passion. That's all you need. I think there's something else you need, that's an audience. But he says all you need is a platform and someone with a passion on it. And this will result in some very compelling stuff. And in fact, our stage is fair. There are only a few pieces of furniture and that's it. The actors move freely in and around and through the space. And they define the space by how they use it. So realism as you refer to is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to Wilder's plays. It is a constraint. It's convention that has been implied and is no longer necessary. And that's one thing I find exciting about this play. He says look at your conventions. Determine which ones you need to keep, for whatever reason. And if you don't need them, discard them. Use something else. Create a new convention. And I think he did that, in 1938, can you believe that? A convention that we still find revelatory in contemporary 2011.

 I think that's interesting when you take it in the context of the economic culture of today and the bareness of resources.

 That is an interesting observation because the economics of 1938 are being played out today. We were just in 1938 coming out of the Great Depression. And today in 2011 it feels as if we're just now beginning a new depressive era. I hope not. But still, there seems to be this incredible feeling for the nurturing presence of a nuclear family. And that's something that this play is all about, is the nuclear family working side by side for a common goal, for the betterment of the entire community. I would love for this community, for Ruston, to come and experience this play. Because it's about them. It's about us. It's about all of us. We don't get to do that very often, you know what I mean? Oftentimes it feels as if we're not connecting. But in this instance, I feel as if Our Town does connect, and that it is important for us to reach out for the community.

 On that note, can you give me your ideas about what purpose the theatre serves in a community?

 Haha. Well for one thing, it's live. The actors are breathing the same air as the audience. And there's something unique about that. You can go to a movie, and there's some distance there. It's a medium cooled. But when we get into the theatrical space and realize that the person that just introduced me to the theatre, the usher, is also an actor. And the reality is, some members who just came in, they're not actors, but they're being asked to be a participant in this play. Russell, you could be asked to be a cast member, if you want. It's your choice. The playing space for the audience is the playing space for the actor. So the actors come and go through the audience. They intermingle. We're not taking the house lights out for the first two acts. We do for the third act, Death and Dying. But I think that the audience is going to be quite intrigued by this. I hope so. That's our goal, is to intrigue an audience enough to want to come and see it.

 Have you deviated in any way from the original script?

 Oh no. We've kept the script as written. There've been a couple of places here and there where we've cut a line. But nothing significant. There's a moment in the play written where the stage manager says here's some scenery for those of you who insist on having scenery. Well I've decided we don't need that. We're not having any scenery at all. So we cut the line.

 Sorry what was the playwright's name again?

 Thornton Wilder. He's one of the very few writers that America produced that actually won Pullitzer prizes for both drama and fiction. His novel the Bridge of San Luis Rey. And then he won the Pullitzer again for his drama called Our Town. And then again for his other drama called The Skin of Our Teeth. So he's a three time recipient of the highest literary award our country has to offer.

 Can you talk a little bit about a few of the actors in maybe some of the lead roles?

 I've been very blessed by having such a dedicated young group of actors to deal with. They have really devoted themselves to this project without any reservations, at least that I have been aware of. And I hope that I don't become aware of any. Haha. And the young people are just so talented here. That's something I've been impressed by. Not only are they talented, but they're well trained. They're well prepared. They know how to handle a bare stage, which is not easy. Most of our actors today are props actors. They have to have a prop in their hand in order for them to behave properly. But in this instance, there are no props. They have to mime everything. And the only tradition that we are keeping is lighting. And that's because an audience requires the opportunity to see the face of the actor. Therefore we have traditional stage lighting. But other than that, I think we're breaking free. I hope Mr. Wilder would find pleasure. Probably not, because he's seen the play so often he doesn't want to see it again. Haha. Who knows. You know, he played the stage manager on many occasions, on Broadway in fact.

 Talk about the role that you play in the production of this play.

 My job as director is to make sure the play is communicated clearly and unequivocally for an audience. That they can understand the nature of what they're experiencing, so that they can leave it feeling complete or informed or maybe both. At least nostalgic is what I'm hoping for. So I as the director, one of my principle jobs is to be the surrogate audience until the actual audience arrives, in preparation for the actors to do the jobs. The technicians to do their jobs, etc. All of it is aimed toward communication with an audience. And that's the reason we do it.

 Tell me about some of the other people behind the production of this play and their roles.

 I'm very pleased with the opportunity to work with the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts. Bill Willoughby has never been on stage before, and when I suggested to him that I had a perfect role for him, he said I'll do it. And he's been wonderful to work with. Matter of fact, I'm looking forward to him having a chance to play for an audience. That will be a brand new experience for him. So Mr. Willoughby has been a delight. The set design by Mr. Stevens, our technical director here at the university, has realized exactly what I was hoping for, which is a non-descript, black empty space. Hallelujah. It works. The lighting, we'll find out tonight when we add lights for the first time. The costumes, we'll find out next Sunday when we have our first dress rehearsal and the costumes are added. But basically we're saying through costumes, this play is today. This play is not 1901. Though we talk about 1901, the play is 2011. So we'll find out if it works.

 I always like to ask, what advice you have for the audience that comes to the play? How do you get the most out of the experience?

 Come with a clean heart, a clear heart and a clear head. And be willing to accept what is presented before you. And take it home. Chew on it. Spit it out. Share it. Whatever. Just don't prejudge it. Try your best to be open.

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Todd Cloe, wood sculptor of benches, rings, and large works for galleries. Todd is also the Woodshop Technician at Louisiana Tech. You can explore Todd's art at This interview has been edited for length.

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 Could you start by telling me how you decided to become an artist?

 I knew from the time I was about a fifth grader that I wanted to really study art. I had always drawn. I made a little soap sculpture of an owl head when I was in third or fourth grade. My dad helped a little bit, but I felt like it was all mine, you know? So I thought, 'This is something that I can do.' Didn't offer art until the sixth grade. And I took an art class and really enjoyed it. Simple stuff, drawing, and little toothpick houses. And then art wasn't offered again until my freshman year in high school. I took art all through high school and really did well. I won a couple of little competitions for the kids. We'd all travel to one of the local universities, and the art professors would assess everybody's work. And hand you a little ribbon. Everybody got a ribbon; some just for participating. Mine happened to be blue and red. So I got a little positive feedback. Then I went to Oklahoma State Tech. It was just a two year program in commercial art. I thought that might be where I wanted to go. My granddad said, “Todd, if you're going to do art, you need to do something people will pay for so you can have a steady job. So commercial art's the way you need to go.” So I did that, did very well. Of course, there weren't any computers until my last trimester there. And this was '82. Hardly anybody knew anything about them, so everybody was learning how to hand-render things. So my drawing skills and my lettering skills got real good. I still use the lettering skills here and there, that I picked up so long ago. I went on interviews, and didn't get picked up by anybody. And thank God, my aunt asked me if I wanted to go to a four year school and study art. I'm like, “Yes!” So I did that, went to Oklahoma state. And I got my BFA in '89.

 Were you still studying commercial art?

 No. I had gone in in commercial art and realized, 'This is a mistake. There's no reason to do this.' So I changed after one semester, and did very well in my drawing classes. I tried to take a drawing class every semester. And eventually I was taking painting classes and doing very poorly. I could not get above a D in my painting classes. And I was there all the time; my stuff was more paint by numbers almost. The drawings were solid underneath, but the actual painting part was very rudimentary. Then I took my first sculpture class. My very first project, he said that it's open, you can use any material, it's just got to be an organic form. I saw this stump in this guy's front yard, and I asked him if I could take his stump away from him. And he said, “Yeah, here let me get the garden hose. And I'll get the ground nice and wet, and we'll pull it out.” It was a cedar stump. So I started carving on that. All I had was a chisel and a mallet. And eventually started buying a file here and there and a rasp where I could get into the tight places. It eventually became a very nice piece, and my sculpture teacher said, “Todd, sculpture is your thing. Don't let anybody tell you any different.” He really enjoyed watching me work on that, because I was just all elbows and sawdust, and sweat. It was a very physical, labor intensive piece. My mother's got that at her house, and she's very proud of it. I did a few more wood sculptures and realized, you know I do this pretty good. I was working nights at the time. I worked for Safeway. I worked nights for ten years, running the night crew. It was a pretty hard thing to go to school all the time, and my grades suffered a little bit. I think I had a 2.9 average when it was all done. I always wanted to go to grad school, but never got real motivated to do that until I got married in '97. My mother-in-law, who's a very generous person, she paid for my graduate program here at Tech. And it was a really good ride. I made a lot of nice big pieces, was really happy about those. And got a lot of positive feedback. I guess that's it in kind of a long nutshell.

 I was thinking about how big a part tools play in your life and your art. Of course, you work as the woodshop technician. And often a big part of the sculptures and benches and rings you make, they almost act as a record of the interaction of the tool with the wood. I was wondering first of all what sort of significance and meaning do you see in that, in the use of tools?

Gosh, man's been fascinated with tools for thousands of years, and I guess I'm really no different, other than I try to do something aesthetically different with the tools. I like to leave tool marks that, like you said, do give a little bit of a history of what's happened to the wood. And my large sculptures are inspired by Native American handtools that I've picked up over the years. Most of them were broken little curiosities. I would take the broken parts and rearrange different parts of different tools, and then blow the scale up and make them really large. The sculptures were inspired by Native American handtools. I would walk these cotton fields and find these pieces of Native American handtools and my mind would wander, imagining what they were used for. So you'll see whenever you look at my work, finger divets that might be six or eight inches across, just trying to kind of keep in scale with the size of the tool maybe. Not necessarily that a giant race of people used these tools, but just more of a design element I guess. When they get that large, they really start not to speak so much about handtools anymore, but they take on their own presence. They command a space, you know. You see them upright, and they just scream come here and look at me.

What are some of your favorite tools to work with?

I love working with the chisel and the mallet. That is just about as personal as you can get with extracting the wood. It's very slow, but the payoff is you can see a mistake before it gets too far along. Whereas if you're using a chainsaw you can really go too far in a hurry and maybe not be able to save something. Speaking of saving things, I've been pretty lucky. I've never had an accident that I couldn't make better than it was whenever I originally thought of it. A lot of times the wood will only let you do what it will let you do. If you try to force something, it typically shows, or it just won't happen. But I have never had nothing but happy accidents. I've lost things and really stressed over it, and then come to find out I didn't need that element of the sculpture anyway. It's better off without it. Getting back to what you're saying though, the chisel for me is a great thing. I really like the chainsaw wheel. It's a little four inch disk with a chainsaw on the outside of it. It grinds a lot of wood in a hurry. I like that. You can't work too fast with the wood. You kind of have to be a very patient person. You can't rush it.

I was thinking about how much time and effort goes into making each piece. They're very heavy pieces of wood oftentimes. It's also just a feat of strength and endurance. I read on the website that during one piece you had to have back surgery in the middle of it. I was wondering, how do you think that affects the value and the meaning of the piece?

 I don't know, other than whenever someone walks up to it, they can just tell. My God, moving this piece is a feat in and of itself. I'm hoping it will affect the value in a positive way. Haha. I like being able to be seen as somebody who really puts a lot of effort into what I'm calling art. That makes me feel good. Because it does take a lot of effort. I'm not saying it's not art if it comes easy. It's just that I can't go there. I have to, it seems, bleed a little bit, and strain myself, to actually reach an end.

 How much of the sculptural pieces you make is planned, and how do you plan? And how much is unplanned?

