Thursday, September 10, 2015

New ‘Creative Marketplace’ aims at stimulating economic development

Aug 28, 2015

Shreveport-based nonprofits Works In Progress Louisiana and North Louisiana Art Gallery have partnered to create an online Creative Marketplace.!creative-marketplace/c244t

The Creative Marketplace is a free to the public, and provides three beneficial services designed to stimulate the cultural economy in North Louisiana:
  • an extensive directory of creative professionals for hire throughout North Louisiana,
  • sample contract templates for use by employers and creative professionals, and
  • an easy-to-use application process for creative people seeking employment in the fields of design, performing arts, music, film, entertainment, literary arts and humanities, visual and culinary arts.

Developers, investors, hospitals, schools, universities, and government agencies often purchase goods and services in Dallas, Austin, and New Orleans because they are unfamiliar with local professionals who are qualified to meet their creative needs. The Creative Marketplace solves this problem by providing direct access to regional graphic designers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, performers, and chefs.

Debbie Hollis, Director at Works In Progress Louisiana, said, “Buying from local creative workers is more than an investment in the economy and community—it demonstrates the buyer’s commitment to his community, and his dedication to local artisans and craftspeople.” Incorporated in May 2014, Works In Progress Louisiana provides financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in North Louisiana.
Creative Marketplace co-founder Michael G.
Moore curates the Northwest Louisiana Art Gallery – the region’s oldest online arts directory. Moore changed the directory’s name to North Louisiana Art Gallery to reflect the recent expansion of the gallery’s geographical reach.

A widely-collected painter and arts activist, Moore says, “We are thrilled to expand the scope of our website to include creative people from 26 parishes!  We are also adding links to regional arts publications, creative resources, and other tools for arts consumers to browse and enjoy.”

The Creative Marketplace is available online at

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Finding guidance online through artworld jungle

The Times
Neil Johnson 11:08 p.m. CDT September 2, 2015

There are your artists and there are your arts patrons.

Different kinds of people. But don’t they, when you really think about it, need each other, depend on each other?

Getting these people together is a job. Sometimes it seems like these two kinds of people wander around in the dark and, every once in a while, bump into each other. These encounters can become good and healthy relationships, but there’s got to be a better way.

To use another metaphor, it’s a jungle out there in the art-world. I’ve been in it for a few decades, but sometimes even I need a hand to hold in both my wanderings and my more definite journeys. I hit dead-ends and get lost sometimes and have to backtrack to find another path to where I would like to go.

In this jungle, artists and arts patrons both need navigation guidance. The GoogleNet is a good place to start. There is a solid veteran place of assistance in the intertubes of northwest Louisiana and I have also found a new source of guidance, or at least a good place to find advice and support in this sometimes-confusing world.

Today, we are so spoiled by the Internet. No, that’s not the right word. We have been both freed and enslaved.

The Internet is even more revolutionary than the printing press. But I digress. Let’s get back to the arts in northwest Louisiana and the artists and arts patrons wandering around bumping into each other. There are helpers who can lend us a compass and a map to guide us through the jungle.

First, there are the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and the Bossier Arts Council and their tools for arts hand-holding and guidance. Go. Visit their websites. If you never have, you may be surprised, even astounded, about how much information you can find there.

The names of their two sites are easy to remember: and Shreve. Bossier. Arts. Organizations. Shrevearts and Bossierarts have founts of information from and about these two organizations.

The SRAC website used to have a listing of a wide array of area artists and samples of their work. I thought it was gone, but found that it is only gone from the SRAC site. SRAC has given it its own address: So. Many. Artists. Note that it has a page where artists can apply to be included.

If that is not enough, there is another source of information for both artists and arts patrons on line. It’s called “Works In Progress” and its website is This is largely the year-old child and an ambitious venture of artist and community activist, Debbie Lynn Hollis. It’s stated mission is to provide financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in north Louisiana

Hollis said, “This site is the ultimate culmination of business, economic development and the cultural economy in north Louisiana.”

