Recovery Spotlight: Central School Rises in RestorationJune 2023
COOL JOBS: Chris Melder, Protector of WildlifeJune 2023
by Katelyn Mouton
As the area continues its rebound from the disasters of 2020 and 2021, the arts and culture scene is bouncing back. Several area cultural attractions and nonprofits are now under new leadership, inspiring fresh ideas and propelling quality of life forward.
Imperial Calcasieu Museum
It has been nearly a year since Stefan Borssen has taken the lead at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum as its new executive director.
A former intern at the Museum, becoming the director is a bit of a full-circle experience for Borssen.
“I’m thrilled to be here. I fully believe in the Imperial Calcasieu Museum’s mission of preserving the rich cultural history while also leading the forward direction of the artistic involvement within the Lake Area,” says Borssen, upon his hiring. “We’d love to foster new connections within the community. We’re here not only to host exhibits which give a voice to local artists but also to present opportunities beyond these curations and outside of our walls.”
Museum hours of operation are Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids, $2 for seniors.
For more information, visit www.imperialcalcasieumuseum.org.
Lake Charles Symphony
On July 1, 2022, the Lake Charles Symphony announced Beth Dawdy as its new executive director. Dawdy is leading the Symphony through its 65th season. An accomplished business executive, Dawdy came to the nonprofit with more than 25 years of marketing, management, and event planning experience.
“Through many years of event planning, the one thing that sticks with me the most is that it’s the entire experience that lingers and creates memories,” says Dawdy. “I am eager to elevate the organization and engage with different aspects of the community to showcase the culture and talent of Southwest Louisiana in such a way that lasting impressions are made, and people want to know what’s next on the calendar.”
Under Dawdy’s leadership, the community has experienced the re-launch of the Gators on the Geaux public art display fundraiser and a return of concerts such as Summer Pops and other new special events. Currently tickets are on sale for this season’s Summer Pops Concert, scheduled for Saturday, July 8, at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The concert, themed Louisiana Saturday Night, will feature Sean Ardoin Kreole Rock and Soul.
Tickets are available for purchase at www.lcsymohony.com.
City of Lake Charles Cultural Affairs: Historic City Hall
Amanda Donaldson has been a familiar face at Historic City Hall and various City-led festivals and events for nearly four years now, but in February of this year, she was promoted to the position of Director of Cultural Affairs.
“Meaningful connections, creativity, personal growth, celebrating diversity, and positive community impact are just a few reasons that made this role so attractive,” Donaldson says. “We are bridging so many communities and organizations together while creating spaces of opportunity for embracing diversity in Southwest Louisiana.” In what she describes as a dream job, Donaldson is hoping to embrace change and seek newer and better opportunities.
“At Historic City Hall, visitors can explore exhibitions, attend performances, hear a lecture from a visiting or a local artist, and participate in free workshops or seminars,” says Donaldson. “A free admissions public arts center can provide valuable educational opportunities for all ages and backgrounds while also serving as a sanctuary for relaxation, personal growth and overall quality of life.” Central School Arts & Humanities Center is also under the City’s cultural umbrella as are various festivals like Downtown at Sundown, Red, White, Blue and You, and concert, and Light up the Lake Christmas Festival.
Arts & Humanities Council of SWLA
As of February 2023 the Arts & Humanities Council is under the direction of Executive Director Shawna Nile Batchelor. It is a role that she sought out in her hometown as an opportunity to build lasting relationships.
“The Arts & Humanities Council has experienced a lot of turbulence over the past few years—multiple weather events, a pandemic, major staffing changes, and working out of several borrowed office spaces have made it difficult for the organization to gain traction,” Nile Batchelor explains. “As Central School reopens and we build our capacity, the time will come for new projects and ideas will bloom into action.”
Nile Batchelor, a Lake Charles native, moved back to the area in 2021 to be closer to family and is looking forward to working with a large and engaged board of directors to cultivate a thriving arts community. “I love seeing the public enjoy themselves at our events while providing a platform for local artists to develop their vision and reach new audiences,” Nile Batchelor adds. “The arts connect us, both with ourselves and with each other.”The Council is the lead agency behind events such as Live at the Lakefront, Spring Art Walk, Gallery Promenade, Holiday Art Walk, Chuck Fest and more.
Stay updated on the latest by subscribing to the Council’s weekly newsletter HeARTbeat on their website, www.artscouncilswla.org.
Children’s Museum of Southwest Louisiana
Allyson Montgomery is no stranger to the Children’s Museum of Southwest Louisiana. She has served in various capacities with the organization for nearly two decades, and as of January 2023, she is the new Executive Director, ready to lead the nonprofit into its future home at Port Wonder.
In all those years she has had the joy of watching hundreds of thousands of children walk through the doors to create, explore, imagine, play and learn.
“The Children’s Museum has been in its largest transition in its 35-year history,” says Montgomery. “It lost its building and most of its exhibits during the storms of 2020. Fortunately, we had already started working on the new building design and new exhibit designs prior to the storms.”
Today Montgomery is focused on overseeing the Museum’s portion of the Port Wonder Project and their “Here Comes the Sun” fundraising campaign.
“The Children’s Museum is more than just a place. It is a spirit that lives in the hearts of each of us,” Montgomery says. “Even though we do not have a physical location right now, we are working very hard behind the scenes to bring you a brand new Children’s Museum inside of Port Wonder.”
The new Museum is slated to open in 2024, but until then you can find museum staff and volunteers at community events spreading sunshine! They are also hosting summer camps.