 Really very few of them are actually ever planned out. I did plan one, but only half of it looks the way it did when I did my drawings. Every one of them have always been, 'Ok, I'll just start with this blank canvas, being a large stump, and just start making marks on it, and kind of drawingthe in the wood with the chain saw. And constantly walking around the piece. Stepping back and looking at it. And taking off some notches here and there. Every single time, something has come about that's worthy of finishing. I do have in mind that 'Ok, this is tool-like. I need to have certain elements in the sculpture.' Some areas kind of have to be concave, and something else may have to be convex. Or there has to be a point or a serrated edge or something like that. So there is some planning, but nothing is ever drawn, or exactly how I draw it is how I'm going to make it. That's never happened.

 When you take the different kind of woods, and then also consider the Native American tool influence, you can think of it either as a geographical element to the pieces, or maybe an interaction between human history and natural history. You know what I mean?

 Right. The bodark tree was revered by the Indians. That's what they made their bows out of. Bodark translates “arc of a bow.” It has a lot of flexibility to it. It will flex a lot more before it snaps than any other hardwood. And I'm sure they experimented with a lot of different kinds of woods for their bows and realized this is the only one that really works great every time. And it's absolutely impervious to bugs. If they get into the heartwood, they will back right out. I used a piece of bodark that was at my granddad's dairy farm. It was a corner post that he and his dad never used. And it laid by the dairy barn for seventy years. You can imagine what's in a dairy, a lot of cow dung everywhere. And the bugs had gotten into the sapwood, but once they got into the heartwood they backed out. So it was a very structurally sound piece. It was in great shape. I made my wife's and my wedding rings out of that wood. Whenever we got married. She has metal allergies. I made us that wooden wedding set out of that wood. I think the wood rings really are a better metaphor for a marriage than a diamond is. Because diamonds are absolutely forever, and marriages rarely ever are. And like a marriage, the wood rings need a little bit of attention. They need some maintenance. You've got to be careful with them. And that's exactly like being married. If you want to maintain that, you've got to do something to protect it, and seal it against the elements that would otherwise ravage it.

 I keep thinking about what it would be like to find one of your sculptural pieces hundreds years from now the way you found the tools that they're inspired by.

 That would be quite a find. I'd like to be there for that. And you know, I've thought about how temporary people are on this planet. And avoiding a fire, everything I make will definitely outlive me. Especially if the sculptures are enjoyed by somebody, they're going to be taken care of. It's a dream of mine to see one of my pieces on antiques roadshow. Haha.

I like to think about the way it portrays our society. Obviously it signifies an appreciation for tradition and other cultures, and leaves out a lot of that stuff that will fade away because it's on a disk, on a harddrive or something.

Right. Not that you can't make art with technology, but to me, if I can't see that somebody has really put some effort into making something, I struggle with validating that it is truly art. I'm sure that's just me. There's a lot of people that can put things together and call it art and sell it for lots of me. But in the end those things fade away, and what stays is something with some permanence. Where there's some record of somebody's toil that they've gone through to create something. I think that that will ultimately survive and outlive all of these other ephemeral artforms that are everywhere.

What do your sculptures convey to the viewer about you?

 I think they can tell that it's somebody with a strong will to start something of that kind of magnitude. I'm hoping they're saying to themselves, 'God, I could never do this. But here's somebody who can.' I hope that they see the finesse that I try to give every square inch. I leave very little untouched. You just have to go around the whole piece many times and address it all. They might think, 'Oh, here's a guy with a lot of time on his hands,' maybe. It does take a lot of time.

 And you really don't have a lot of time.

 I really don't. It's an illusion! Haha.

 Thank you for speaking with me.

 Oh you're welcome. I enjoyed it.


NCLAC is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.

Homegrown: 2011 Holiday Arts Tour

Homegrown will be a weekly post highlighting our Holiday Arts Tour artists.  NCLAC would like to celebrate the artists living in our own backyard whether they were raised here, relocated, or just like to visit enough to call Ruston home.   This years Holiday Arts Tour will be November 18, 19, & 20th.  Watch here for more information and tour locations. This weeks artists are husband wife team Paul & Kathy Smith.  Paul is originally from Leesville, Louisiana and Kathy is a Ruston native.


Paul was born in Leesville, Louisiana.  He comes from a large family with two sisters and four brothers.  Being born the third child of seven , he probaby was the typical middle child.  Kathy was born in Ruston, LA, also from a large family of three brothers and four sisters.

Paul played baseball as a young child, worked from the time he was twelve years old.  He was very smart in school, active in many clubs and played basketball.  Upon graduation from Leesville High School in 1968, he attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA, majoring in chemistry and minoring in math.

Kathy graduated from Ruston High School in 1972 and began working in a local grocery store.  This is where they met and began their life-long personal partnership.

In 1989 salary cuts forced a change in their life.  Paul had to retrain in another field and Kathy stayed in the retail field as a merchandiser.

Paul trained as a welder at the local vocational school.  After he finished his training, they moved to Connecticut where he worked as a shipfitter for general dynamics building nuclear submarines until defense cuts brought about layoffs.

After moving back to Ruston, Paul worked for Willamette/Weyerhaeuser for fifteen years as a maintenance coordinator and Kathy worked at Louisiana Tech library for five years.

During this time Paul's metalworking hobby turned into a profitable business that requires both of their efforts.


Our mission is to bring a smile to your face with our sculptures and help the environment by recycling materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Our work is mostly sculptural in nature.  Chiefly from recycled materials such as, old plow points, shovels, hoes, farm machinery parts, old glassware and chair and table spindles.  Some items are combined with ornamental iron pieces ordered from architectural metal supplier.

Recycled metal pieces are sandblasted to remove the rust and other imperfections before being welded into the sculptures.  They are inspected for imperfections and either hand painted with a clear sealer to help deter rust or painted with a rust inhibitor type of paint depending on the item.  Glassware is cleaned and holes drilled using a special bit for drilling glass.  No glue is used in these sculptures.  Bird houses are cut using a compound mitre saw.  Butterflies are cut using a plasma cutter and hand smoother with grinding stone.


NCLAC: Do you think everyone is or can be creative?  If so, what, if anything, sets artists apart?

SMITHS:  Yes, artists have the ability to visualize.

NCLAC: If you could live in any other time, when might that be?

SMITHS: Old West.

NCLAC: What, if anything, do you hope others get from your art?

SMITHS: Pleasure and fun.

NCLAC is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.  In addition funding for the Holiday Arts Tour is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and administered by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Allison Gilbert Bennett, actress and owner of Stitchville, knitting and fabric shop in downtown Ruston. You can find out more about  Stitchville on Facebook or at This interview has been edited for length.

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 So, can you start by giving me a rundown of what all you do. I know you own Stitchville, and you're an actress, and you're also a teacher.

 Yes. At Stitchville we have fabrics and yarns for sale. And then I do custom sewing for people. Alterations, and some monogramming, other things like that. We also have a full line of sewing and knitting classes. So even if you've never touched a sewing machine, don't know what a bobbin is. I've got beginning classes for kids and adults. And we go all the way up, I now have a series where you can sew things for the home. And also I've gotten some more patterns in, to learn how to read patterns and sew your own clothes, which people are pretty interested in. So you can pretty much do anything.

 I was reading on your blog about the alpaca adventure. Could you talk about that?

 A couple of customers and I . . . I used to have some handspun yarns. And a lot of people enjoy having that unique, natural, sometimes naturally dyed yarn that really make a statement. So a couple of customers of mine found this alpaca farm out in Tululla or someplace. She contacted them, and we went and met them in Monroe. And they brought sacks of blankets that they had sheared off the alpacas. So we sifted through those for a while, and we've been washing them. And I started spinning mine. It's slow going, but it's interesting. I'm learning a lot about yarn and fibers. I'm realizing why people didn't have a lot of outfits back then, haha, when they had to actually get the sheep and shear it and wash it and spin the wool. It's a labor. But it's kind of fun. I'm actually going to look into starting teaching some drop spindle classes, where people can get the spindle and get some, it's called roving when it's all been prepared to spin. And I'm going to start looking into getting some prepared rovings and teach some spinning classes, so people can make their own handspuns. It's really not hard.

 How did the desire to open a fabric shop come about?

 I don't know. It's something that I've been wanting to do for a while. Years ago, right after I graduated college, which I graduated in theatre here in Tech, I worked at Fabulous Fabrics, which she had a shop here in town. Now she's just in Monroe. I worked in the costume shop at Tech, so I learned a lot about sewing and fabrics and all that. But working at that fabric shop, I got to see all the fabrics, and see what they were doing, people who'd come in, what their ideas were. It got me interested. And after that, my husband and I got married and we moved overseas. He was in the army. And I did a lot of sewing over there. I wanted to open a shop, but we were on an army post overseas, and it was not possible to do it there. So I did a lot of sewing out of our apartment. Just different things. And every time we would come back to the states, I would go and buy a suitcase worth of fabric and bring it back with me. So I started kind of hoarding fabrics. Finally whenever we moved back to Ruston, I'd still been sewing. I couldn't find a job that I wanted bad enough to spend my days there. And I felt like there was a niche in Ruston that needed to be filled. With a different feel of a fabric store. For the people who don't know how to sew. Normal people who don't know how to sew don't walk into a fabric store because it's very overwhelming. So I wanted to create an environment for people who have ideas and just don't know how to complete them yet. It's like taking an art class. You have all these ideas, and you just don't have it in your fingers. You don't think that way. I wanted to create an environment that is both inspiring and just unassuming, I guess. For somebody to be able to walk in and say 'I would like to learn how to do that!' And I can say 'I can help you!' You know. I'm not a person who has a lot of ideas. I am, but I'm a person who likes to talk to people about their ideas and feed off of that. And watch ideas grow into something that you can make with your own hands. I just think there's such a fulfilling thing about starting with raw materials and ending with a finished product. You've got this new skillset now.

 It seems like when I was younger, sewing and knitting weren't really the cool thing to do. And now it seems pretty cool. Am I imagining that shift?

 No, there is definitely a shift of craftiness if you will. It's kind of the same feel as the shift to people more locally. People want to feel like they're contributing to their own lives more. And the things that are going on immediately around them. And I think that shopping locally, and starting to use their spare time in a way that is creative. And not just sitting there playing on your iPad. Which we're all guilty of, and I love my iPad. But you want to feel like at the end of the day you've got something else to show for it. I really push that sewing and knitting are fun. Because a lot of people are like 'oh, I took home ec three times, and it just was no fun.' We don't make things for serious. I would rather throw a sewing party than have a sewing lesson. Haha. And if you're not having fun, take a break. In this day and age, you're not making clothes because it's cheaper, you're doing it because something inside you wants to learn something new. If you're not enjoying it, then you're not going to continue doing it.

 What did you start out making when you were overseas?

 I started out, since I did the costumes at Tech, I got involved in the theatre overseas. So I did most of the costumes there. Alterations. I did a lot of patches on uniforms because we were on an army post. So people would get their rank changed, and I would have to sew the new patch on. That was probably one of the most nerve racking things. Because you have to get it precise. You can't get it crooked. It's regulation, so I would get really nervous about sewing patches on officer's uniforms, because I was just some chick . . And they could get in trouble for it if it was on the wrong shoulder, or off by a half an inch or so. I did that a lot, and it was just word of mouth. And I ended up doing a lot of bags. I started doing my line, Repursables. Because I started off doing reversable and repurposed bags. We would do bazaars and craft shows. So a lot of people on the post knew me, and knew that I was the sewing chick.

 I know you're a mother. How old is your son now?

