by Stefanie Powers
The Arts & Humanities Council of SWLA has been supporting arts and culture initiatives, events, and organizations in our five-parish region since 1979. But between the pandemic and catastrophic forces of nature, the arts community in Southwest Louisiana took a serious hit this past year.
“Due to the pandemic, we cancelled our first event, Live @ the Lakefront, on March 13, 2020, which was set to take place later that night, and again for the following two Fridays,” says Devan Corbello, Arts Council executive director. That was just the beginning. From there, every upcoming event had to be cancelled.
Corbello says that he and his staff worked from home during the “stay-at-home” orders, and then staggered hours once the orders were lifted. Decisions were made through continuous discussions with board members, staff, and other Arts Councils across the state. “We did what we could virtually, with some success,” he says.
But with event restrictions continuing, Corbello says that he and his board made the tough decision to furlough all staff members, excluding himself, in August. “This happened the week before Hurricane Laura hit,” he says. “We were able to bring one of our staff members back in January 2021.”
The Council’s offices are located at Central School in downtown Lake Charles. The old building was heavily damaged by the double-whammy hurricanes that slammed Southwest Louisiana in the middle of the pandemic. “We came back to the office at the beginning of March 2021,” says Corbello. “We will be moving offices soon while repairs to Central School begin. We are expected to be back in our Central School office in March of 2022.”
Corbello says his home was unlivable after Laura, so he rented a house in Lafayette, and worked from the Lafayette Arts Council’s office, as well as partly from home, until March of this year. “There was still plenty of work to be done,” he explains. “Our mission is to cultivate the arts and culture of SWLA, and despite the challenges we faced, the arts and culture needed to continue as part of the rebuilding process.”
In spite of the many obstacles, the Council hosted a virtual ArtsFest activity for kids, a virtual Mayor’s Arts Awards presentation, and a Holiday Art Market during those first few months following Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
“Southwest Louisiana’s creative community is resilient, so that helped motivate us to provide outlets for artists to sell their works, and musicians and other performers to showcase their talent,” says Corbello. “The increased vaccine production starting in late January allowed for gatherings to become safer again, so we took advantage of that and pulled together the resources to host Spring Art Walk on May 8, which was a big success, and Live @ the Lakefront, which will be held on June 11, 18, and 25. The generous support of local businesses has also helped through their sponsorship dollars.”
The Arts & Humanities Council of SWLA and First Federal Bank of Louisiana will bring back the wildly popular Live @ the Lakefront music festival! This will be the first time since this same event was canceled on March 13, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Live @ the Lakefront (L@LF) will feature local bands, live art demonstrations, an outdoor art market and food truck market to create a full-fledged music festival on the shores of Lake Charles. L@LF will take place on three consecutive Fridays, June 11, 18, and 25, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the the Civic Center’s Arcade Amphitheatre.
Live @ the Lakefront is presented by First Federal Bank of Louisiana as part of their continued commitment to the spread of local arts and culture initiatives. The Arts & Humanities Council has also partnered with the City of Lake Charles to provide locals and out-of-towners with free, quality entertainment.
There is no admission fee thanks to the generosity of the following companies:
CHRISTUS Ochsner as the Backstage Sponsor, Changing Spaces as the Art Market Sponsor, Image 360 as the Food Truck Sponsor, Shiner Beer is sponsoring the new Live Music Side Stage, the sound is sponsored by Deep South Productions. Other sponsors include Crying Eagle Brewing Company, Stevens & Guilbeaux Financial Consulting Group, JD Bank, Knight Media and Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Bands, art market artists, and food trucks will be announced in the coming weeks. COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as social distancing, masks in large crowds, and hand washing are encouraged.
Live @ the Lakefront is presented annually by The Arts & Humanities Council of SWLA. For vendor applications or more details on the event, visit www.artscouncilswla.org or contact the Arts Council at (337) 439-2787.