Downtown Gallery Crawl is Hot!

August is hot, hot, hot—and so is the art in downtown Monroe and West Monroe!

Sunrise by Burg Ransom, featured at Sugar Gallery

As always on the first Thursday of every even-numbered month, people of all ages will visit with happy neighbors while reveling in live music, good food, and fine art. From 5 to 9 pm on August 4, all eight galleries (two in West Monroe and six in Monroe) will be open and displaying great art. Many of the artists will give artist talks, explaining the inspiration and technique underlying their creations.

The event is always free–the only expense is incurred if you decide to buy some original art.  A special treat at this Crawl is a limited-edition poster, based on a large collage by local artist Emily Caldwell and designed by Downtown Arts Alliance President Kelsea McCrary, which will be available at several galleries.

aug2016-River-MaryMay-The Musician
The Musician by Mary May, featured at River Gallery

On the West Monroe (Antique Alley) side of the river, the River Gallery features West Monroe artist Mary May. She recently won first place for her painting “Pure September” at the 2016 Louisiana Peach Festival in Ruston. Subject matter includes portraits and musical instruments, along with urban landscapes and family pets. May studied under Nicola Vigini, along with many other artists in Texas and Louisiana, as she has been a professional artist for the last 20 years. The River Gallery, Louisiana’s oldest and largest art co-op, includes up to thirty artists of all kinds; guests are welcomed with good food and live music.

Rick Sikes, curator of the Big Room Gallery on Art Alley in Monroe, presents well-known potter Gary Ratcliff, retired ULM art professor, as the lead exhibitor, demonstrating his pottery techniques as well as finished work. He will give an artist talk at 7 pm.  Other artists showing at the Big Room will be Emily Caldwell, Callie White, Alyssa Guidry Posey, Amy Ouchley, and Stephanie Jordan. Of course, good food and drink is always available at the Big Room.

ARENDER studio + gallery is proud to present Chad Schoonmaker, a Baton Rouge-based artist specializing in acrylic on canvas. This bright body of work is occasionally sealed with resin and varies in size with an option for every art buyer’s space. Chad’s inspirations are his wife Allison and son Sam. Chad says, “Some call art their ‘escape,’ but for me it’s more like home—my studio is where I feel most like myself.” His pieces give the viewers a chance to install a window into their own emotional landscape and experience. He will give an artist talk at 7:30 pm.

Vickie by Nicole Duet, featured at Garret House

The Garrett House, next to the river on South Grand, is open again, newly renovated for the August Crawl, with Nicole Duet as the guest artist. Duet is an assistant professor of drawing and painting as well as the director of the gallery at Louisiana Tech’s School of Design. Curator Brooke Foy announces that Duet will give an artist talk at 6:30 pm.

On DeSiard Street, the Palace Gallery is hosting a North Louisiana native who has been a working artist since she could hold a crayon. Emily Ezell embraces both oil paint and chalk pastels to indulge her love for vibrant color and dynamic mark making. Ezell received her BFA in studio art from Louisiana Tech in 2008, and she will continue her education this fall when she moves to New York City to attend the New York Academy of Art’s MFA program.

Lazy Days of Summer” is the theme for the artists at Sugar Gallery on Art Alley. From Burg Ransom’s gorgeous sunsets to Melanie Douthit’s coastal-inspired creations, everyone can relate as summer winds down. Leah Reitzell’s textured Louisiana-themed paintings and Mary Thompson’s rural-inspired and travel-themed work always draw great interest. Scott Stone will be on the landing with his guitars adorned with seashells and stones he collected on the coast. Stacy Medaries will be back in the “red room,” so no one should miss out on the visual treat known as SUGAR!

Farmer in Hat Market by Jonathan Clayton, featured at Rumo’s Gallery

Rumo’s Gallery, on Antique Alley in West Monroe, is hosting Jonathan Clayton, a photography student at Louisiana Tech. He spent time teaching English in China, and his National Geographic-style photos document his time there, with both black and white and color photography. The curator is Austin Bantel; owners of the gallery are Russell and Morgan Moore. Music, food and drink are always a part of the evening at this great place.

Finally, back on Art Alley, Upstairs is pleased to exhibit a mixed bag of work in August.  Artists include Angela Genusa, exhibiting her collages incorporating vintage materials in witty and uniquely creative pieces, and Jana Giles, showing “Sublime,” a collection of intriguing photography from exotic places and well as close to home. The show also includes Kay McDonald and Anna Rowan’s collaborative sculptures, made from found objects. Upstairs is co-curated by Anna Rowan and Emily Caldwell.

The next Downtown Gallery Crawl will be Thursday, October 6, 2016.

Explore ELsong Gardens

By Tanya M. Shlosman

“Father loved to relate to our friends that the building of the formal garden was Emy-Lou’s new song: so, we named the home and garden ELsong.”

Photo courtesy of Biedenharn Museum

The beautiful ELsong Garden at the Biedenharn Museum & Gardens was once home to chickens and duck ponds, but in 1939, Joseph Biedenharn allowed his daughter, Emy-Lou to transform the space into a botanical oasis.

After some time of “excavating, grading, digging pools, building high walls; hanging a balcony of iron from the tree tops, and placing another hanging balcony out iron our garden living room; transplanting grown cypress trees and water oaks, draping moss, and piping lights and music”, and finally five Italian iron statues, ELsong Garden was complete.

Photo courtesy of Biedenharn Museum

The garden danced with a variety of fragrances and colors from the dogwood, crabapple, oriental magnolias, wisteria trees, Salman pink waves of azaleas, white tulips, purple anemones, violets, and tomatoes, Mr. Biedenharn loved his tomatoes.