 We have a two year old, and one on the way in January. So probably around Christmas. I usually get pretty busy around Christmas. After Christmas in January it usually gets pretty slow. So that's good; I think I will probably be slowing down, by necessity.

 What are the advantages to being, say, a working parent or a parent that's active in the community, rather than a stay at home parent?

 When you have children, it's so easy to lose everything that you did for your entire life in your kids. I've seen parents that had an active life, and then they had kids and their life just stopped. I read these stories of parents who haven't had a date in five years, and I think that is so sad. Because you can't lose yourself. It's not good for you. It's not good for your kids to see that you've given up everything that you used to enjoy. Being a parent, especially a working parent, comes with a lot of guilt. Because you want to spend all day every day with your child, because it's your responsibility. But at the same time, you have to go out into the world. And you need to do things in order to make the world run. It's one of those conundrums that you just have to find your own balance. There's a lot of moms who thrive at being stay at home moms. But I feel like you owe it to yourself to continue to do those things that make you happy. Be artist or working or whatever it is.

 Can you tell me how being a mother has changed your outlook or your ideas about art or life?

 I feel that it's more important now, for the next generation. Art is not about losing your boundaries, but it's about finding your boundaries. I was having a discussions with Christianne Dreeling, the Twirling Swirls lady the other day. We were talking about, she has two small kids, and how sometimes in art class they just let the kids kind of teach themselves. Like, find their own artist in them. And I think that's not the way to bring up an artist. You have to know how to do it right before you can go on your own path. And that's something that is in everything in our life. We have to learn it first before we can start making up the things that we want to do. We have to learn how to live before we can go live our lives. It's all a process. And being a mom, you have this little baby where . . . Our two year old is learning how to talk. I've never taught anybody how to talk. You have to think about all these things that you never thought you would have to think about. So you start learning that life really is just a series of processes, and how you have to put one foot in front of the other. And build these foundations. And I think that that's important in being an artist, in life, in being a mother, is going through the process and finding your own process.

 You lived overseas with your husband, you also lived in California working with a theatre company there. I was wondering what are your impressions of Ruston, after having spent time away?

 We chose to come back to Ruston for a few reasons. My husband's now in engineering, and it's one of the best engineering schools in the country. And I don't think either of us are big city people, but it's also important to have a university in the vicinity of where we live because of the energy that comes from young people and their ideas. You can feel the energy of the town. And I think that Ruston now, as opposed to Ruston ten years ago, even when I was in school here the first time, has so much more of that energy. And there's so much more that is happening downtown. And there's just like this, you can feel the energy underneath of all the artists that are here, and the photographers and the sculptors. You don't have to look quite as hard to find it as you used to. It's making its way up and out. And that's really exciting, to be in a town that you know is poised on this jump of growth and entertainment. That energy is exciting. Every day, just drive around, you can find something new to look at and say that's cool I don't remember that being here. Be it new restaurants, the Black Box, things like that. Galleries. Anybody who says you can't find anything to do in Ruston just isn't looking hard enough. Haha.

 Tell me what you have coming up at Stitchville, so far as classes or anything like that goes.

 I've recently put up my schedule of classes, which we've got the learn how to sew series, which I think we've got four or five projects. They're pretty simple, but with each project you learn a new skill set. I've got a sew for your home. Make you own clothes. And I've also got some kid sewing. A lot of kids are interested in it now as well. This weekend, I've got a kids class. We're doing owl pillows. That should be pretty cute. As far as knitting stuff goes, in the beginning of December, we are taking a trip that is open to anybody, up to Hot Springs Arkansas. They're having a Fiber Arts Extravaganza. There's going to be a lot of handspun arts and roving. It's two days. They've got classes, vendors. Fastest knitter competitions. It's fiber arts nerdilicious. We've got about four, maybe six, so far going. We're going to carpool and just go have a fun time. We're all excited about that. So we've got something for the sewers and something for the knitters coming up.

 I should mention you have Halloween and you have Fall fabric here.

 Yes, and my Christmas fabrics are on their way as well. I'd like to do some handmade Christmas type things if people are interested in making gifts to give. They can always get in touch with me on my website or call or drop by. And I'm open to any type of class. Because I don't have all the ideas. If somebody else has some idea they want to do and just need help doing it, that's what I'm here for.

 You and your husband are amateur brewers as well?

 Yes we are.

 Are you going to take part in ARToberfest?

 We are. We have brewed our brew, and I think we're bottling tonight or tomorrow. Whenever we've got time. We had a really good batch, but we drank it all. Haha. So we had to brew another batch for the competition. Luckily it's soon, so we won't have time to drink it all before the evening gets here. It's a fun time. That's another thing that a lot of people are doing. And we're going to have a pretty good competition. I'm looking forward to tasting the beers.

 I think that's all the questions I have. Thank you so much for speaking with me.

 Thank you very much.


NCLAC is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Jonathan Donehoo, designer, photographer, and Director of the School of Art at Louisiana Tech University. You can see Jonathan's work at 102: A Bistro at the solo exhibition "Magical Place Between", opening October 5th at 5pm. This interview has been edited for length.

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 Do you think that the purpose of the photographs as a record of your experiences, and to reactivate your memory of them, do you think that comes through in the photographs?

 It does to me. Because there's not a photograph I have that I can't say exactly where that is. I know the date. What it was like. I remember seeing that and going that was really neat. And you try to share that with others. But if they've not been there, it's just another chair. Just another tree. I guess that comes with traveling and experiencing things firsthand. When I was an undergraduate taking art history, and I'd sit in Renaissance history. It'd be cathedral this, and cathedral that. And they all looked the same. And then when I went there and started actually seeing them firsthand, they are not alike. Suddenly all of that made sense, you know. They were very distinct in their own way. But just looking at slide after slide of one baroque basilica after another, they all look the same. I guess it depends on your interests. It depends on that you've been able to experience it. That's why as a program we go to France in the spring with as many students as we can drag with us. And I think that experience firsthand is so important. And I think the faculty agree and put such a high value on travel, on the experience of travel and the education of travel. I wish we had deep pockets so we could just take everybody over there. Unfortunately we don't. But there's something about seeing it firsthand, experiencing it firsthand. It comes across in some of the pictures. But to me, the pictures mean lots of different things, but a little token of something that happened to me at one time is certainly part of that. As I said, I look at it and I know exactly what that was and what was going on. What was going on behind me, things like that. But that's my own personal worth in them. Other people looking at them certainly would not experience that because they weren't there. What they are taking away from the photograph may be something entirely different. I don't know.

 It seems as if the subject matter of your photography is often architectural. Why do you think that is?

 I think it has to do with space. Space and also the fact that I'm still very uncomfortable taking pictures of people I don't know. It seems like invading their privacy, and I should not be taking pictures of people. I'm not sure I like having my picture taken, especially by people I don't know. So I'm a little self-conscious about that. And you'll notice my pictures, very few of them have people in them. But I think architecture's a wonderful container for that light and dark that I'm interested in. You can do some out in nature, but architecture's just set up for that. An open door into a dark room and things like that. That little transition there. But I've always enjoyed architecture. And maybe it is the impossibility of photographing architecture in a real sense. Because architecture's three dimensional. It is an environment that you walk into. While a photograph is two dimensional, and you can look at as many pictures as you want to of something, but until you walk into that space, you don't really know what it's about. And I think the best example of that would be the Pantheon in Rome. Every art student has studied this. They've seen slides of it, in out around. But until you walk into that space for the first time and just feel that physical lifting that you get just by walking in there, it's just hard to describe that to anyone. So maybe it's just a vain attempt at capturing some little aspect of that.

 While I was preparing for this interview, I was reading your artist statement and bio. I was interested in what you said earlier about the attention to detail in small neighborhoods in Paris. And also, I noticed that as a grad student, you taught beginning and advanced typography. I thought there might be a congruency there. Even when you think about the play with light and dark – light and shadow and you can compare that even to typography, the white and the black.

 I love typography. I always have. I'd love to be better at it. And I don't know where the love of typography comes from. As an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, I had some renowned typographers as teachers. I don't know if they instilled that in me or not, but they helped me see that typography makes a difference. And it's about communication, and that's what type does. It's not about just the shape of a letter. It's how does this shape of a letter and all of the others combine to communicate an idea or a history or some story that people have. And I remember talking to freshman type students and saying typography in a way is like breathing. You use it everyday, you just don't think about it. When it's done correctly, you'll never notice. When it's done incorrectly, then you start noticing because you can't read it smoothly. I think it has a lot to do with communication, and that may come from the fact that I did not grow up in the United States. I was raised in other parts of the world. Communication and other languages was always, for me it was not a big struggle, but I know from my parents it always was. Because you had to learn a new language. So this whole idea of communication. Either visually through photographs. Or through type. Or story-telling, or anything else. All of this I think plays in that. How do you get your feelings, your ideas, your stories across.

 It even seems as if there's an aspect to typography and even the languages, of maybe noticing things that other people don't notice.

 That's just it. Even if you're here in Louisiana, and you've been here a lot of years, things that you become accustomed to, some people coming in from another part of the country, some are surprised or taken aback by something. I remember one time, we lived in a rather large city in South America. And it was not uncommon to have cattle grazing in the neighborhood. Or carts being pulled by Oxen, or something like that. Which, after a while you didn't notice at all. But when people would come to visit, they were just stunned to see cows eating in our front yard. And I remember hearing my father telling people who moved to these places for the first time, you need to take you pictures within the first six months. Because after that you won't even notice that this is unusual. I tell the young faculty that move here from out of state that they should take advantage of those first few years to really explore Louisiana. Go into Arcadiana and stuff, and just explore that because it is so unique. Later on, you just take it for granted. And that's a shame. But I guess that's human nature. You become accustomed to whatever it is around you, good or bad.

 What's the payoff of noticing those things?

 I think it adds a whole new depth to your existence. I would hate to live in just a white room with cheap paneling or something. I guess you get used to that. But it's in the details. It is there, and paying attention to it or just glossing over it. I guess everybody's interests would be in different details. I'm sure if an engineer came in and looked at something, the details they would notice would be different than the details I would notice. I guess it's up to you to do that. As teachers, what I think we try to do is make sure our students are aware that the details are there. Look at it. What are you seeing? I think that's what an artist is. We look at things. We see these things. And part of our job is to help others see these things. A musician hears things. We all hear things, but they hear things maybe we don't. And we see things maybe they don't.

 Why did you move so much as a child?

 My parents moved a lot.

 For work?

 Yes. My parents were foreign missionaries. So we went all over. And it was certainly a different way of growing up. Haha.

 What were some of the most interesting places you lived?

 Well I think everyplace is interesting. Even Ruston is interesting. But as far as being exotic or strange, I grew up in Columbia. I was in Costa Rica. All over.

 Do you think your childhood, your immersion in missionary work and Christianity, do you think that's influenced your life as an artist in any way?

 Probably not in the way people would hope. Haha. No, I think there's probably something in there. There's a part of my life that I consider to be very private. Maybe it was the way I was brought up. I'm somewhat suspicious of those that tend to wave things around a lot. I am suspicious of people who stand on the street corner and pound their chest and things like that. That's just not the way I was brought up. So I think my parents did instill in me certainly a sense of right and wrong, and a sense that especially as an American who has this comparatively great privilege in this world, that for real happiness, you have to somehow return some of that. It's not about more and more. It's about how do you help others get to a certain point. And I look at my siblings, and none of us went into the ministry, but I have one sister who's a teacher. I have one sister who's in medicine. And I have another brother who was in the military. But all of us in some way interpret what we do as giving back. I think we know there are certainly more lucrative jobs than higher education. But it's not about that. What effect do you have on other people's lives in a positive way? And maybe that's what you learn from being raised that way.