One of the really cool things residing within the above website is something called the “Creative Marketplace.” It is a pilot program co-sponsored by Works In Progress Louisiana and the North Louisiana Art Gallery. Its stated purpose is “to encourage greater collaboration between the creative industries and the wider business community in north Louisiana.” Whoa! That’s what I’m talking about!

Here’s a crucial factor in this whole thing. Artist Michael Moore has been patiently building a website for artists for years. He called it the Northwest Louisiana Artist Gallery. He has now done two things with it. He has put it under the umbrella of the Works In Progress/Creative Marketplace and he has also decided to broaden the range to all of north Louisiana, the step-sibling of south Louisiana that south Louisiana avoids learning about or even talking about most of the time. So we must toot our own horn. Louder.

Dig into the Creative Marketplace site and click on the link to the “North Louisiana Art Gallery.” There, you will find a way-cool presentation to learn about north Louisiana (mostly northwest Louisiana, but heading east) artists along with samples of their work. It’s actually fun to explore. There is also a sign-up page for artists wanting to be included.

Websites are complex things, especially these sites. Building sites like these are not for the faint-of-heart. They are very difficult and extremely time-consuming to make them effective. But the hardest part is maintaining them so they stay relevant. It is far too easy to let a website go for too long to where visitors wonder why they are still up. But these sites are so important because they put artists and patrons a click or two away from each other.

Another difficult factor with websites is driving visitors to them. That, dear readers, is what I am trying to do with this column. So you now have an assignment:

Go. Log on. Visit them. The addresses are right there in the paragraphs above.

Arts patrons, these sites are extremely brief introductions to the many fine visual artists working hard in the piney woods of Louisiana. If you are looking for visual art and something punches your buttons, by all means, I strongly encourage you to follow up. Contact the artist and arrange a portfolio viewing or studio tour.

Artists, note who does their artist page right and who does not. If your portfolio is years out of date, update it. If you want to be in the artist site, contact the web master. And artists, be polite to your visiting patrons. Offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They may have brought a checkbook.

Neil Johnson is a photographer and host at Booth #62/64 at the upcoming Red River Revel. He can be reached at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wire Road Studios recording session - August 2015

Shreveport-based singer/songwriter Alan Dyson records songs for a new collaborative music project - Stray Dogs by the Highway - at Wire Road Studios in Houston, Texas.  

Stray Dogs is scheduled for release in September 2015.

Engineer Andy Bradley
Dyson at Wire Road Studios
Click on image to view entire session
 Artistic collaborators include:
Thank you to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation for their assistance in funding this project.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Crisis Pregnancy Center lies debunked by medical professionals

"In 2003, the National Cancer Institute concluded after extensive research that having an abortion or a miscarriage in no way increases one’s breast cancer risk. Despite this, more than 15 states have considered laws that would require doctors to give this inaccurate information to women seeking abortions.

The American Psychological Association also released a statement saying there is no credible evidence that abortion causes mental illness, but that the stigma and lack of social support surrounding abortion can have a negative effect on mental health.

These lies are exposed time and again, but continue to influence legislation and public opinion."

Read more:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Suicides - Part II of II

“Uuum – just read on FB that Elizabeth is dead???”

That was the entirety of the text message sent from my not-so-tactful sister at 6:57 PM on Sunday, October 12.

Elizabeth was my best friend in high school. We graduated from Minden High School in 1988.

I sent messages to a few mutual friends, and learned that she’d just committed suicide that day…30 days after marrying a 28-year-old ex-con. It had been her fourth or fifth marriage. All I could think was, shit
On a hot August morning in 1983, my mother unceremoniously delivered me to Webster Junior High School in Minden, Louisiana for the very first time. Having dropped off my siblings at their respective new schools, she drove our green 1973 Ford Grand Torino station wagon into the parking lot and mumbled “have a good day” as she puffed her cigarette and blew smoke out the window. I fumbled out of the car as she looked away, her parental duties fulfilled until 3PM when we arrived home on the school bus.

