The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s Laurel Street Palooza is set for 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9, between the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s headquarters in the Old Bogan Fire Station, 427 Laurel St., and the Chase Bank Building.
The annual street party will include live bands and entertainment, a silent auction and food and spirits.
“Palooza is my favorite event of the year,” said Eric Holowacz, president and CEO of the Arts Council. “It brings together so many diverse elements of our creative neighborhood, crowns two of them king and queen and then asks everybody to celebrate in the street.”
Each year, after considering dozens of local arts champions and advocates, the Arts Council recognizes two community leaders as King and Queen Palooza. They are festooned in regal attire and seated at the center of the party, where they can be honored for their ongoing commitment and dedication to the cultural life of Baton Rouge.
This year’s King Palooza is jazz music champion Cornelius Lewis. Queen Palooza is Louisiana Poet Laureate Ava Haymon.
“We’re getting cosmic for 2015,” said Holowacz, noting that the party environment will take on a quirky outer space theme.
“We might not have a mission to Mars ready yet, but we hope that everyone will blast off for new creative horizons and set coordinates for new cultural frontiers,” he says.
A native of New Orleans, Lewis grew up in the 7th Ward among an especially rich artistic community. He studied and played piano from third grade through his junior year of high school, learning classical, blues, rhythm & blues and New Orleans rock ’n’ roll. But jazz was his specialty.
Lewis attended LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York, and upon graduating in 1973, returned to New Orleans for graduate school at the University of New Orleans Urban Studies Institute.
He worked as an intern and ultimately as a policy planner for then-Mayor Moon Landrieu and headed the development of a senior citizens recreational center for the historic Treme community that became known as the Treme Cultural Enrichment Program. He moved to Baton Rouge in 1980 to assume the position of assistant commissioner of administration during Gov. Dave Treen’s tenure.
Lewis also was instrumental in the formation of the Louisiana Forum for the Arts, raising the balance of capital required to launch Gulf Coast Business and Industrial Development Corp. in 1994, of which he has served as president and chairman for 20 years.
Lewis also founded the River City Jazz Coalition with C.J. Blache, Leo Hamilton, Zia Tammami and Alvin Batiste. Cathy Giering and the heads of the jazz programs at LSU and Southern, respectively Bill Grimes and Harry Anderson, formed the rest of the coalition’s board.
Haymon is poet laureate of Louisiana. Her poems have appeared in journals nationwide and in four collections.
She teaches poetry writing to private classes in Baton Rouge during the academic year and in New Mexico in the summer, where she directs a retreat center for writers and artists. She has directed workshops and read her poems widely in the United States and Canada.
Her plays are written for young audiences, and seven have been produced by Playmakers of Baton Rouge, and others by a children’s theater workshop in Houston.
Music will be provided by Michael Foster Project, Ben Bell, Artemis and Kirk Holder.
Tickets are now available by visiting artsbr.org.