 Obviously as director of the school of art you have a positive effect on people's lives. What are your thoughts about the effect your art might have on people's lives.

 Well I hope I do a good job as an administrator. Maybe I just have a certain sickness for filling out forms. Haha. Because I do fill out a lot of paperwork that I don't think most people could stand. But it's just part of the job. And I hope what I do allows others, the teachers to spend more time working on what they do well. But as far as what I would like people to look at photographs, and first of all the people who have been able to travel. They see a picture of something and 'oh I remember things like that.' Bring back those hopefully pleasant memories. Those who have not had a chance to travel maybe go 'you know, maybe I need to go see that. I need to go out and look.' But I'm hoping they understand you don't have to go to Turkey to see this stuff. You can walk around Ruston and see this. You can walk around this building and see it. It's just a matter of looking at it in a certain light. A certain time of day. A certain way the wind is blowing. Just take advantage of that moment. But it doesn't have to be just exotic places. It can be right around you. Everyday life. I walk around the backyard and see things. You hope to just get people to start thinking in a visual sort of way, a creative way. What's different about that.

 I think you're probably at this point the person in the art department that students get to spend the least time with. I'd like to ask a few personal questions.

 Sure. I would say I do hate that. I do miss being in the classroom. Of course, I started teaching when I was very young. I was as old as my students. I was twenty-three. I had five graduate students. They were all older than I was. That was strange. So I grew up with them. They were friends. I've been best man. I'm godfather to their kids. It's just great they still think of me that way. But as I get older, there is that gap, and as I became the director, there's just not enough time to have all the classes I used to. I'm doing all this other stuff. As a director, in a way, I also become the ambassador for the program. It's funny when I meet students and I don't know them but I know their grandparents, or their parents. But I try to be a good voice for the program in my own way. So I've evolved out of one thing and into another. But I do miss that relationship that a teacher has with their students. I get a little bit of it sometimes with student workers in the office, but I do miss it. I recognize a lot of names more than I do faces. What questions do you have?

 Do you have any hobbies?

 I like to cook. Well, I like to eat. Haha. And I figured out a long time ago that if I like to eat, I would have to learn how to cook. I enjoy baking bread. I'm now experimenting with making cheese, artisanal cheeses. It remains to be seen how that's doing. And I do enjoy traveling a lot. I like to see things I've never seen. I like to experience things I've never experienced. I like to read. Nothing too exotic, I don't think. I'm just pretty normal.

 I think it might not be too much of a stretch to say you're an introverted person?

 Oh yeah, that's not a stretch at all.

 I was wondering how that affects working in such a social and communicative field.

 I think it goes back to the way I was brought up. My father is very much like I am. We're very quiet. We're slow to get to know. But my mother was very outgoing. Very social. She came from a very social family in Georgia. The two of them made a great pair. Between the two of them they would lick the platter clean. But I grew up in a social environment. My parents, even though they were missionaries, did a lot of entertaining because of the nature of their work. So I knew what they did and didn't do. So even though I'm not terribly comfortable in those situations, I do know how to do it. And I can do it. And I can bang my way through it. Just what we're doing now is not comfortable. But I've done it before, and I will be doing more things like this in the near future that I'm still lying awake at night about. But it's just part of the job. It goes with the territory. As the director of the school, I speak for the school sometimes. And you just have to put yourself out there, and just overcome that. You do it once, you do it twice, and it gets a little easier. I don't know that it ever becomes comfortable. You hope you don't fumble the ball. I'm afraid of heights. It scares me to death. And my father always taught me when I was young you just have to face your fears. You go do it. So there's not much in Europe I have not been on top of. Once. Haha. I go up there, and I do it, and I get back down off of, you know, the bell tower in Florence. I remember climbing that thing. It was awful. But I did it. I have no desire to ever do it again. You name a building, and I have been on top of it. And it is amazing. I still am afraid of heights. But you face your fears. And life is full of fears. Heights. Public speaking. Taking chances. Whatever it is. And either you can let that control you, and you can just not do it, or you can just take a deep breath and jump out there. I read something, and I'm trying to figure out how to weave this into something to share with students. In times of great stress in a person's life, where the odds are just impossible, you just don't know what you're going to do, you can either turn around and hide, or you can spread your wings and fly like an eagle. It's up to you. You can say no I can't do it, or you can say I'm going to just jump off and try it. And you'd be surprised. You fall sometimes, but if you turn around you know you're not going to do it. Take a deep breath and jump. People have done it for thousands of years. So you just have to take a little faith in yourself and jump.

 Let's conclude by talking a little more about your photography. Tell me about the technical aspects. Do you use digital or analog?

 Both. Honestly though, the last couple years it's all been digital. I remember the first time in the dark room, you put that exposure paper in the developer, and you look at it in the red light. And it's like magic. All of a sudden it appears. And you're going 'that's amazing.' You just get hooked on that. There's something about that process of being in the dark room. And that magic that takes place. But nowadays, and it's good and bad, digital allows you to make changes and alterations in a photograph or an image that you could not do in a darkroom. You could not dodge and burn that well. I think one of the big differences too is, when I was doing just film, I would go someplace, I'd come back and I'd have fifteen rolls of film. And I'd develop it all and process it. But you knew that you had to carefully compose in the camera. You had to think about what you were doing. You had to get the right settings. And so in that sense, it was like a rifle shot, as opposed to now in digital, you go click click click about thirty times and hope that one of them turns out. It's a much more shotgun approach. I still love analog. I still love film. But the reality is you're doing digital now, that's just what you do. And there are things in digital, there's just no way you could do that in analog. And some of the pieces I may or may not put into this show are panoramic pictures, where I took seven or eight pictures and wove them together into one bigger picture. I don't know how you could do that in the darkroom, and not have it obvious what you were doing. It's like anything else. You have a nostalgia for the old, but you still appreciate whatever the new part is.

 Most of your pictures are black and white, and some are color. Could you tell me about the reasons behind your decision?

 Part of it goes back to my first photography class as an undergraduate. I remember my teacher saying 'if it's not working in black and white, odds are color's not going to help it.' You cannot use color as an excuse for a bad picture. So you think about it in black and white. And I guess that's what I did until I started doing a lot of digital work, it was all black and white. And even now I'm surprised how monochromatic my work is. You look at it, even though it may be brown, it's still brown and white. Haha. Sometimes, there's these magic times, like there's this one piece that has color in it because of the sunset that made the whole thing magical. But most of my work is in fact black and white. And I think in this particular show there's a few pieces in color but most of it's black and white. Again, if color's important, I'll put color in it. But most of the time, color's not really what it's about.

 I think that's all the questions I have.

 Ok. You know, I appreciate the opportunity to share this with you. I very very rarely talk about myself or my work, so this is pretty unique.

 Yeah, I really enjoyed it.

 Well I appreciate you doing it.

 Thank you.

Homegrown: 2011 Holiday Arts Tour Artist

Homegrown will be a weekly post highlighting our Holiday Arts Tour artists.  NCLAC would like to celebrate the artists living in our own backyard whether they were raised here, relocated, or just like to visit enough to call Ruston home.   This years Holiday Arts Tour will be November 18, 19, & 20th.  Watch here for more information and tour locations. This weeks artists will be Bess Bieluczyk a regional artists and avid NCLAC volunteer.


Bess was born and raised in the Conneticut suburbs.  She received her MFA in Photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design and her BA from Sarah Lawrence College.  She is an active, exhibiting photographer and an arts adminstrator at Louisiana Tech University.  She's recently had a series of solo shows in Monroe at the Bry, Arender, and Livaudais Galleries.  In addition she has particpated in a variety of group exhibitions in Indiana, Michigan, Texas, and Georgia.  Her recent work culminated in the series Subtle Hysteria.  The focus of her work is women and domestic life. 


I have created a character and environment based on stories and my own imaginings of the life of an unhappy housewife.  I investigate her psychological terrain through domestic still lifes with a taste of hostility.  Her quiet desperation and frustrations manifest themselves in strange displays within the confines of her home.  I find the  evidence of her outlets in her minute obsessions, her petty violence and the aftermath of her little explosions.  The home and objects that surround her are beautiful but used. worn and past their prime.  I focus on a woman's solitary rebellion against the restrictions of her domestic life. 


NCLAC: What's your first memory of the arts, and/or how did you become interested in art?

BESS:  I remember being put in a remedial ‘cutting and coloring’ class in kindergarten. I think I wound up there because I wasn’t very good at following directions. I got in trouble for coloring a tulip in blue when we were supposed to be using “realistic” colors. I thought the remedial class was fun because it was just a couple of other kids and me and we got to draw all the time.

NCLAC: What, if anything, do you hope others get from your art?

BESS:  I hope it brings up an emotional reaction, I hope that they can relate to it on some level. I hope it makes them think. In my photographs, I try to give the viewer pieces or hints of a story, I want the viewer to make up the rest of the story on their own.

NCLAC: Who were your childhood heroes?

BESS:  Wonder Woman and Cyndi Lauper; basically outrageously cool women who wore crazy outfits.

For more information about Bess visit her website at

NCLAC is supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency.  In addition funding for the Holiday Arts Tour is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and administered by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Neil Keen, co-owner of The Black Box, the new coffee shop/theatre in downtown Ruston. [wpvideo FkiQXNuu]

 When's your opening date?

 Well, we're shooting for this Friday. Don't know if we'll make that or not, but that's what we're shooting for.

 What's your hours of operation going to be?

 Monday through Friday, 7 in the morning to 11 at night, and Sunday noon to 10.

 What sort of theme or idea were you going for with the design of the place?

 Well it's a little more laid back, kind of warehouse chic look. We want it to be different from most places in Ruston, which it is. It's a little more contemporary. But it's still cozy. It's very cavey and dark. Real homey. It's pretty secluded. We've got that nice, solid wall between us and the street. So it blocks out all the sound and a lot of the light. We've got this unbelievable patio back here, which is perfect. So we're just kind of going with that. We wanted to focus on the coffee shop, with the theatre productions, the foreign films and independent films, concerts, things like that.

 Do you have any events lined up yet?

 We've got a few. We don't have anything in stone. We're trying to get open, get situated. In fact, we'll bring the food in two weeks after we open, after we get settled in. Then we'll start looking at our really big opening weekend, have a nice concert.

 Could you give me like a rundown of what you're planning for the menu?

 Truthfully, John Shirley at Campatori Catering is handling all that. He's catering it everyday, so that's completely up to him. So I don't have an idea just yet. It will be sandwich type food. But it will be more lunches.

 What sets the Black Box apart from other businesses of its kind in Ruston?

 Well, I think in the years past with the other things that we've done, we've really focused hard on customer service. Providing a very different atmosphere from what you get anywhere else. And a better quality product. Our products are very high end, and very well made and dispersed. We're just a customer-driven business. We focus on them, and they take care of us.

 Could you give me an overview of the other businesses and things that you've created over the years?

 Well, I had a partner of course that he and I started Frothy Monkey years ago. And I bought him out, and actually passed it back to him. So I've had that for six or seven years. I started Turbo Goat, the bicycle shop. Chris Bartlett took that from me, and he's recently sold it. We had the Bell Jar clothing store, and this will be the next deal. In the meantime, or throughout that time period, I've bought a lot of buildings and refurbished the buildings, either sold them or rented them out.

