Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bus System Improvements, Public Space for Street Art, Free Exercise Classes, Targetting Obesity Among Student Proposals Presented to V.I.P.'s Last Week

We held the second of three special ABetterShreveport meetings Monday that feature Centenary students in Urban Sociology presenting their proposals for, well, a better Shreveport!  We made special invitations to few government officials and community leaders we thought might be interested and able to give useful feedback.  Indeed they did!

In attendance: Gregory Free, Wendy Benscotter, Feico Kempff, Cynthia Keith, Maurice Loridans, Dara Sanders, April Dahm, Catherine Kennedy, Victoria Provenza, Carolyn Manning, Brian Salvatore, David Nelson, Stephanie Evans, Quincy-Allen Jones, Jordan Pope, Kedrick Williams, Victoria Luraguez, Deborah Allen, Mariah Pitre, Don Adley

Stephanie Evans presented first on her proposal for an improved bus system.  Stephanie noted the benefits of public transportation, Sportran’s successes thus far, and improvements that would be possible based on what’s worked elsewhere.  Among the proposals is for an app that would show the routes.  (The specifics of that app were developed by fellow student Don Adley.  It was part of Don's participation in NODE, Centenary's living learning community focused on technology and social change.)  Other suggestions were for LED lit bus stops with posted schedules, and pamphlets with schedules funded by advertizing.  Stephanie cited the examples of Modesto, California, and Oklahoma City that have implemented such things.

Bus stop signs now used in Seattle (from The
David Nelson suggested the app could use GPS trackers on buses to locate their position, and someone else said they believed the buses are GPS equipped. 

Victoria Provenza noted that there’s a stigma against public transportation in our city (and others like it, no doubt).  Dara Sanders noted that it’s seen as tranportation welfare.  Valerie 
McElhose, Assistant Manager of Sportran as Sportran, as well as Director, Gene Eddy, were referred to Stephanie as contacts.

Adding multi-use paths can help lower a city's obesity rate
Victoria Luraguiz then presented on how we might reduce obesity through a wise application of public funds.  Among her proposals were mass media campaigns on the causes and treatments of obesity, and investment in creating appealing network of nature trails and bike paths to use for transportation. 

Deborah Allen commented that low income people are targeted with cheap, high calorie food; Gregory Free noted the limited options such people have in the typical convenience stores common in such neighborhoods.  Loren said the Highland area where the Centenary campus is has been officially designated as a “food desert” because of such characteristics.

Street art by Banksy in London
Kedrick Williams and Jordan Pope presented a proposal for an outdoor gallery and public space for street art.  They said the art can be graffiti, stenciles, pieces using wheatpaste as the medium, or posters using a grid layout, or stickers.  Kedrick and Jordan showed examples of the work of such famous street artists as Sheppard Ferry, Banksy, and David Cho.  Kedrick and Jordan also showed pictures of an area devoted to street art in Austin, as well as interviews with out-of-town families who were enjoying visiting it as an interesting feature of the city.

Gregory noted that his office in Austin is very near the area they describe.  He pointed out that monitoring what would be too offensive to allow can be difficult.  Kedrick and Austin said that they would suggest using practices that have been successful elsewhere in dealing with such issues, such as having artists register.  It was noted that it would encourage artists to consider how they might take responsibility for the social consequences of their public art.  Victoria Provenza commented that the Crewe of Highland has done that, in effect, in deciding to ban the symbol of the rebel flag for the highland parade, but leaving it up to individuals and groups to decide how to operate within that constraint. Gregory noted that elsewhere similar ideas have been proposed, such as having a giant easel, open picture frame, and pedestal, all available for performances or exhibits, though there would be a jury process involved.

Jordan and Kedrick also presented a shipping container mockup showing how such a container could be used as the exhibition and creation space, while also helping to anchor a point on a bike trail.  Shreveport Common was also described as possibly an optimal location for the space. Catherine Kennedy said she’d wanted to have art installed downtown in spaces that need improvement. Wendy Benscotter noted that this proposal had already been passed along to the Shreveport Common Public Art committee.   

Dara Sanders said those containers to meet the criteria to be considered as “structures” and so would have to meet the regulations that go along with that, but did not intimate that that would mean it couldn’t work. Victoria noted that local architect Mike McSwain has worked with containers and would be a good contact for those interested in furthering this proposal. 