I grew up in rural Joyce, Louisiana where my awesome hunting, fishing and arm-wrestling skills made me one of the most popular girls in school. As I stood under the old aluminum canopy in this new parking lot, I realized that the girls in Minden were definitely not like the girls in Winn Parish. They wore hair bows and fingernail polish. I sported a cropped haircut, no makeup, and cheap but well-worn tennis shoes. It was 8th grade, and I was the new kid in a small town junior high school. This was not going to be fun.

I stumbled around campus until I heard voices coming from the track and field bleachers. There, sitting on that tiered metaphor for pre-teen popularity, were a bunch of kids I did not know. I didn’t know the school building. I didn’t know the schedule. I didn’t know any teachers. And I definitely DID NOT look like these girls.

Elizabeth spoke up. “Hey, why don’t you come sit with us?” I joined a group of overly-thin, studious-looking girls who sat, appropriately, halfway up the bleachers. “Who are you?” they asked.
I mumbled, “Debbie. I’m new.”

They sized me up, and continued the conversation they had started earlier. I sat there, quietly listening, trying to look interested, and wishing for this day to end. Fast.

Now Elizabeth is dead. That day on the bleachers in 1983 plays in my mind like a VHS tape of E.T. There is lots of static, and the VCR has a tricky rewind button.

Elizabeth’s dad was an American History teacher at Minden High School – a clear kiss of death for any junior high student. But she got my nerdiness, and I got hers. She made straight A’s, and she didn’t have boobs yet. Her parents were super-religious and didn’t allow her to wear make-up. We were practically twins. But she was confident. She was the epicenter of the school’s pre-pubescent geek gang. Any promise of long-term, school-wide popularity with this clique was non-existent but, at that point, I just didn’t want to stand out as the new, backwoods country kid with the butch haircut, flannel shirt, and cleats. I stuck with Elizabeth and her friends, and they tolerated me as long as I didn’t say too much.

Fast forward to 1988. Elizabeth and I were seniors. We were soul-sisters. We were inseparable. Her parents adored me, and provided a safe refuge from my Dickensian home life. Elizabeth found an out-of-town guy who was nice enough to take me to the prom. Her mom made my dress because my parents were too poor to buy one. We both had to be home at 10:30 PM.

After graduation, she and I went parking with some good ol’ Minden boys. It was horrible. She was in love with her date; I barely knew his friend, who slobbered when he spoke and told me he loved me 15 minutes after we pulled into the woods. It was one of the longest, most miserable nights of my young life.

Around 1990, Elizabeth married her date from that night. I was a bridesmaid, and gladly wore the most ghastly pale blue, puffy-sleeved bridesmaid’s dress for my dear friend. As a good Sibley Missionary Baptist Church girl, she had “saved herself” for marriage. She called me after the honeymoon to say that her new husband had laughed at the way she walked after they had sex. Of course he was a crude backwoods ass, and I’d always hated him for that. I should have punched him in the face when I had the chance at prom. But Elizabeth was determined to marry him. Her taste in unruly, ill-behaved men never left her.

Two husbands and two kids later, Elizabeth was having a hot affair with the accounting guy at the Shreveport law firm where she worked as a bookkeeper. Her husband at the time (#2, if I remember correctly) was a saint. She was also sleeping with some guy we went to school with; he managed the local video rental store there in Minden. She and I would have lunch, and I’d listen to her escapades.

“Your husband is an angel,” I’d tell her.

“He’s boring,” she’d reply.

In her mind, her obligatory Sunday-morning church habit absolved her compulsive sex binges. I gave her an ultimatum tinged with judgment: quit destroying your family, or forfeit our friendship.

Of course, she chose the guy in accounting over her husband, so I walked away. I mean, I’d been no saint. Who was I to judge her? But nevertheless I walked away from her. She needed help, and I didn’t possess the tools to help her. I was trapped in a miserable marriage myself – I was a young woman from a horrible family trying to navigate the complexities of a marriage. Elizabeth would be fine. She didn’t need me. Elizabeth always bounced back.

Except when she didn’t.

