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ArtBreak celebrates 30 years of promoting arts education

Kate Archer Kent

A student art festival that began 30 years ago at the Municipal Auditorium as a political statement to support art education in Louisiana public schools is bigger than ever today. Organizers of ArtBreak held a press conference Monday to herald the seven-day festival that is expected to attract 50,000 families over one weekend.

Shreveport Regional Arts Council executive director Pam Atchison started ArtBreak when her son was four and she was pregnant with her second child. She never imagined that today there would be nearly 5,000 pieces of visual art on display at the Shreveport Convention Center. The festival, according to Atchison, continues to make a strong case for keeping the arts in Caddo and Bossier Parish schools.

“This, of course, has been my life. I started out as a drama/theater teacher. Truly, an artist who wants to teach has a place in the school system. Also, artists who want to be part of an arts-in-education program have a place as well. It’s a very rewarding experience,” Atchison said.

Beginning April 21, ArtBreak will touch every second and third grader in Caddo and Bossier Schools, along with students from outlying parishes and East Texas. They’ll be bussed to downtown Shreveport to do hands-on art and literary workshops.

Fifth grader Mychal Bennett, a student at Claiborne Elementary in Shreveport, will have her self-portrait on display. She finds that viewing the works of other students motivates her to work on her drawing technique.

“Seeing the art, I really enjoy it, and it just makes me think, wow, I will be able to do that soon. It inspires me to want to create art,” Bennett said, who was on hand for the press conference.

Atchison says corporate sponsors and individual donors continue to fund ArtBreak that costs about $300,000 annually to put on. The free festival runs April 21 – 27 at the Shreveport Convention Center.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.