ELsong brought a significant amount of joy to Joseph Biedenharn who once said to Emy-Lou, “Daughter, there is lifting up when you watch the rhythmic wonder of nature freshen the earth with each new sunrise.”

Photo courtesy of Biedenharn Museum

The magical garden also brought joy to all those who visited ELsong and continue to visit today. A young girl, from Girl Scout Troop Eleven, who visited ELsong many years ago wrote a poem about the beauty she saw:

The Garden

There’s a fountain sparkling bright,
Which has tiny drops of white,
There are vines on the wall,
And statues gray and tall,
There are roses white and roses red,
And different flowers in every bed.
There’s a little passage that leads out,
It also has a flower sprout.
There are bells so gay
That tinkle all day.
There’s a balcony trimmed so beautifully.
It’s nearly as high as the tallest tree.
It’s the prettiest garden I ever have seen.
It looks like it’s made for a king or a queen.

By Lucylu Turpin

steps 2 (Jpeg)-- Spencer Lee
Photo by Spencer Lee

The Biedenarn Museum & Gardens is open Tues. thru Sat. from 10am to 5pm. Free parking is available on three sides of the museum. The main parking area is located on Speed Avenue near the main entrance to the Coke Museum. Tour information, maps and tickets are available at the Museum Store located inside the Coke Museum. An unloading zone for buses is also located on Speed Avenue directly adjacent to the Coke Museum. Adults $6 Students $4 (Under 12 years old) Annual Pass $20 (a great bargain) Tickets may be purchased in the Museum Store, located in the Coke Museum building, at 2000 Riverside Drive (the corner of Riverside Drive and Speed Avenue).

Discover Summer: Monroe-West Monroe Instagram Contest

DISCOVER SUMMER Insta-page-001From July 11 through Labor Day weekend, the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitor Bureau wants you to discover summer like never before with the Discover Summer Instagram Contest. This contest is as easy as one, two, three. All you have to do is follow @discovermonroewestmonroe on Instagram, take a photo at any of the attractions on Discover Summer list below, and tag #discoverMWM in your post.

The Discover Summer Instagram Contest is not only a great way for you to create memories to share with family and friends, but you can also win a Polaroid snap instant digital camera. That’s right for every 5 post that you complete your name will be entered for a chance to win a brand new Polaroid snap instant digital camera with ZINK Zero ink printing technology, a memory card with adapter, and 50 Sheets Premium ZINK Photo Paper. The giving doesn’t stop there! The Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau will also be awarding prizes to the first person who completes all 20 items, and for the most creative photo. The more photos on the list you post the more chances you have to win. Contestants must send a Direct Message to the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau Instagram account @discovermonroewestmonroe for every 5 posts completed. Check out the official list below.

insta pic
Don’t waste your summer away, instead discover it in Monroe-West Monroe.

Click HERE for official contest rules.

5 Things You Should Know About Chef Blake Phillips

by Jerrica B.

Do you like to have your finger on the pulse of the Monroe culinary scene? I got you.

Blake Phillips;Sage
Chef Blake Phillips


Blake Phillips has been the chef at Restaurant Sage in Monroe for two years now. Basically, he’s the mastermind behind that amazing food. If you’ve seen his name come up a lot recently, you are not alone. He’s an active member of the local community, and he may or may not have just added a studded crown to his hat rack. Here are 5 things you need to know about Chef Blake:

His winning dish! -Photo courtesy of Restaurant Sage Facebook
  1. He is the reigning Louisiana Seafood King.

This annual competition took place in New Orleans on May 29. Phillips’ opponents were from all over the state. It’s safe to say that he represented the Monroe-West Monroe area very well, since he took home the victory. His winning dish? A blackened sous vide grouper with fava bean and sweet potato puree with corn, crab, and mirliton slaw. For a limited time, you can order this dish at Restaurant Sage!

  1. He went to Italy just before the competition.

He crossed oceans in search of inspiration. Not only for the competition, but also to learn more about his trade. It was here that he decided to use the fava bean in his winning dish, which put an Italian twist on his typically-French cooking style. So when you eat at Restaurant Sage, you know you are getting an incredible, globally-inspired meal.

Photo courtesy of Restaurant Sage Facebook page
  1. He is originally from Monroe.

Although he went to culinary school in Austin, Texas, and spent years as a chef in New Orleans, he grew up right here in our beautiful parish. “It just pulled me back,” he said.

Now, he’s made a name for himself in the local area. First, as the chef behind the impeccable cuisine at Restaurant Sage, and now, because of his win in New Orleans.

  1. He uses his powers for good.

Phillips will be participating in Chefs for a Cause on July 12 to support Family Promise of Ouachita. All proceeds from the event go to the organization which assists the local homeless population. He also helps promote Louisiana cuisine by participating in LTPA’s Chef Take-over. Last year, the event was in Austin, Texas, but this year it will be in Charleston, South Carolina.

Photo courtesy of Restaurant Sage Facebook page
  1. He will represent Louisiana at the Great American Seafood Cook-off.

On August 6 in New Orleans, La., chefs from all over the country will compete in this event. Like Phillips, each chef has won their own state competition and now looks for a victory on the national level. We certainly hope that Chef Blake Phillips wins once again, but we all come out ahead here. These events work to promote Louisiana seafood, which is over 70% of our nation’s seafood.


So there you have it. If you’ve never been to Restaurant Sage, GO. You will not regret it. And when you do go, be sure to congratulate Phillips on his success. You might even get to see his crown! We certainly appreciate what he does for our area, and we look forward to seeing what else he has up his chef coat sleeve.