Around 2005, Facebook happened and Elizabeth and I became “friends” again. Not REAL friends, but whatever you call reconnecting online with a person you don’t know anymore, but share a common, ancient history. First thing I noticed: her hair was exactly the same as it was in high school. We were 40 years old, and she still had 1980’s Square Pegs bangs. Geez, I thought, how pitiful. And she’d never left Minden. From what I could tell, she was still working as a bookkeeper somewhere, still living in a trailer, and she was a grandmother.

Wow. Glad I got out of that godforsaken town, I thought to myself. That could have been me. Poor Elizabeth.

I sent her a message, suggesting we get together for margaritas or dinner or something. She confessed that she was now “a drunk” and couldn’t possibly accommodate my request. I replied, “Ok,” and referred her to a great therapist I knew. She never responded.

Every six months or so, I’d think about Elizabeth and check her Facebook page to see what was going on in her life. She loved her grandchildren, she loved or hated her job depending on the day, she posted glowing selfies while driving her car, and she REALLY loved Jesus. She had also fallen madly in love with a 28-year-old musician who was about to be released from jail. I had no response to her posts. I couldn’t relate to her life. She never reached out to me, and I quit reaching out to her after the rejected therapist recommendation.

It seemed as though the 17-year-old girl I had known just never grew up. 25 years later, she lived in the same town, went to the same church, had the same kind of job, still obsessed over boys, and still hairsprayed the hell out of her curly bangs. I couldn’t stomach it, but I also couldn’t reach her.

Several years passed, and I got the text: “Uuum – just read on FB that Elizabeth is dead???”

Her funeral was at the same funeral home where we’d held my dad’s visitation 4 ½ months earlier. He committed suicide too. Like Elizabeth, he never left Minden, never left his old church, and never accepted help from people who loved him.

“Brother Jeff” of the Sibley Missionary Baptist Church preached Elizabeth’s funeral. I sat there, elbow propped on the arm of the pew, remembering how this guy had warned me that John Lennon was the devil and that rock music was a tool of Satan. He had called me out to the congregation during a long prayer session, admonishing me to bow my head out of respect and stop looking around the sanctuary like a heathen. And here he was, preaching over the dead body of a woman he’d “saved” 30 years earlier. That piece of shit preacher….I wanted to walk out, but was content to serve as a witness to the small-minded religiosity in the room – the same mentality that had convinced Elizabeth to self-loathe her own sexual being, and spend her short life trying to make-over men who only wanted to fuck her.

I anticipated the snake-handling to commence at any minute.

I felt superior to everyone in that room in that moment. I’d gotten out. I’d educated myself. I was fucking ALIVE! I could have easily been the woman in that coffin, but I wasn’t. Poor Elizabeth – if only she’d moved away and found herself – her true self. Damn her for not trying.

A few girlfriends from our high school visited in the funeral home parking lot after her service. Of course, they all still lived in Minden. That’s when I realized I’d probably never think of Elizabeth again. She represented the person I could have become had I not listened to wise people and learned from life’s hard lessons. I couldn’t bear to imagine the agony she must have suffered, knowing that there is a whole world out there, but she chose to be trapped by her own poorly-informed choices.

Before the funeral, her mother confessed to one of her friends that “all Elizabeth ever wanted was a man to love her, and no one ever did.”

That is Elizabeth’s sad legacy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Suicides - Part I of II

“Dial 911. Lay the phone receiver down on the counter. Don’t come to the back room. Thanks for being my friend. Get yourself some cable.”

That was the note – and there was $1000 in cash on the dining room table beside it.

The house looked like normal when Debra got there. She had knocked, but there was no answer. The door was open, which was unusual. He never left the front door unlocked. Never.

She called out, “Robert,” several times with no answer, then she saw the torn envelope on the table and the cash. She did as instructed, and left the old green phone receiver on the countertop in the kitchen. It was the only phone in the house, and had been since 1982.

