2024 is a milestone year for River Oaks Square Arts Center as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Over four decades, this beacon of creativity has nurtured a vibrant community of artists, enthusiasts, and patrons, making it a pillar in the cultural life of Central Louisiana. As the arts center enters its 40th year, it continues to uphold its commitment to excellence, and education, offering a year packed with dynamic exhibitions, additional classes, and community events.
In 1979, the Bolton Family donated their family home to the City of Alexandria in an agreement it would be used solely for the arts. The Bolton Home was the catalyst for River Oaks Square Arts Center. Circa 1899, the house is exemplary of Queen Anne Revival Architect in Louisiana and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. After years of renovation to the Bolton Home, River Oaks opened its doors in 1984 to meet the needs of the community which it serves. In 1999, a new 15,000 square foot Studio Annex building opened to meet the changing, additional needs of the Center. Both buildings occupy a one block square lot in Downtown Alexandria’s Cultural District and are connected by a unique columned walkway. The Studio Annex Building houses 25 studios, three galleries, an on-site Arts Academy, a full-scale ceramics studio with four kilns, and rental space. The 8,000-square-foot Bolton Home houses administrative offices, seven studios, and a gallery gift shop, featuring works of art from over 200 artists. For 40 years, it has been River Oaks Square Arts Center’s (ROSAC) mission to promote contemporary visual art and fine crafts, to stimulate interest in, exhibition of, education of and appreciation for regional, resident, and local artists and their work.
“Since opening its doors in 1984, following the generous donation of the Bolton House by the Bolton Family in 1979, River Oaks Square Arts Center has been a place where guests become friends and lovers of the arts,” says Rachael Dauzat, Executive Director at River Oaks. “Each visit offers a unique encounter with creativity and expression that we hope ignites your own passion for the arts. Whether you’re drawn by the allure of our exhibitions, the hands-on fun of our classes, or the vibrant spirit of our events, we’re here to welcome you into our family of artists and art enthusiasts. Come join us, be part of our story that began over four decades ago, and let’s continue to nurture and celebrate the love of art together.”
River Oaks is a leading part of the regional and national visual arts community, showcasing contemporary artists and fine craftsmen who hold a range a academic criteria and professional awards. The Center hosts more than 15 exhibitions in three galleries annually. Main gallery features invite visiting artists to provide an extension to their presentation, offering spotlight educational components in conjunction to their show. These multi-day hands-on courses provide high caliber programming for resident artists of the Center and students from across the region. Currently, there are over 30 artists in residence (occupying studio space); an on-site arts academy provides continuous classes for adults and youth; a full calendar of annual exhibitions; outreach programs and collaborative efforts are ongoing with special needs organizations; and unique projects for youth stimulate knowledge and appreciation of fine arts and crafts.
River Oaks Art Center provides year-long ceramics and painting programming for students with learning modalities and senior populations within our community. These Outreach Programs impact over 150 students over the course of the year, providing creative outlets in an external environment is the primary mission, however the true value of this particular program lies in the process, giving individuals with unique needs the opportunity for success, using art projects as a catalyst. For over ten years, the Arts Center has partnered with numerous need-based organizations, including The ARC Rapides, Pecan Grove Training Centers, Evergreen Life Services, Bolton High SPED, and the Louisiana Special Education Center, while recently expanding its elderly education series to Matthews Memorial Health Care Facility and Regency House. Outreach programs continue to flourish to include additional facilities where these art therapy sessions of creative painting, drawing, and ceramic design can be implemented.
The 40th year kicks off with a dynamic mix of regional and resident talent. Amy Glisan’s evocative works will be featured in the Bolton-Davis Gallery, while Martin Welch’s vibrant creations will be in the Galerie des Amis. Of course, the always popular Outreach Projects with Hope House, Regency House, and Matthews Memorial will be featured in the Stokes-Harris Gallery, rounding out the first set of exhibitions and setting the tone for a year of diverse and compelling art.