 And of course, we should mention your partner in this, the Black Box is . . .

 Jackie Cochran of art innovations.

 Is this your first time to work with Jackie?

 I've known Jackie for quite a while, but it is my first time to work with Jackie, yes. I actually bought the building from her. This is the old Art Innovations building.

 What motivates you to do this sort of entrepeneurial work that you do? What do you get out of it?

 I like working for myself. So that's the first and foremost. Myself and my family and my friends have a very strong desire to improve downtown Ruston. There's a lot lacking here. And we've focused really hard, and pumped a lot of money and time and effort, and blood sweat and tears into downtown. It's a constant battle for us. We see things that need to be changed and are really focusing hard on that, and trying to show other people that there are other options out there. Other than the status quo. We're working hard to just try to get people downtime, and improve the atmosphere. Try to keep the students here and keep the money here. It's really super important to support local businesses. That money gets turned over locally so many more times than a big chain store, or anything on the interstate. And we just want to give people options down here.

 How does doing the things that you do in a small town compare you think to trying to do the same sort of things in a larger city?

 Well I've done some of these things in a larger city, and it's much easier truthfully. You've got a higher population density. You've got people that already are familiar with your products that you're trying to sell. They know the benefits of supporting a downtown. Truthfully, it's harder to me to do anything here. We're looking at doing some work in New Orleans. There's a lot of grants. There's a lot of incentives. There's a lot of help to do something. Here, you're pretty much on your own. I lived in Wakeforest North Carolina. The second you walk in and say 'hey, I'd like to open a business here, what do you have?', they present you with a huge packet, hold your hand through the whole process, just really take care of you. We'd like to see improvements here, definitely. We'd like it to be easier to open something that could help turn that local dollar over.

 Can you tell me about what you've learned through your experience in the business world and what advice you might have?

 Well, I've learned a lot. Probably more things not to do than to do. But just to do it is the main thing. Everybody's scared to take that first step. But until you do, you'll never start down that road. If you're interested in it, you've just got to put your head down and keep to it. When problems pop up, you just push through them and hold on tight and hope for the best, and generally things seem to turn out okay. Keep your overhead low. And, like I said, we've picked a genre, we work downtown. And that's what we do. I think you've gotta specialize a little bit. It's a niche market world these days.

 How would someone get started if they wanted to open, say, a shop or any sort of business?

 Research. A business plan. And get your financing. That's the hard part, is getting someone to give you money. I've had some great local banks that have really helped me out by taking a big risk on me. And I've had great relationships with them. But getting that first loan was the biggie. Do your homework. Lay it out in a really organized format, and chase some fincancing.

 I think you're an artist yourself, is that right?

 I am.

 Could you tell me about your art?

 I do a little bit of everything. I haven't done it in a while, but I also just spent about a half a year in New Orleans learning how to blow glass. Which is something that I'm really passionate about. I love it. And I'd like to do that full-time in the near future. So hopefully this is kind of a stepping stone. This will give me a little place to sit and start that and try to grow into a larger scale business.

 Will we see any of your work in the Black Box?

 Eventually, yes. Hopefully by Spring.

 I think it's probably a moot question, since you say you haven't done any art work in a while, but still I'm always curious to know how people incorporate an artist lifestyle into the real world requirements of doing work, and running your business and things like that.

Well, I really like architecture, and the art world. And we do try to incorporate that into the buildings that I do. Just in the design layout. It's different. We don't just do the standard box deal. We like to incorporate friends and students' work, and local artists into everything we do. We've always had artwork up in the coffee shops. Chris, with the bike shop, has art shows there inside the bike shop. So you can incorporate it into whatever you're doing. The glass-blowing is something hopefully the coffee shop can help offset the costs of the material and labor to do that. So we can do anything from wall sconces to chandeliers to anything else we'd like to do. Ornaments, decorations, sculpture type work. And if you notice in there, there's a lot of artwork, sculptural artwork. So I guess that's how we incorporate it.

Given all the difficulties in opening a business in Ruston, and finding customers and things like that, what are the redeeming qualities of Ruston that make it a worthwhile place to live and do these things?

 There are a group of very interesting. And it's nice to see those people on a daily basis or weekly basis and maintain contact with that group of people. There's a lot of good people here. They're well-travelled. They're diverse. I think Ruston is a very diverse place. For a small town in North Louisiana. So I think that's the best part, is getting to see everybody. And just having those relationships.

 Did you go to college?

I'm still going to college. I've been going for a very, very, very long time. I'm going this quarter. I've gone to several colleges.

Tell me about your experience, what you've studied and what you've learned.

 Goodness. Art, geology, mainly art. Architecture. I've had years and years and years of art school. I enjoy it, but I don't plan on working for anybody else. It's just something I do because I enjoy it.

 As a working professional, what value do you see in going to college rather than teaching yourself or going to workshops or associating with other artists in real life situations?

 As someone that doesn't have to support myself with my artwork, I kind of have a different view I think. If I were having to support myself with my artwork, I would definitely be more concerned with the academic route. The degree, the learning plan, and the steps to go through that, to get a job and be able to support myself. As someone that does the art on the side as a hobby mainly. Or even if it were to make money, my main source of income comes from building improvements, property sales, and business ventures like this. So I think I'm a little bit of an odd duck, truthfully. But if I were going to support myself with my art, I would definitely be more concerned with the art program.

 I think that's about all the questions I have. Is there anything else you'd like to say about the Black Box?

 It's just going to be a very different, great place. We're going to have a lot to offer that you cannot get anywhere around. Different music. Theatre venues. The films. It's just going to be completely different. Everybody needs to come check it out.

 And to clarify, you're going to have live theatrical performances, and you're also going to be showing what sort of films?

 Just independent and foreign films. Things you can't run down to blockbuster and pick up.

 What sort of talent are you looking at for the theatrical performances?

 Jackie's heading that up. There are a lot of local guys that like to put on small plays. Jackie probably could answer that better than I could. But it's going to be local. She's coordinating with Tech also to let them do some small productions here. It will generally be local guys and students.

 Okay. Thank you very much for talking with me.

 Thank you.

Art Opening at Gallery Fine Art Center in Bossier

New paintings by Edwin Pinkston, Ruston artist and former Tech Art Professor, will be featured in a solo exhibition at Gallery Fine Art Center in Bossier, Louisiana, September 20 through October 28.

 An opening reception will be held on Thursday, September 22, from 6:00-8:00 pm. Edwin will give an artist talk about his work at 5:30.

 Gallery Fine Art Center is located at 2151 Airline Drive, Suite 200, Bossier City, LA 71111, and can be reached by phone at 318-741-9192. The gallery is open Tuesday - Friday, 11:00am - 5:00pm and by appointment.

Artist Statement

New Paintings 

I am very excited about the direction of my new paintings. Over the years I have done figure and landscape drawings in charcoal, semi-abstract collages, wall constructions of painted wood with earth and sky themes, pastels of still lives or landscapes, and abstracted mixed media pieces inspired by jazz music. But lately I'm enjoying a very challenging return to abstract painting.

 In this latest exhibition, I'm working primarily on Gessoboard mounted on a 2” deep maple frame. These hard surfaces can take a lot of physical paint application (or removal) and are used in a square format, thus providing a neutral dynamic, which leaves me free to generate my own visual velocities. These paintings investigate non-representational issues where color, texture, paint handling and spatial fields are explored.Extensively reworked, they feature layers that are sometimes translucent, sometimes opaque, and are filled with marks, lines, textures and scumblings. This concentrated strata of energy and pigmenets, which eventually unite to include a predominant color, hopefully suggests depths both literal and emotional.

 Tensions and counter forces are strongly cultivated, using a non-objective approach that is inspired by Paul Cezanne's still lives and landscapes. I try to set a stage where forms aren't fully reconciled to their positions, where color and mark-making struggle for dominance, and where surface and spatial considerations jockey for position. I try to give each section a role to play, composing holistically, and avoid centering any one element, to neutralize any dominating tendencies.

 I see these paintings as reactions to conflicting issues of human existence that we all face, such as personal freedoms versus societal regulations. Energetic brush action and strong colors depict a sense of abandonment and are juxtaposed against straight lines and geometric shapes representing life's constraints. Further, elements suggestive of being man-made, such as straight lines or geometric shapes, are contrasted with freely brushed, spontaneous and color dominated passages, which I see as emblematic of nature's embrace of growth, change and the unexpected.

 Edwin Pinkston

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Russell Moore, talking about Ruston's First Rock & Roll Spectacular at the Dixie Theatre this Thursday and Friday. You can check out the Rock & Roll spectacular on facebook or call 318-255-1450 for tickets or information. You can learn more about Russell Moore's barbershop and hair salon, Rumo's at This interview has been edited for length.

[wpvideo VREjBFot]

 Tell me about the Rock & Roll Spectacular that's happening at the Dixie Theatre.

 Well, to tell you about the show is to tell you about a year ago, Lynn Nemey and her Daughter Ashley Nemey James asked me if I wanted to be on the board at of directors for the Dixie Theatre. The Dixie Theatre at this point is overwhelmingly senior citizen, and has a lot of shows that typically cater to that crowd. And basically to make a long story short, they asked me to be on the board to be a part of the new generation. It's trying to pass the torch from one generation to the next, so that the Dixie Theatre can stick around and stay current. And so when they asked me to be on board, I set back and observed a little bit. And then I went to a show at the Dixie. It was a piano player and a guitar player. A descendent of Chet Atkins, and some other person. Anyway, whenever they did their thing, the room was awesome. The crowd was very warm. It was like I went in the room and realized this gem is sitting right here in the middle of Ruston, that people my age and probably ten years older than me just haven't even gone in the door. And it's this amazing space. It's this beautiful building that is just by and large, unused. So when I saw that, I thought what can I give, what can I offer. Well, I'll play music. I've played rock & roll forever. I asked a couple people, how would you feel if I did a rock & roll show, with local musicians? And immediately it was just like a total positive response. And so I started putting it together and here we are. I ripped off the name from an old Beastie Boys, Run DMC concert poster I have in my barbershop. It was called Philadelphia's First All Rap Spectacular. And I thought, 'Hey that's a good name.' So we're calling it Ruston's First All Rock & Roll Spectacular.

 Real quick, give me the dates and times for the show.

 Dates and times. September 8th and 9th. Seven o'clock both nights. This show will have the exact same songlist both nights. The first night, if you're a season ticket holder, your ticket will get you in that night. If you're not a season ticket holder, you can buy that night, but everyone who's not a season ticket holder is more or less being funneled to the Friday night show. And the Friday night show will have a pre-party with hors deurves at 5:30 and an open bar provided by Portico. And then the show will be at 7:00.

 And who else will be in the show besides yourself?

 I'll be leading from the drums, if you will. Not necessarily singing. A musician named Bryan Batey, he plays the bass. He went to Tech but he lives in West Monroe now. I got Tim Cripps playing the guitar. Jeff Walpole, who's a Ruston local, is playing rhythm guitar. Todd Whitlock is a Ruston native, he's playing piano. Estevan Garcia is going to do the bulk of the lead vocals. He's a Ruston person. My brother Ross is going to play percussion. And my wife Morgan is going to be doing some singing, and she's from Bastrop and went to Tech. And we have Jake Kite, who was a Ruston High School student and is going to be doing some backup. So everybody is either from or lives in Ruston. Way back when I first started on the Dixie board, I asked what was the vibe, what was the whole culture of the Dixie. What was its mission statement. And their mission statement as they told me was to be a local theatre made up of local performers for local audiences. And I thought, you know, maybe we've strayed a little bit from that. We've got a lot of touring acts who've come through. And I thought I want to keep it local, and everybody, other than the one person who lives in West Monroe, is literally a Ruston resident and native. It is on mission statement of what the Dixie wanted to be, local talent and local crowds.