She walked to the back bedroom – not to her designated room where he had installed a padlock on the outside of the door to lock her inside when she misbehaved, but to his bedroom. She knew it well. It was quiet, the dog wasn’t barking, and his blood was covering the walls and bed from the corner of the floor all the way up to the ceiling. His body was beside the bed, knees propped apart with a fake gold picture frame shaped like a V which had cradled the butt of the gun. He was frozen on his side on the floor. His left hand was still on the barrel of the .303 rifle. Bits of jaw and brain were sprayed across the room. His head was mostly missing, but she recognized his 336-pound body lying there on the floor. Those were his socks and his pants and his shirt.

She thought, “Don’t touch him. They’ll think you did it.”

So she walked back to the living room and sat down quietly in the old yellow chair. The police would be there soon. She’d left the phone off the hook like he said.

She didn’t dare touch the $1000 on the table.

She waited.

It was May 29, or maybe May 30. She wasn’t sure. They asked her, but she just wasn’t sure. Yes, it was definitely 2014, and she had been his friend for 20 years. And she found him this morning. She had left last night around 10 PM, and he was fine. That’s all she knew.

The police officer asked if she knew who shot the dog. She started crying because she knew he loved that dog.

“I don’t know,” she whimpered.

So many questions…they asked her so many questions. The slow Southern drawl of the officer was soft, and it comforted her. She knew what they were thinking though: she’s black and he was white. In this backwoods Louisiana town, she was guilty until proven innocent. She focused on keeping her composure.

Convinced that she didn’t have the mental capacity or physical ability to kill a man as large as Robert, the police drove Debra home. She left behind the money he’d given her. She stayed in her tiny upstairs apartment and cried alone about her lover’s death. The neighbors heard her and, one by one, knocked on her door. She simply told them, “Robert’s dead,” and closed the door. “I’m sorry for your loss,” each one would say. She didn’t deserve this — not after the way he had treated her all those years.

His youngest daughter got the call.

“This is the Minden Police Department. I’m sorry to inform you that your father has died.”

She relied on her husband to work out the details. She didn’t call her siblings until later. She had to fall apart first. He was HER daddy; the others had ignored him all these years. And she wanted to get in that house…that house held so many secrets, and she wanted first dibs. She was the only one who cared about him, after all. They had been so cruel, so unforgiving…she was sure they would be sorry now.

She submitted a prayer request at church so everyone in her congregation knew that she was going through a difficult test sent from Satan himself. She coveted their sympathy now more than ever.

Her siblings were relieved to hear the news. Finally, the nightmare was over. Should they feel sad? Or angry? Should they feel guilty for being happy that he was finally dead?

They were not close, the four of them. When they were younger, they would have died for each other. They almost did on several occasions. They would have died for their mother, the long-suffering martyr of the family. That was a long time ago, though. Things were very different now. Life was safer.

The youngest daughter made all the arrangements. She wanted flowers and a military funeral. Her three siblings went along with her plans out of compassion for her loss. She took things from his house, and tried to donate his belongings to a local crisis pregnancy center. One brother stopped her, and she never told the others of her plans. She was blunt with her siblings about her desire for a full reimbursement of her expenses from the funeral.

$18,000.00. That’s how much the gun-blast cleanup cost. The company was appropriately-named “Aftermath.” All but one sibling saw the humor in it. Laughing helped as they cleaned out his hoard of cigarettes, broken televisions, AA batteries, razor blades, and lawn mowers.

Having removed all bank account records and valuables from the house, the youngest daughter was content to let the others clean out Robert’s belongings and prepare for his “estate sale.” Each of the four siblings split the proceeds equally at about $250 each…hardly worth their effort, as predicted.

The lawyer completed the paperwork. There was no will. What was left of Robert’s substantial inheritance from his wealthy parents had been whittled away to $150,000 and change. The house was falling apart. The junked cars were scattered around his property like shipwrecks. His loyal dog, a rescue from the local pound, had been carted off the day of the suicide – found dead from a bullet wound from his .38 pistol. The flies still circled the bloody spot where the mutt had been shot in the head.

The whole mess could be sold as soon as the succession was complete. All that misery, sold to the highest bidder. It seemed too good to be true.

“If he did that to himself, I can only imagine what he did to you,” said one friend. She had no idea what he had done to us behind those walls.