When asked if such a space might be coopted by homeless people and converted into a shelter, Dara Sanders noted that any public space has needs for monitoring and it must be administered in such a way to maintain it’s intended function.  Loren noted that’s true for any public park.


Quincy-Allen Jones presented last, proposing free exercise classes, such as Zumba, Yoga, Jazzercise, or Tai Chi to be held in public parks.  Quincy pointed out how these programs would not only help combat obesity, but would reduce depression levels with outdoor activity, increase the social capital of participants by increasing their social networks, and overall add to the city’s quality of life and likelihood of economic development.  Quincy proposed that college students seeking experience in teaching exercise classes could teach the classes.

Catherine Kennedy noted that in her capacity at SPAR, she sees how the city can be perceived as sucking the fun out of anything, but that the city is responsible for what happens in parks, and that the teachers would have to be certified.  However, she said, the city could work with students to get their certification and that could add to the motivation of students to participate; students may value becoming certified.  It was noted it might be possible to pay for people to be certified, but they could then teach thereafter on a volunteer basis, or perhaps could receive a $500 tax credit.

Dara Sanders noted that the programs could also take place at schools, where the facilities are present in the form of gyms, etc.  The program could work with Parent-Teacher Associations to apply for grants.  The Riverview Park was also noted as as possible locale.  Loren has noted before that China did well in having morning routines of Tai Chi throughout it’s country and communities would start their days exercising outdoors together.

Feico Kempff asked Quincy-Allen if he'd be able to recruit students, and if he had the time and wherewithal to do that.  Quincy responded that for this project, he’d make the time, and would love to make it happen.  Catherine said she’d like to talk more Quincy about the project.

Loren reported that he and fellow ABS board member Ian Webb were very impressed by the set of proposals for greenways in Shreveport they had seen that morning.  They had been invited to view proposals by Dr. Bruce Sharky, professor of landscape architecture at LSU.  Several of the graduate students in one of Dr. Sharky's classes selected Shreveport as a site for designing greenway possibilities.  Loren and Ian were raving about them, so stay tuned to the blog.  We’ll be posting them next week!

Also next week, on Monday the 10th, will be the last group of Centenary student presentations on the following topics:

  • curbside composting
  • exercise and nutrition free magazine 
  • student mentoring program
  • community gardening with the homeless
  • sidewalk improvement

The students are eager to receive feedback, and anyone is invited to attend.  Join us!


Lani Duke said...

I was a food co-op member in both Denver and Vermont. Being part of them was a very positive experience. The Rutland Co-op is a major success story. Membership has been skyrocketing as the community has come to view it as a valuable resource for the entire community, not just the 'crunchy granola' types. It works very closely with the farmers market and brings people to the downtown who then shop elsewhere. Prices are very close to those at the supermarket -- it's not a gourmet food shop with high price tags. Much of the produce year-round comes from local farmers. It's developed a buy-local campaign; shelf tags identify food grown or produced by the state's own farmers or just over the state line, helping to grow a locally-based economy. I'd love to discuss creating a food co-op in Shreveport.

Robert Trudeau said...

Street art? Love it. Please see 20 giant sketches temporarily installed on unused buildings in the 800 block of Texas Ave. Also, see the sides of the Beauty Supply Bldg at the corner of Kings Hwy and Youree.

We're doing it.

Feico Kempff said...

Lani, please attend one of our meetings and we can share the resources we know to assist in the development of a food co-op. We also can make you aware of an existing co-op with Highland neighbors, but they have not been active.

Lani Duke said...

I see there is a meeting tonight. Where and when? Perhaps I skimmed the website too quickly.

Feico Kempff said...

Lani, We hold open meetings on Mondays, 6:00 pm to 7:00
at the Wright Math Building on Centenary's campus, Woodlawn St.
Hope to see you there.

Limo VIP Bus said...

Wow. I think the street art could be cool.
Sounds really interesting though.
Thanks for sharing.

Lani Duke said...

Has the A Better Shreveport group done an analysis of Shreveport's strengths? Or has it been done through any regional planning organization? I thought the school poverty and homeless statistics I heard last night were surprisingly high.

Lani Duke said...

My public apologies, Feico. I see you did give me complete directions and I wrote them down wrong. Please forgive my mental lapse.

Does ABetterShreveport have agendas for meetings? Now that the reports are through, will you all discuss them re feasibility and cost?

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