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Shreveport's first contemporary art museum displays nature big and bold

Kate Archer Kent

The Marlene Yu Museum and Rainforest Art Foundation open Thursday in a rehabbed former 1950s-era YWCA building in downtown Shreveport.

The building’s gymnasium was transformed into an expansive main gallery that can accommodate Marlene Yu’s sprawling abstract paintings of nature. They drench the walls with color almost touching floor to ceiling.

Yu’s daughter and museum director, Stephanie Lusk of Shreveport, says the museum will exhibit more than 100 works by her mother and other artists who use nature as a springboard for their art.

“I get excited about Shreveport’s first contemporary art museum. But also that we may make connections to nature, honor nature, and desire to protect it more,” Lusk said, whose father New York real estate developer James Yu is overseeing the building renovation.

A native of Taiwan, Yu’s paintings have been exhibited dozens of times in solo shows around the world. At age 77, she still paints every day in her SoHo studio, among the artist lofts and galleries in Lower Manhattan. But she’s found a new home in Shreveport – close to her toddler grandson – and inspired by the Louisiana landscape, especially the swamps.

“In the 19th century, people said if you want to be an artist you have to go to Paris. In the 20th century, you have to go to New York,” Yu said grinning. “I think in the 21st century artists should be in Shreveport. I think Shreveport is the paradise for artists. People are so nice here. It’s so inspiring.”

Yu hopes that through her foundation she can further a movement to protect the environment. The museum will draw from her more than 4,000 paintings of nature.

“To do paintings is the happiest thing in the world. It’s a creation, a joy of life,” Yu said.

A ribbon cutting ceremony with Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is set for Thursday, Dec. 18, from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. The grand opening is Sunday, Dec. 21, from 1 – 4 p.m. Stephanie Lusk says her family has renovated more than half of the 41,000 square-foot building that is located in Shreveport Common, at 710 Travis Street. A sculpture garden will open later.

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.
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