That’s how my daddy died.

I keep that V-shaped picture frame on my bedside table. It’s the last thing I see each night before falling asleep, and thinking about its ultimate purpose always makes me smile.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Original prints.

Documentary photographs.

Professional headshots.

Email Debbie Hollis for details.

Luxury and Happiness (2012)

New Orleans Antique Shop (2012)

Irises at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Boid d'Arc Farm - Louisiana (2012)

St. Louis Cathedral - New Orleans, Louisiana (2012)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Religious delusions and the criminal justice system

We all know about the often-incestuous connection between the court system and "mental health professionals."

I have recently learned that the psychological community is being encouraged to consider delusional religious beliefs as a normal part of patients' cultural experiences. This article provides a thorough summary:

Of course, the courts & prisons are benefiting nicely from this questionable mental-health development in that judges are allowed to forgo mental fitness evaluations based on a defendant's obvious religious delusions, and proceed straight to conviction. This article cites several examples:

What a boon for the privatized prison industrial complex!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Women: You Must Vote in 2014!

Shreveport Times - Aug. 14, 2014

The Republican Party of Louisiana.

They control the governor’s mansion.  They control the state House of Representatives.  They control the state Senate.  The majority of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation are members of the Republican Party of Louisiana.

Unfortunately, none of these political “leaders” has ever read the Louisiana GOP party platform.

Following is an excerpt from the preamble of their party platform: 

“The pursuit of opportunity has defined America from our very beginning. This is a land of opportunity. The American Dream is a dream of equal opportunity for all. And the Republican Party is the party of opportunity.”

“….any American who works hard, dreams big and follows the rules can achieve anything he or she wants…We will lift the torch of freedom and democracy to inspire all those who would be free.”

“Trust the people. Limit government. Respect federalism. Guarantee opportunity, not outcomes. Adhere to the rule of law. Reaffirm that our rights come from God, are protected by government, and that the only just government is one that truly governs with the consent of the governed.” 

Now, let’s apply their Republican logic to Louisiana’s 2014 legislative session.

Louisiana Right to Life lobbyists purchased Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) early on in the session.  Her proposed HB 388 – which is copycat legislation declared unconstitutional in Mississippi, Texas and other GOP-led states – demanded hospital admitting privileges of doctors providing comprehensive, legal healthcare services to women.

The bill was celebrated by Louisiana’s GOP-led legislature….but many of our esteemed elected officials walked out on expert testimony and neglected their final voting responsibility.

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the bill into law at a Baptist church, along with the imprecise HB 1274 which dictates that a dead woman shall be kept alive by the State if she happens to be pregnant. In fact, the State’s dictate supersedes the wishes of her family, the recommendation of her doctor, and possibly her own advance directive (DNR). 

“Trust the people. Limit government…the only just government is one that truly governs with the consent of the governed….We will lift the torch of freedom and democracy…” 

Our Republican governor refused Medicaid expansion, eliminating access to basic affordable healthcare for over 200,000 working families, women and children in Louisiana.

Our GOP-led Senate rejected equal pay for all women in our state, watering down the bill to restrict fair compensation to only those who work for the government.

Republicans in the Senate never bothered to vote on SB 334, which would have reduced Louisiana’s gender pay gap –the second worst in the U.S.

The GOP also shot down all six bills that would have allowed for an increase in the minimum wage in Louisiana - and 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women. 

“This is a land of opportunity…any American who works hard, dreams big and follows the rules can achieve anything he or she wants….” 

Republican-led efforts defeated every comprehensive sex-ed initiative for Louisiana’s teens. As most Americans know, our state leads the country in STI’s, teen pregnancy rates, and HIV/AIDS case rates among young people under 24 years of age.

Then, Louisiana’s GOP House members killed a bill to protect domestic violence victims from eviction.

Young women in Louisiana have to face facts.

As long as Republicans control our state government, we will not have access to comprehensive sex education in public schools, we will not earn equal (or even fair) pay, we will not have access to adequate healthcare, and we will be denied opportunity after opportunity simply because WE ARE NOT MEN.  Republicans don’t even want women to have fair housing if they are abused, or die on their own terms! 

