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Yu Museum in Shreveport moves ahead, campaign underway to fund seven exhibits

Kate Archer Kent

A dramatic transformation of a 1950s former YWCA building in downtown Shreveport is moving forward. The 36,500 square-foot building, vacant since 2010, was left in rough shape. It will house the Marlene Yu Museum and be the headquarters for the Rainforest Art Foundation.

The museum will draw from Yu’s more than 4,000 abstract paintings that depict aspects of nature. The New York artist is known for large-scale works. Yu’s foundation helps people appreciate the natural world through the lens of diverse art forms. Marlene’s daughter, Stephanie Lusk of Shreveport, is directing the project.

“I used to joke that I’d either have to have a baby or an art show to get my parents to visit us. Since we had our toddler, they’ve been spending a lot more time here. My mom has really come to like Louisiana -- the swamps, wildlife, and how friendly the people are,” Lusk said, during an interview in the building’s future performance space.

The building renovation is all in the family. Stephanie’s father, James Yu, is a New York real estate developer who was one of the pioneers to transform SoHo from an industrial wasteland 50 years ago to a high-end art and fashion neighborhood.

He sees good bones in the YWCA building in a part of downtown Shreveport that shows signs of an artist movement. Yu says there was  a similar trajectory in SoHo.

“Over the years, artists move in, first of all because the spaces are inexpensive. Then, the galleries follow suit. Then, of course, all the residential amenities follow suit. Then it becomes a very chic area in SoHo. This might just go the same way, too,” Yu said.

Lusk has a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com. She aims to raise nearly $80,000 that will enable her to exhibit her mother’s work in seven spaces in Shreveport beginning in September. The campaign, the Lucky Sevens Project, will honor Yu’s 70th solo exhibition at age 77.

Credit Kate Archer Kent
Marlene Yu Museum director Stephanie Lusk is hoping to convert the building's pool into a whitewater training center, as part of a future capital campaign. The pool was shut down a decade ago.

“She has her own style that she’s developed in somehow transforming the beauty of nature onto canvas and it’s identifiably a Marlene Yu painting,” Lusk said.

The all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign ends on Earth Day -- Tuesday, April 22. Lusk is set to lead hard hat tours of the building, at 710 Travis Street, on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The tours are open to the public and begin at the top of the hour.

The grand opening of the Marlene Yu Museum is planned for Dec. 21.

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.