 It seems as if the show is somehow associated with an organization named Troupe Dixie. Could you tell me about that.

 Yeah. The Troupe Dixie is kind of the brain child of Ashley James, who is a Ruston native. She moved off several years back to Little Rock, and was a part of a local group up there. It was a similar idea. There was an older group of people in the town who were predominant in this one theatre. And it was a younger group to try to pull the younger crowd in to try to cross over generationally. And she came back. her husband and she moved back for jobs. And she came in and said, 'hey, let's get a group together for the younger set.' And we took a vote, came up with names. And the first thing we did, last year in May, was we had the Second City Comedy Troupe come in. And our first event was called the Brew-Haha, because they had an open bar before, and they were a comedy troupe. And they said that they needed a name for that group of people who would be putting on a certain amount of events per year. So we voted, and the name came up Troupe Dixie. The Troupe Dixie's basically just the embodiment of everything we're talking about, passing the Dixie on to the next generation.

 Could you give me an idea of what the song list will look like for the show?

 Yeah, I could tell you every song, but I'm not going to. Haha. 'Cause I want to temp you a little bit. The songs will be from Doobie Brothers. Taking it to the Streets. Layla from Eric Clapton, the original long format Layla with the piano. Some Fleetwood Mac. Some Stevie Wonder. Black Crows. Led Zeppelin. Queen. Several Paul McCartney songs. We have two sets. The first set is kind of a little older feel. And then the second set starts off with this eighties kind of feel. With some Simple Minds. With some Don't You Forget about Me. And Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love. And some Police. Some Pat Benatar. Cyndi Lauper. And then we do a little Lenny Kravitz. And we finish out with some Journey, a little AC-DC, and some Led Zeppelin. So we'll do Rock & Roll by Led Zeppelin will be our big ending song.

 Let me think of how to phrase this. Really, it's in the title, it's the first rock & roll spectacular.

 But not first annual, so as not to jynx ourselves!

 Right. And that's what I'm curious about because, you know, it's really trying to start in this new direction that's so much in line with the Dixie's mission statement, and bringing in parts of the youth and Ruston culture that have maybe been left out of the Dixie before. And using local talent. Do you see this in any way as opening the door to future things at the Dixie that haven't been there before? Is this in some ways like an experiment?

 I feel like it is. Of course, my name's on the poster so I feel like it's a lot of things, but the truth is I hope it opens the door. I hope that the Dixie becomes a very common name. I hope that local bands, or even touring bands, I want it to be the place that's got that magic. You hear about different periods. You hear about Seattle, the different bars during the grunge period. And you hear about the different places like the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport way back in the Elvis and the Johnny Cash days. Those places and those moments in time were magical. Not that I think that we're there yet, but it would be really cool to have this creative moment where we could create something. And typically when you try to create it, it fails. So to be quite honest with you, all I want to do is to sound good and to have a really fun night. That's kind of my singular focus at this point. I don't want to be a rockstar. I don't want to get best show of the year. I just want when everybody leaves to say, ' I had a really fun time.' That was kind of the point of the whole deal, to play good music we all know, that we maybe forgot we knew, and just leave at the end of the night and say 'I had a great time.' If that opens the door to future things, that'd be the biggest compliment you could ask.

 While I have you here, let's talk briefly about yourself and Rumo's. Can you tell me why you started this barbershop, and the process of creating the business?

 If I count correctly, twelve years ago, I was a kid and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I was not the college type. Turns out, I might be a little too hyper for that. Just wild energy, tons of energy. Couldn't sit still in a classroom. I finished high school and went to Tech for a little while, and that didn't work out so well. So I played music, and in my head the only thing I was ever going to be good at was music. But you realize really fast you got to pay the bills. By kind of a strike of luck, I walked into a local hair salon in Ruston looking for a job for a few weeks, and the lady hired me on the spot, told me she'd teach me how to cut hair. And that was it. I started doing hair. It's been now twelve years. For the first year or two, I'll be honest, I absolutely hated it and thought it was just the thing I could make a few bucks at while I played my music. But then something clicked and I started doing hair a little better and learning a few things. About that time, a band called me and asked me to come join them on the road and be based out of Alabama. So I moved and did that, and stayed over there for six years. And travelled all over the place and did records. And the whole time, I kept my hair going, I did some hair while I was doing that. And once the band stuff ended, I opened a business in Alabama and learned it was just right up my alley. I don't know how, but I just loved it. And I don't know how it succeeded, but it did. And so we came back, me and my wife. We had a baby and came back, and tried to find a niche market that didn't really exist in Ruston. And the hybrid salon/barbershop thing, I felt was pretty cool. We researched it and saw that all over, especially the West Coast and Northwest, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, they were doing these throwback barbershops, but it wasn't limited to just men. So we gave it a shot and said we're just going to do it. I had a lot of naysayers. Haha. They said it would never work. Women will never go to a place called a barbershop. Nobody's going to get it. Nobody's going to understand. Your music's too loud. Any number of negative comments. So we just did it anyway. And it's been great. It's been over two years now. We have just as many women as we do men. Didn't seem to bother anybody. I feel like we'll be here for a while.

 Tell me about your experience of trying to be successful, and also innovative, and just trying to achieve your dreams in a small town like Ruston, with the sort of environment that Ruston has.

 I think what you're saying without saying it is, 'How do you inspire a place that at times can not be so inspiring?' You don't have to say that, but that's how I took the question. Haha. I'll be really honest with you. I've had this thought for a long time; I've always felt like a left shoe in a right shoe town. Like a person who didn't fit. And yet I grew up here, and I love this town. I have nothing against it. I've always just felt a little funny here. And so in my head I've always just thought if you want to be creative, teach people how to be creative. If you want to innovate, teach your market. Kind of like the big sushi boom in Ruston over the past few years. I heard for years sushi will never work in Ruston. Well you can find sushi on every corner now, because somebody said 'we're just going to do it. We're just going to teach you that you like sushi.' And so they just did it. They put their money where their mouth was. There's so many creative people in this town. There's so many innovators. So many people that just have some wild thoughts, that can be afraid for some reason about this market. And maybe they have some proof that tells them to be afraid, but I haven't seen any of that proof yet. We have an extremely smart, very creative town, that people will respond to a good idea. And that's my philosophy. If a town doesn't get you, teach them. Teach them what a hip, cool place is. When I was in high school, you wouldn't come to Ruston to see a movie because there was no movie theater. We built one and all of a sudden, we watch movies in Ruston. It's a town full of smart people who enjoy the finer things in life. They enjoy arts. They enjoy good shopping. Good dining. Good business. And a lot of times, they'll pay for it in other places. And so there's this big mentality of 'they'll never support it here.' And that's as silly as you can be, if you ask my opinion. It's like 'if you build it they will come.' I'm just naïve enough to think that.

 Do you think it's fair to say there's a sort of cultural renaissance happening in Ruston right now? Just sitting here talking to you, I'm thinking about all the businesses that have either recently opened or are about to open, such as 102 Bistro, the Black Box. It seems as if the number of art shows has been increasing over the past few years. Even this Rock & Roll Spectacular could be seen as a part of that, the youthful awakening in Ruston. I'm not really sure if there's a question in there; would you just like to speak to that?

 Yeah, for sure. Whenever I came back to Ruston, which has been three years. Being from here, going away to a place I really loved in Alabama, but whenever we came back, it was like a breath of fresh air to come back. I don't know if this is any symbol to whatever, but I saw that there were three, and maybe even more, successful marketing and graphic design businesses. Not just in somebody's house, but had a design firm. I mean, my gosh I never heard of a design firm in Ruston. So just that in itself told me, if you can employ and keep busy three different design and marketing companies in Ruston, what that's saying to me is that there's this increased standard, that if you do business, you must do it well. You must have a great logo. You must have a great marketing plan. You must have a great plan of action. And what you're saying about the whole renaissance is, I don't know if it's happening everywhere, but it feels like it's happening in Ruston, is there's kind of this rebuke of the mass media. Things are going local. You have the farmer's market which is a great example of that. The farmer's market didn't exist. It was barely breathing there for a long time, but now that thing thrives and a lot of people really support it. Because it's local, and just the idea that I can buy from you locally better than from a person who sells a tomato in South Florida or where ever. But this whole idea that we can do it. We can do it locally, and we can do it just as good as anybody else. We don't have to outsource. We can stay local. And I'm not trying to stand on a soapbox or anything like that for local whatever, but it just really seems that there's this group of people. And I know what you're talking about, like the bike shop. They've really helped cycling culture in Ruston. And like the Black Box, they're going to really promote local theatre, and local art, and regional film and stuff like that, that really just didn't exist before. It's like okay, we've seen what Hollywood can give us. We've seen what New York can give us. We've seen what Paris and London can give us. But what do we have here? We have a lot of really good stuff here. Why don't we just enjoy our own? And I think that's fantastic. And with that, again, it's kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy in that if we are creative, we will grow creativity. If we are business-minded, we will grow creative business. If we expect fantastic marketing to compete in the business world, we will birth creative marketing. Every new business will say the number one marketing money I can spend is my logo. It's in its imphancy, but it's fantastic. If you look at any new businesses in town, the marketing and the design and the packaging, nine times out of ten it's really good. And that's a great thing. That's something I think we can say for our city that very few other cities can say. I'm sold. I feel like I'm a lifer at this point with this town.

 I think that's all the questions that I have. Thanks so much for speaking with me.

 Yeah, you bet.

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Nicole Duet, the new professor of painting at Louisiana Tech University. You can view Professor Duet's art at

This interview has been edited for length.

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 So where did you get your BA?

 I got it from Cal State North Ridge. I'm from New Orleans originally. And I went to a few different universities in Louisiana. I went to LSU for a little while. I went to University of New Orleans. And then I did some theatre work in Tulane. And then that summer I made a decision to move out to California to get my Bachelors degree there. And I went to a theatre training program there for a little while, and finished up at Cal State North Ridge.

 When did you decide to do art?

 In my last year at North Ridge. I had electives, liberal arts electives that we could take. And one of them was life drawing. And I had always been interested in drawing as a kid, but never really pursued it. And when I took that class, I just fell in love with life drawing. And I was fortunate enough to have a really good teacher. So it all came down to this one elective that changed my idea about what I wanted to do. So I finished up my theatre degree. But by the time I finished, I had a few more art classes under my built, and I knew what I wanted to do was be a painter, and particularly a figurative painter.

 And then you entered an MFA program?

 Yeah. I took a period of time off in between getting my bachelors degree. I lived in New Mexico for a while. And I studied painting, mostly just by painting everyday on my own. And that allowed me to get experience and practice, and build a body of work. And after that I moved back to California. And at that time I started to apply for graduate programs. That was when I got into the MFA program at Cal State Long Beach, and got my MFA degree there.

 Is that where Bustamante went?

 Yes, exactly. And we met actually, but once. He had already graduated when I started, and I remember crossing paths with him in the hall once as I was moving into my MFA studio. And I think he said something to me like 'well you're coming into the program at a really good time, because there's lots of young people coming in and it's really competitive.' And he was teaching a beginning level class there, and I never saw him again, but I do remember hearing that he got hired at tech. So that was kind of an interesting coincidence.