“The American Dream is a dream of equal opportunity for all. And the Republican Party is the party of opportunity…” 


(I originally wrote this article for Choice Louisiana in August 2014.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

On Hobby Lobby, health care, and how working women will win this battle

On June 30, five Supreme Court justices determined that privately-held corporations – which constitute 90% of businesses in the US - can legally force their religious views on their employees, and circumvent federal laws that apply to every person in the United States.

The ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case. sets a dangerous precedent for any "closely-held corporation" to limit employees' access to healthcare based on an employer’s personally-held, non-medical, ideological beliefs.

Hobby Lobby sued for the right to refuse coverage for IUDs and “morning-after pills” for their female employees.  Company owners believe these medically-safe contraceptives to be "abortifacients;" however, they actually work by preventing ovulation and, therefore, do not inhibit implantation. This medical fact has been confirmed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, among others.  The majority of abortion opponents in the medical community have accepted this conclusion.

In 2012, evangelical bioethicist Dennis Sullivan, the Director of Cedarville University's Center for Bioethics in Cedarville, Ohio, reviewed emergency contraceptive research for a peer-reviewed article in “Ethics & Medicine.” He found no evidence that Plan B causes abortions.  "There's no evidence of that effect," he said. "Our claims of conscience should be based on scientific fact, and we should be willing to change our claims if facts change."

Of note: Hobby Lobby has chosen to continue to provide coverage for vasectomies for male employees and, through its 401(k) plan, will continue to invest in the manufacturers of the same birth control it refuses to cover for its female employees.  

This overt sexual discrimination has not gone unnoticed by Congress.  

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), and Mark Udall (D-CO) have introduced the "Protect Women's Health From Corporate Interference Act" to restore previous contraception-access rules that existed before the Hobby Lobby decision. 

This bill will restore the original legal guarantee that women have access to contraceptive coverage through their work-based insurance plans, and will protect coverage of other health services from employer interference as well. 

This bill also includes the original exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement for houses of worship, and an accommodation for religious non-profits.  

The bill has been endorsed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Black Women's Health Imperative, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Global Justice Institute,  Institute for Science and Human Values, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Metropolitan Community Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women's Law Center, People For the American Way, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Population Connection Action Fund, The Center for Women Policy Studies, The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, The Women's Business Development Center, and Women's Law Project, among others.

Companion legislation will be introduced in the House by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Diana Degette (D-CO), and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct a hearing on July 15, regarding S.B. 1696, referred to as the “Women’s Health Protection Act.”

When workers pay a premium for workplace-based health insurance, they should receive full coverage.  Preventive health benefits should not been defined by Congress, government bureaucrats, or CEOs - but by medical researchers, doctors, nurses and medical professionals.  

Religious freedom is a founding principle of American liberty – but when this freedom is twisted into something it is not, the results are overt oppression and discrimination, subjugation of the laws of the land, and potential threats to the health and well-being of millions of people.  Citizens must act to restore balance and fairness for those who seek genuine religious freedom, and for those who are at risk of becoming casualties of an erroneous legal precedent.  


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Works In Progress: A New Funding Initiative for Creative Professionals In North Louisiana

The purpose of Works In Progress (WIP) is to provide financial and educational resources directly to creative professionals who live and work in North Louisiana.

This geographic area includes the following parishes in Regions 1 – 4:

Bossier, Bienville, Richland,Caddo, Jackson, Madison,Claiborne, Desoto, LaSalle, 
Lincoln, Natchitoches, Concordia, Morehouse, Winn, East Carroll, Union, Sabine, Catahoula, Webster, Red River, Ouachita, West Carroll, Caldwell, Grant

WIP defines “creative professional" as follows:

Creative professionals are the people and organizations that
transform cultural skills, knowledge, and ideas into goods, services, 
and events. Our core cultural segments include design, performing 
arts, music, entertainment, literary arts and humanities, visual arts, 
and culinary arts.