In April, the 10th Annual Dirty South Cup Call, a cornerstone event at River Oaks, returns with Randy Brodnax as the guest juror. This much-anticipated, nationally acclaimed event showcases a wide array of functional and non-functional cups, mugs, and yunomis, highlighting the richness and versatility of pottery and ceramics. The exhibition will be accompanied by a Friends of the Juror exhibition and concurrently feature our River Oaks’ own Bridie Rollins in the Galerie des Amis. The esteemed juror himself will also be on hand for a GAEDA-sponsored class, promising an enriching experience for participants.
Summer at River Oaks is always a vibrant time, and the Resident Artists Annual Summer Show reflects this energy. From June 6th to August 3rd, artworks by River Oaks resident artists will fill the Bolton-Davis Gallery, showcasing the depth and breadth of talent nurtured within the center’s walls. The exhibition is an annual highlight, celebrating the ongoing journey of creativity and growth of its artists. At the same time, works by Rhonda Reap-Curiel and Joy McDonald will be featured in the other two galleries.
As the year progresses, exhibitions by Lynn Sanders, Cindy Cooper Blair, and Nicolas Mboungou will take center stage, each bringing their unique voice and vision to River Oaks. These exhibitions are not just showcases but also dialogues between artists and the community, reflecting the Center’s role as a space for exploration and conversation about contemporary visual art.
The year will round out with the 9th Annual 5x5x5 Show National Call, inviting artists nationwide to submit their miniature masterpieces. This show is particularly special as it encapsulates the spirit of River Oaks—a celebration of creativity within constraints. Guest Juror Ted Barnes will lead the selection process, curating a collection that is sure to inspire and intrigue. Accompanying the exhibition will be a workshop, further enriching the artistic experience.
In addition to these exhibitions, 2024 will be packed with special events and additional classes commemorating the 40th anniversary. Notable dates include the ever-popular Men Who Cook on May 4th, an array of sessions for the 30th Annual Summer Arts Studio led by resident Robin Whitfield, and the Van Gogh Gala on October 26th, which promises another year of spectacular art and community celebration. The year will culminate in the traditional Porch Sale on December 7th, a perfect opportunity for holiday shoppers to find unique gifts while supporting local artists. Additionally, the Center will feature specialized classes by friends of River Oaks, including Conner Burns, Dusty Reed, and Robin Whitfield. Participants will have the opportunity to learn and refine their skills in pottery, mixed media, sculpture, and watercolor from these masters of their crafts.
As River Oaks Square Arts Center celebrates 40 years, it remains dedicated to its mission: to provide a supportive environment for artists at all stages of their careers and to bring the highest quality visual arts to the community. The Center provides services which would otherwise not be available in the area/region. Expansion of the Center’s existing programs is crucial to its continued success into the future. The Center’s major accomplishment is providing a platform for working artists and offering educational opportunities as an extension of their talent. This dynamic is incomparable to any other organization in our area. Providing a creative environment and compensating working artists for their talent is a point of pride. Creating an awareness and appreciation of these artists is what the Center strives to expand. Impact can be measured by attendance in classes, receptions, and audience response to numerous fundraisers/special events. Due in part to these strategic activities, River Oaks has witnessed an increase in audience participation, thus, reiterating the success and impact of the Center’s programming and organization.
“As we celebrate 40 years at River Oaks Square Arts Center, we are reminded of the rich tapestry of art and community that has been woven here,” continues Dauzat. “This anniversary is much more than a milestone; it’s a testament to the enduring power of creativity and collaboration. Over four decades, we’ve grown from a local art space into a thriving center of artistic excellence, education and community engagement. We’ve launched careers, fostered lifelong passions, and brought art into the lives of thousands. I am immensely proud of our journey, the resilience of our community, and the countless moments of inspiration that have filled these galleries and studios. As we look back on our accomplishments, we also look forward with anticipation to the new chapters yet to be written in the ever-evolving story of River Oaks.”
Whether you are an artist, a student, or simply someone who loves art, 2024 offers countless ways to engage, learn, and celebrate forty years of creativity in Cenla at River Oaks. For more information, call River Oaks at (318) 473-2670, visit RiverOaksArtsCenter.com, or find River Oaks Square Arts Center on Facebook.