 Tell me about your experience in between getting your bachelors and getting your masters, so far as trying to be successful in the arts or trying to do something related to the arts as a career or to support yourself.

 The one thing I knew in between finishing my bachelors degree was that I had a whole lot more to learn. So most of that time that I spent not in school was spent painting everyday on my own in my studio. Literally just painting still lifes, getting into the habit of working everyday. And taking that opportunity to practice the things that I felt like I needed to learn in order to be able to make the kind of art that I wanted to make. So that was really my work. I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I could just do a little bit of part time work on the side, and spend the rest of the time painting in the studio. So when I moved out to California, I started working as an art model in various art classes. And I got to meet a lot of great teachers that way, and I got to see a lot of great art programs that way, some of the big art schools on the west coast, like art center and Pen Otis College. I worked there quite a bit and saw what people were teaching and what students were doing, so most of my work at that time was jobs that would allow me to continue to paint. I did do some gallery work for a while. And it was connected to those early still lifes. I showed my work in Santa Fe for quite a few years, in a gallery off the plaza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And that was a great experience, gave me a taste of the professional side of making paintings. But somewhere in that time, my ideas about the kind of work that I wanted to make were changing. And so that's what let me gradually transition out of that gallery work into the MFA program, which I took as an opportunity to set aside time to paint and develop a new body of work, which was totally different from the still life paintings I was making. So to support myself while I was a grad student, I started teaching, almost right away. Two careers, one love was teaching, and one love was making paintings.

 You were teaching at what level?

 Well I started teaching a painting class at a school where I studied. It wasn't a school; it was kind of like an adult extension program connected to the animation guild in Los Angeles. This was a place where animators could go and take classes outside of work so that they could build their skills, especially in life drawing and in representational painting. And because that had been my focus for a long time, I went there to study life painting, with some really great teachers who were also really great animators. Once I started going to grad school, I proposed a class to the animation union. I wanted to teach a basic intro painting class. Something that would allow people to learn to use paint without worrying about painting the model, which is very difficult. So I proposed a still life painting class, and that was my first painting class. I had been doing that for about two years when I got into the grad program at Long Beach, and within my second semester of being in the MFA program at long beach, they offered me a life drawing class. So I really did start teaching right away. Sometimes teaching adults, like in that program at the animation union, sometimes teaching foundation level classes to freshmen, which is mostly what they give grad students, which I enjoy too.

 What influence do you think your background in theatre has had on your art?

 I think a couple things pretty directly. My painting is narrative painting, so I'm interested in stories. I'm interested in circumstances, moments that happen between people that are undefinable in words. In theatre, some of the most profound things happen when actors aren't speaking to each other, when there's just an exchange that creates a certain tension or a certain poignance to a moment. And that's the same thing I'm interested in in my own painting. Literally though, like I was telling you I loved building sets, and I love the things that happens when the lights come on in the first dress rehearsal. That crosses literally over into my paintings. A lot of the composition, a lot of the color is based on staging characters within a space. And a lot of the colors are determined by the color of the light that is connected to a mood or a story. And so some of those early things like the transformative quality that light can have on a composition come directly from theatre. Also, theatre oftentimes is about the circumstances and problems that we have in life, big and small, and my painting revolves around those questions too.

 Switching gears entirely, How does it feel to move from a big city, and sort of like the nexus of the Western world like Los Angeles, to Ruston, Louisiana?

 Haha. That is switching gears a lot I think, for me too. Actually it's like switching gears. I'm from New Orleans originally, but I've been in Los Angeles for over half my life. So, in some sense, my primary feeling about it so far is that it's giving me a chance to come home, which I've been actually looking for for a long time. And I think I go through different phases as a painter, different needs, different sides of myself. In Los Angeles, there's obviously all kinds of input, all kinds of art forms and all kinds of influence that a person has that affect the way I make art, and my ideas about art. That can be a good thing, depending on whatever phase I'm in with my work, and it can be an overwhelming and distracting thing. So I think that this move came right at a time when two things were happening. Personally, I was looking for a way to do something from my home state, and professionally, I'm in a phase now where I need less distraction, and more of, I think one of my colleagues here described it as laid back or relaxed in a way, I think I need more of that, haha, to get to the next stage of my work. So it's a change that feels big, but it also feels right at the same time. And my work is becoming much more about growing up here, too, so that's an interesting coincidence as well.

 What are your impressions so far of Ruston and the art scene here?

 I've only had a couple days. I don't know if I can really answer that fully. I'm excited by some new things, Nick was just telling me about the Black Box, and I love the fact that there's the old theatre right across the way. And I saw that there's live music and all that available here. All of those things are things that I would look for back in Los Angeles. And however big or small they are, they're present here too. And that's all really exciting. It seems like, just talking with the people that I'm making friends with here now, it's a pretty vibrant artistic community. And I'm really excited to get to know it more, to see more of what's going on around here and in the outlying areas too.

 In a traditional medium such as painting, and also considering the post-modern climate of theory in which there's no trajectory or continuum of progress, what does innovation in painting look like?

 That's a great question. I think I'm constantly asking that of myself. And I'm constantly asking that of the painting that I see. I might be able to answer that in part by saying what it doesn't look like. There's a lot of work out there that seems to be focused exclusively on a genre or a style, and when you look at it, you get a feeling that it's basically a representation of that look. So that to me easily becomes fixed in a way. So it's not really letting one painting or one idea bump into the next idea and influence the next painting. Innovation is a really difficult thing to define. It can't ever seem like innovation for it's on sake. If you're just taking risks and slapping paint around without a connection to an intention, then that's not innovation. What I like to see, in my own work and in an artist's history, is transformation. Being able to see a through-line is part of it, but finding problems and asking questions that take the style in one direction and then that influences the next style and that influences the next. So I'm not giving you a concrete look or anything. I'm just giving you my ideas about innovation and what I look for, what I hope to see.

 Could you tell me a little bit about your teaching philosophy, or what you've found that works?

 My teaching philosophy is really influenced by those early experiences I was telling you about at the animation union. In different art forms, I've had many teachers in my life, some of whom were the kind of teacher who were all about 'let yourself do whatever you want to do and let's see where it goes from there.' And then I've had other teachers who were very much 'this is step one, step two, step three, step four,' and then you do all those things and you'll get to this point. And those are radically different philosophies. The ones that work for me were the ones that made me feel like I was getting concrete, tangible information that helped me to get to the next level, helped me to have the skills and abilities to do what it was that I wanted to do. When I found that, I realized I had found teachers who were not only teaching me how to be an artist, but they were teaching me how to teach. So my philosophy is influenced by that. It's really hands on. I believe in showing a ton of different kinds of work related to an idea from all different kinds of eras of drawing, painting, and photography. I believe strongly in being able to demonstrate as well as being able to talk your way through an idea with students. And so I work one on one with everyone in my class everyday. That's really important to me. It's a visual world, and so it needs to be dealt with visually in the classroom, whether that's through showing a lot of examples or showing by example, by doing. It's both of those things. And then I also feel that most of what I have been teaching, it's classes at the foundation level. So it's really about skill building and increasing awareness and understanding of what's possible. Another dimension of that level of foundation class that I think is important is creating an awareness in the student of their own ideas. What is your answer to this age old problem? So, fostering, doing whatever I can to engage in a dialogue with students about their ideas, and helping to form those ideas in relationship to the projects. All that's interconnected, all that makes for a well-rounded classroom experience.

 Could you describe for me your ideal student, or what qualities someone needs to be successful as an art student?

 That also goes back to my own early experiences as an art student. I know what worked for me, and I know where I fell short of trying hard enough to achieve what I wanted to achieve. So my ideal student is a person who asks questions a lot. The worst thing, the most uncomfortable thing anyway, is to look out across a sea of empty faces. So if there's a student or two or three or four who ask questions whenever they come to mind, and freely without being self-conscious, that's an ideal situation for me. You have students who come to class already with a little skill, but that isn't even necessarily the ideal circumstance. You can come to class as a student with a willingness to learn and not much else. And I think that's a part of my ideal student. In addition to those personal qualities, the ideal student is someone who's willing to work, someone who's willing to keep their goals in sight, and to suit their choices to their goals. So I really do want to see someone giving everything they have to a class and to a project, personally and in terms of how they handle projects. So if I can see that development from the beginning to the end of a quarter, where something has changed in terms of the way you've handled the materials because you've applied yourself, then that's really exciting to me, no matter what the starting point is. That's someone who's a pleasure to work with. Because they're engaged. They're engaged at the level of ideas and asking questions. And they're engaged with the wonder side of making art, which is the question like what happens when I do this? And how does the amount of time and effort a energy that I put into it physically affect that? It's all this kind of personality that's open on one level to new information, and also willing to try and apply themselves on another level.

 Do you have any thoughts about the role of art in society?

 Yeah. I do. And those thoughts are, just like everything else I've said, are constantly formulating and reformulating in my mind. But I believe that one of the primary roles of art is to keep us connected with what's invisible. It's to make visible what's invisible. It's the deeper questions of life that have been ongoing for as long as there's been records about the questions that we ask as people. Art takes us out of our normal selves and gives us an extraordinary experience, the best art does. Even the art that is not the best does that, because it keeps us thinking in extra-normal ways, beyond 'what do I need to get at the grocery store,' into questions about what it means to be a human in the world. So whether or not you're a person whose art is political or a person whose art is fanciful, or a person whose art is ironic, those art just avenues into the same basic world, which is to teach us about what it means to be human, in this world.

 I think that all the questions I have.

 Thanks so much.

 Sure. You're welcome. It's my pleasure.

Fr. Frank Folino Challenges Stereotypes in Art Show

Thank you to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church for becoming a NCLAC member.
St. Thomas Aquinas (810 Carey Ave.) in Ruston is hosting an art show of the works by its pastor, Fr. Frank Folino, OFM.  This show will take place Thursday, August 18th, from 7:00-9:00, in St. Francis Hall.  When one thinks of a priest painting, one might be tempted to think it will be saccharin over-pious religious kitsch.  Fr. Frank does not play to that stereotype. His work is abstract yet accessible, using many media to achieve a very textural result.  Viewers will be delighted to discover the many layers and colors of his mixed-media works.  All are invited to attend this one-night showing of the work, hors d’Oeuvres to be served. 
For more information, please contact the church at 318-255-2870.

Q&Art with Russell Pirkle

This week: Doogie Roux, owner of Roux Bikes. This interview has been edited for length.

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This is Q&Art. I'm Russell Pirkle, and today I'm interviewing Doogie Roux. Doogie is the owner of Roux Bikes, and has recently graduated from Louisiana Tech with a degree in Computer Information Systems.

Tell me first of all . . . I think I know about everything you do, but let me go ahead and list them off, and you can sort of fill in the blanks. So you have Roux Bikes, which is like a custom bike service or shop where you make them and they're like art pieces. And you do photography work and video work. And you organized the Bicycle Art Exhibit at Turbo Goat. And you organized the Itty Bitty Bike Race. And you've done some sort of community outreach for Joplin, Missouri. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?