If North Louisiana’s cultural workers are to thrive, funding and business practices must be in place to support strategies that cultivate artists' careers, enable artistic experimentation, and create income opportunities in the creative professions.

Works In Progress will put cash from non-governmental grants and community donors directly into the hands of North Louisiana’s creative professionals in order to help them become self-sustaining.  WIP will help creative professionals learn how to write grant proposals, set goals, measure outcomes, and plan for future professional success at no cost to the artists.

WIP grantees will be able to answer these key questions:
  • What is my/our organization’s artistic ambition?
  • What is the current business model for supporting my artistic ambitions? Or, how will the artist/organization deliver and support activities through a cost structure and revenue strategy that comprises earned and contributed sources? Is this plan realistic for the next 3-5 years?
  • To achieve the desired future business model and capital structure, what needs to change between now and then?
  • What investments do I/we need to make to attract recurring revenue that will support our business/art career after WIP funds are expended?
  • How will I/we raise that capital - or adjust our plans if we cannot?
  • How will I/our organization measure progress and success during the next 3-5 years?

Once WIP funding is spent, the artist/organization should be able to more fully
cover its future costs with reliable sources of revenue (reliable revenue = an estimate of the amounts of earned and contributed revenue with a track record of recurrence such as ticket sales, memberships or tuition income raised consistently over a sustained period of time).

Image: © Australia Council for the Arts

Controlling funding for arts via quasi-governmental agencies is not beneficial for artists - but it is the general practice in Louisiana.  These bureaucratic “arts councils” are most often run by non-artists, are controlled by the interests of government and large-gift private donors, and have their own political/aesthetic interests and agendas. These organizations also engage in outdated, hierarchical management styles, and do not have a history of significant direct artist support – especially in North Louisiana.  

Cultural and political differences between North and South Louisiana (e.g.: New
Orleans Cajun culture, Baton Rouge-controlled funding, etc.) have negatively affected support for artists in North Louisiana for decades - with the northern half of the state historically receiving less in government allocations and trickle-down grant funding.  

Without dedicated grant writers at their disposal, North Louisiana artists and cultural organizations have few other alternatives for direct support outside of bureaucratic, government-controlled arts councils. 

Needless to say, there is a huge unmet need in North Louisiana (and nationwide) for private, non-profit funding for creative professionals who are seeking start-up support, change capital, and meaningful financial assistance.  WIP will maintain a reliable source of financial support that is accessible to local artists when they need it. 

WIP will enable creative professionals to pursue artistic innovation and experimentation, learn how to manage a business, prepare for the unexpected, and make critical investments in income-generating activity.

Use of WIP funding will be strategically flexible. The funds can be used to support the errors, risk-taking and “re-dos” that are sometimes necessary to achieve a desired final result.

Image: © 2013 Creative Capital

WIP will also organize educational workshops, and offer business consultation and other customized services as needed by North Louisiana’s cultural workforce. 

WIP is utilizing research from the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the State of Louisiana Department of
Culture, Recreation and Tourism in order to gain an understanding of the needs/areas for improvement in our cultural community.

During the creation phase of our organization, WIP is working closely with Mr. Kim Mitchell to implement the Purdue University Center for Regional Development's "Strategic Doing" Initiative ( This hands-on training will help our Board of Directors build a network/relationship-based foundation, and steer away from outdated hierarchical management models that are not effective when working with creative people.

Copyright © 2012, Purdue University/Ed Morrison

We have based our business plan on the model programs of Craft Emergency Relief Fund, ArtsWave, Grantmakers in the Arts, United States Artists, and Creative Capital.

We are specifically researching unmet needs in our arts sector, application processes, and realistic performance metrics for creative professionals.

Contact Debbie Hollis at 318.751.8540 if you are interested in becoming a community donor, or if you have a project that might qualify for Works In Progress funding.


Works In Progress, WIP, Works In Progress Louisiana, and are the intellectual property of Deborah Lynn Hollis.  WIP's programs and business plan are the intellectual property of Deborah Lynn HollisCopyright 2014.