The Agora Borealis in downtown Shreveport opened its doors in July 2014 as the first artist marketplace in the area. The name is a play off of the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights, and the agoras of ancient Greece. An agora was a marketplace where people would go to buy local goods, and it also served as a meeting place where people came to hear the news and share ideas. “The Agora is so much more than just an artist marketplace,” said Katy Larsen, owner of the Agora Borealis. “It’s a place where people can come to be creatively inspired, to share ideas, and collaborate together. The Agora strives to be a beacon for all who have a desire to enrich our city and communities.”
Everything in the store has either been handmade or up-cycled by local artists and artisans. The Agora even goes as far as requiring all of their artists’ raw materials to be as locally sourced as possible with no China-made materials unless the items have been up-cycled and given a new purpose. Within its walls one can find the works and products of over 200 local artists and artisans, from fine art to jewelry, food, bath and body products, clothing, books, and fine furniture. The Agora has something for everyone. “One of the great things about the store is that because everything is made by someone locally, you can commission custom work from the artists,” Larsen said. “Everything in the store has some kind of story behind it and is created by someone who is truly passionate about what they are creating. When you buy something from the Agora, you are getting more than just a product, you are investing in your community.” In addition to the incredible artworks and products the Agora has to offer, the building itself is a sight to behold. Built in the 1920s by Joseph A. Redding, husband to Mary Byrd, the daughter of prominent educator C.E. Byrd, the building stands in what used to be known as Silver Lake. The building has been through many incarnations, first as a gas station, then a tire and service shop, a radio repair store, and most recently as Lake Street Dancehall. All have left their mark on the building. The original tin ceiling tiles, the turquoise cement floor, the exposed brick walls all have their own story to tell about the history of Shreveport.
On the other side of the store, the Agora has an event space for workshops, classes and events where people can meet and talk with the artists. Classes and workshops range from how to make your own Mardi Gras mask, to jewelry making, painting, kundalini yoga and even self exploration through the experience of creating a mandala. The Agora is always looking for people with knowledge, experience and skills to share with the community. The event space also hosts many private events, including weddings, receptions, showers, fashion shows, performances, and movie shoots, solidifying the Agora as a place where ideas and dreams become a reality.
Part of the Agora’s mission is to work with other local businesses to create opportunities for each business to highlight their strengths. Every third Friday of September, the Agora Borealis along with the businesses of Lake Street hold the street festival, Cirque du Lake. Live music, food, entertainment and an entire street full of artists and local businesses come together as a thank you to the people of Shreveport–Bossier for one more successful year. As Shreveport’s downtown grows, so does the festival and the Agora’s other annual event, a fashion and art show held every spring.
When it comes to the collaboration of some of the area’s most creative minds, the annual Fashion Show is their most anticipated event of the year. The annual Fashion & Art Show may still be in its early years, but like most of Larsen’s visions, it has transformed into a collective multi-layered experience with unstoppable momentum.
“I wanted to create an all-immersive experience where the viewers felt engaged and part of the excitement,” Larsen said. As one can only imagine, this is not the typical “I’m-too-sexy-for-the-catwalk” fashion show. Complete with performers, custom lighting, a pop-up marketplace and most recently a fine art exhibition, the organizers of the show try to ensure guests are spellbound through the entirety of the three-hour event.
The first event brought over 150 people into the space to witness some of the most dazzling local and vintage Mardi Gras fashion ever presented in the Ark-La-Tex. “I remember being so anxious before the beginning of that first show,” Larsen said. “The dress rehearsal the night prior had been a spectacle in and of itself, requiring outfits to be completed, scripts to be fine-tuned, and lighting to be re-imagined. But when you have an idea that brings creative minds together, there is no lack of support from our local art community in North Louisiana.” After an encouraging response from artists and patrons alike, it was clear that the show had to continue. Now, with much greater ease, the Agora gets to explore new and exciting themes each year as a means to inspire local fashion and artisan innovators to come together under one umbrella.
Now in their fourth year having expanded to over 300 guests, the Agora seeks event venues with historical significance and creative vision to host and collaborate with the fashion show each year.
This year’s imaginative Textile & Art Show will unveil Micro/Macro: Under the Microscope, Into the Cosmos. Exploring themes related to growth, preservation and our interconnectedness with the universe, the Agora has partnered with the Marlene Yu Museum and the Rainforest Art Foundation to create a show that celebrates nature and emphasizes sustainability. Featuring over a dozen textile and accessory designers and more than 50 “looks,” the show will provide guests an evening of showmanship and style, all while supporting their community’s makers, performers, and innovators. The masterminds behind the scenes are working collectively to highlight the beauty that appears within nature’s patterns and forms, all
within the confines of creating art on a sustainable platform. This year’s theme is progressive in that it will focus on more than just the finished looks but how each element plays into a larger picture. “This year’s theme and focus on sustainability is incredibly exciting and important to me, as fashion can be a very wasteful industry.” said Cookie Dubois, one of the designers who has participated in the fashion show from its beginning. “A yardage of purchased fabric intended for a skirt can mean up to 50 percent unused material. I really wanted to dive all in on a recycled material theme so my process for this collection was backwards. Instead of coming up with the design then sourcing fabrics, I had to find materials first and let them guide the process. I shopped second-hand stores and received donated materials with the only guidelines being colorful! I used so many different kinds of materials for this collection; shower curtains, stuffed animals, Mardi Gras beads, fabric remnants from previous projects, and even my own couch!” This year will also include a fine art juried exhibition inspired by the “Micro/Macro” theme in the Rainforest Art Foundation Gallery.
An exclusive Preview Dinner will be hosted at the Marlene Yu Museum on Wednesday, April 11, from 6-8 p.m. Ticketed guests can expect talks from the top three artists, and a special announcement about the exhibition.
The Rainforest Art Foundation Gallery will be open to the public Sunday, April 15, from5-7 p.m. Friday, April 20, doors open at 7:30 p.m. for the Textile Show. General Admission will include light hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, access to the fine art gallery, and opportunity to shop in both the Marlene Yu gift shop and Textile Show marketplace. A limited number of VIP tickets are available. VIPs will have access to their own champagne bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres, prime seating and an exclusive tote bag full of gifts and special offers from local businesses. Ten percent of all sales will go to the
Rainforest Art Foundation to further the foundation’s agenda to increase appreciation of nature through the arts. Once again, the Agora strives to remind the area that artists are their neighbors. Supporting each other is the most effective way to build a web of success throughout the city. Every article of clothing, piece of jewelry, and custom accessory is available for purchase directly off the runway. Each intermission allows those in pursuit of one-of-a-kind clothing an opportunity to engage with the artists and designers. Every detail is thoughtfully curated right down to the hair, make up and nails. That’s right, even the model’s nails are uniquely crafted for each outfit! The Agora’s Textile & Art Show will be an event to remember, bringing to light the talented individuals that make up Northwest Louisiana.
You can experience the wonder and save yourself a seat by visiting the Agora Borealis or by calling
All tickets must be picked up from the Agora at 421 Lake St., Shreveport.
You can visit from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for more information.