Well, in regards to the whole thing that I did for Joplin. That was a continuation of something that was already existing. Neal King, the local business owner, he's done several things here, the latest project being the Black Box. He was led to help out that whole situation after the storm ocurred. And he partnered with Chris from Turbo Goat, and they did a facebook blast asking for volunteers and donations. I had just recently graduated and wasn't doing a whole lot, so I volunteered to go. And that whole experience, it's hard to coin one term or one set statement to summarize it all, but it was life changing. It wasn't something I could see myself going and doing one time and being done with it. So after I started the virtual bike company Roux Bikes, I said why not use this as an avenue for fundraising and supporting this cause, because I definitely want to continue to support that whole thing. The destruction and the emotional impact that it had on people was tremendous. So the first thing I did was I built a custom bicycle and raffled it off. I did that during the week right before the Peach Festival and through the Peach Festival, and during the Itty Bitty Bike Race and the post-race party. The support and the success of the event was just tremendous. I raised a ton of money, and I was able to deliver some of the itty bitty bicycles from the race and help out the Gonzalez family, a family we had a connection with while we were there. I was able to cut them a check and help them out, because they had some really hard times after the storm. So that's project Joplin. That's it in a nutshell. But I definitely don't think even that portion is it. I could see myself doing some more, following up with that family and helping those people out, because that situation was really tremendous.

What do you see as the connection or the reason that art and creative expression and community outreach and humanitarianism pair together so well?

For me personally, I'm sure I can't speak for everyone else, I think because art and creative expression and community outreach evoke so many emotions, people who operate in such an arena, things like that really touch them. They really can connect with such an avenue. I'll be honest,in operating in these different arenas - business, technology, and the arts, I think a lot of business people aren't as emotionally connected to people as artists could be. I know that's strange coming from someone who's business minded, but like I said, I operate in so many different arenas that I notice a lot of things. When I come to a person that's an artist, and I'm a business person, I read them different. Whereas when I'm a business person speaking to another business person, it's a different perspective. I think a lot of artists are emotional, and I think they can really connect with community outreach, supporting causes a lot better than someone who's in business. And I say that just generally, not to stereotype anyone. It's just kind of a hasty generalization.

As a business person and a person who is pursuing a very functional, useful career, what are your feelings about people who are full time artists and the idea of art for art's sake, and making things like paintings or sculptures that you can't use as opposed to something like a bicycle that you can? Was it a practical choice to pursue a career other than art, or is it a philosophical choice? What's the reason why you're not a full time artist?

I think it's because of, you know they say people can be a jack of all trades . . . And I have a ton of energy. I just can't sit still. So I just have to have something to do, and I think that the whole virtual entity Roux Bikes or doing photography, or doing anything business related, it's an outlet for my energy, it's an outlet for my creative expression, and it's an outlet for a good heart. And I think that's ultimately what it is. I don't feel that I can do just one thing and be set on that. I kind of like juggling multiple concurrent projects in those different arenas, business, technology, and the arts.

Do you find it challenging juggling those, spending as much time as you would like on each?

Yeah, it is difficult at times, but I enjoy it. It definitely makes me utilize my time management skills to the utmost. One minute you may have a photoshoot with someone where you're in charge of it or you're working with someone, like some of the bigger names in photography here in Ruston. I work with them a lot. I say I work with because I graduated so I guess I work with rather than for them now. Haha. But it's a heavy task to manage all of that stuff, and sometimes when you slip up and you don't manage your time very well, some things do suffer. But you really have to be on top of things to keep that from happening.

I ride a bike myself, and I've been really curious lately about what makes the bicycle such a powerful symbol of contemporary culture, and what it represents and what its role in society is. Do you have any thoughts about that?

My thoughts on that could go for days. I'll keep it short. Haha. The bicycle is just another one of those things that people interact with, and it's forever changing. It can go infinitely forward and really far back with its history and its impact on culture through numerous generations. It's comparable to the automobile, because bicycles in the fifties, they have an impact. The style, the lines, the colors. Bicycles today, they have an impact also. And it's one of those things that human beings can experience emotions that you really can't experience with other things. You can experience a flight on a bicycle. You can experience speed. It's just so much. It can evoke so many emotions. And I'm trying not to go off on a tangent, but it's a beautiful feeling to be on a bicycle, breezing through a city, just going fast, going with the flow, breezing through traffic. It's a wonderful feeling. That or you're just in a parking lot, doing some stunts, doing a little flatland, some BMX. Or you're riding with friends. It's unifying. I've riden bikes in who knows how many big cities or how many small towns. And, if you're on a bicycle, and you're just riding, you're guaranteed to meet someone. You're guaranteed to stop and talk to someone. And it's just people from so many different places, so many different mindsets, walks of life. To get all of those to one place and just be riding together . . . The bike kind of, it fades away for a second, and you're just with people. And that's unifying. That's a wonderful feeling.

Let's talk a little about the custom bikes that you build for Roux Bikes. Where does your inspiration come from, and is it a collaborative process between you and the customer, or is it all your own ideas and creations?

It's a little of both of those. Sometimes I have a bicycle that I felt I had an inspiration to build, or I wanted to mimic something old. I like to tell people that I really appreciate old school, but I'm progressive and I have a new school vibe about me. So I say I'm middle school. I like to blend the two. So I might do something randomly like that and have it sitting on hand, maybe something I ride personally or enjoy. But if a customer wants it, if I'm not emotionally attached to it or it's not sentimental, I may sell it to them. But sometimes someone comes to me and says look, I want a bike like this. And we sit and talk. Or if they're somewhere else, we do it through email or facebook chat or skype. So I do something like that, and they'll detail to me the specifics, frame, handlebars, style. It's like a consultation to get something, and then we go from there. And that's usually how it is, one of those two ways or something in between.

In terms of volunteering, what do you think Ruston in particular is in need of?

In terms of volunteering . . . Well that kind of sparked a thought of more of a need for unification. I see a lot of division in Ruston, on many planes. And to keep from offending anyone I won't ellaborate on it, but I see a lot of division, and I think that in a small community like this, it should be a lot more unified. A lot of walls should be torn down, and steps should be taken for people to move toward unification. Through just anything, any event or function. Just being open-minded and doing not just different things, but doing things that some of the smaller people, some of the minorities are into, as opposed to always doing something that facilitates the majority. I think that would definitely be unifying, because it would open peoples minds. It would bring people together. And it would help people to learn that just because you're this person doesn't mean that you have to do this thing. You can open your mind. You can go out. You can learn new things. You can do new things. You can meet new people. So definitely I could see, if someone would volunteer to do that, that would be nice. Haha.

You use a pseudonym, and you have a certain style about you and a large presence in the community, and I'm curious about what role you feel personal presentation plays in things like creative expression and sort of building a scene and a community.

Personal presentation, I like that term. Haha. Personal presentation, it's big. How you present yourself to people, the public, it goes a long way. People have to really, and I'm learning this more and more each day, people have to really accept you for who you are. I know that's cliche and stereotypical, but it's so true. I feel that people, I don't want to compartmentalize. I don't want to give certain people certain aspects of me. I want to give everyone everything about me. And I don't want to have cut myself in sections and kind of hand me out. I want people to take me as I am, because the entities that I represent, they're holistic and they encompass a lot of things. So for me to just give a person one part of me would rob that entity of its presentation. If that makes sense. I have to really convey to that person that this is me, this is what I do, I want you to be a part of it. Or if I don't, it's ok, here's my business, here's the money I'm making, and this is what I want to do. But I need them to understand that the money I'm making, it goes to these events, these causes, these people that I'm helping. So personal presentation, it has to be holistic. That's how I see it. It has to represent the entirety.

I was sort of a late convert to the whole idea of exercise. And you can tell; I'm still not in great shape. But I found that it really made a big difference on the way I thought, and how well I could think. I'm sure you've always been physically active, but what do you think about the connection between exercise and the mental and intellectual side of life?

I think, again, it's holistic. It all goes together. What your body is in good status, when you're eating well and you're active, treating your body right, your mind is in sync with that. And if you lack in any, of course, it's a symbiotic relationship. If your body's doing well, your mind's doing well. You feel okay emotionally, you're positive. You're doing well, you're thinking good thoughts. But when you let the body suffer, when you don't take care of it, again that's holistic. Things start happening. So it's a symbiotic relationship.

What advice do you have for people for taking a more active role in their community? Say, artists for instance, or any sort of business people, I think we would all like to be doing more for our community and be a bigger part and be more involved. What advice do you have about that?

Anyone operating in any arena should go for it, because where ever you are, you want to have an impact. Like I tell people, I don't want to be famous. I don't want everyone to know me. I just want to have an impact on people, on a place. I want to go somewhere and do something. And to know whether or not I should be there, whether or not I should leave, it really depends on how will I be missed. What about me will be essential to that place? For people to be somewhere, especially Ruston, and just not be invested in their community, especially since it's so small. You have to be invested in such a place as this. You have to help people, because everyone needs help. If someone is here, I think they should actively be engaged in the community doing something. It doesn't always have to be money. People think, when you think supporting causes, it's ok, cut them a check, put a dollar in their pocket. Nah, give somebody a ride somewhere. Sit and talk with someone. Give them something. If you have something you don't really need it, give it to someone, help them out. Go to an event and volunteer. Just get out and invest, because when you're in a place like this, that's this small . . . there's more, but more meaningful, there's nothing else you can do but just get out and help your fellow man.

As a jack of all trades to use your words and a high energy person, it seems like you'd probably be a hard fit for any education system. With your experience, is there anything you wished were different? Or maybe even the whole educational system, is there anything you'd change?

With education, I'm pretty sure this is true for a lot of people, but some it may or may not apply to. When it comes to learning, I learn by doing. When I'm doing things, creating things, building things, putting things together, that's when I learn it. If you give me a mountain bicycle, which I'm not very familiar with, and you let me tinker with it or you show me things, you show me how this goes together and how that works, I learn it. But if you give me a powerpoint presentation on how a mountain bike works, I'll probably go to sleep on you. Because I have lots of energy, and I want to get out and do things. Hands on learning is the best learning. Interactive learning is the best. Rather than sit in a classroom and learn about American history, take me to the Smithsonian museum. I worked at the Smithsonian, and it was the best job I ever had, because I learned something new everyday. I was able to touch things. I was able to interact with things, and I think that's the best kind of education. I've mentioned to some people that I could see myself in education at some time in the future, and I think if I was in a classroom, I would actively engage my students in interactive hands on learning. That's what the educational system today lacks. There's just too much involved with the negative aspect of technology, like powerpoint presentations, digital this, visuals that. Get them out and interacting with that technology. Get them out doing things. Especially being an IT major at Tech, there were just a lot of us sitting around in a classroom. And you cannot engage me, you cannot keep me there in that way. I lost interest. I fall asleep. It doesn't grab me. And there needs to be more of that, more interactive, hands on learning in the educational system today.

I think that's about all the time we have for the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to say or any closing thoughts?

I appreciate you coming to me and wanting to do the interview, and I really enjoyed my time here. Today is actually the day I'm leaving. I just want to extend some gratitude and appreciation for everyone here I worked with, collabored on projects with. I definitely enjoyed it, and I definitely don't see this as the end of me being in Ruston and doing things. I can definitely see myself coming back and doing some mini projects or keeping in touch with people.

Well thanks, Doogie.

Thank you.

Gregory Lyons to perform at Tech

Gregory Lyons, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Percussion Studies at Louisiana Tech University, will present a recital January 20, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in Howard Auditorium. The recital will feature works by Eugene Novotney, Daniel Levitan, Paul Lansky, Stanley Leonard, and Michael Burritt. Lyons will be joined by fellow faculty member, Randall Sorensen, on trumpet. Sorensen is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Music at Tech. Also joining Lyons will be Mel Mobley, Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Mobley teaches percussion, music theory, and composition.

The concert is free to the public.