By Tara Bennett
While he may no longer be the president and CEO of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Eric Holowacz is still working for the betterment of the Baton Rouge arts scene. Last Wednesday, Holowacz announced his latest initiative in supporting the creative minds of BR by creating the Creative Development Bureau. Partnering with Elevator Projects, The Walls Project, and the Art & Design Center located in the Chase Tower, Holowacz’s new project aims at giving aid and advice for local arts organizations who may need guidance in developing their latest work.
Holowacz sat down with DIG Magazine to talk about the Bureau and the new desk where you may find him.
DIG: Well, I have to ask. What was the “spark?”
Eric Holowacz: Well, the spark’s been igniting for most of my career because a lot of what I’ve done in the arts has been meeting with people who have great ideas, or people who have a creative inclination, but they’re not quite sure how to make it real. Wherever I’ve been -South Carolina or New Zealand- a lot of what I’ve done, just because it’s something that drives me as well, is to help see people’s creative projects happen. Sometimes that means funding, sometimes it means finding a partner for them, or technical assistance, production, venue, promotion, marketing, audience development. So all of those things which are essential to how the arts happen, people need to know. I’ve always had young artists, or even established organizations say ‘We want to go in a new direction,’ or ‘we want to try something we haven’t done before, we want to get into this area of the community.’ So that’s been rewarding for me to spend time doing that. And I thought while I’m here and connected to this really great and exciting arts community, I’d make myself available. People are already asking if I’m free to meet. So I said yea, I’ll get a desk, and well, here it is.
DIG: Is this through the Walls Project since it’s in their space?
EH: I had already been helping Elevator Projects and The Walls, and this space actually in the Chase building was something that I first approached them about a year ago when it was vacant. And we talked about what we could establish here in this particular room. I think that partnership already existed creatively with an interchange of ideas. And they have a network of people, and I have a network of people such that there was this great combination. So I was already connected to it, and when I was looking for a place to sit down and help people, I knew this was here. It’s kind of why this place exists, as a node of creative exchange.
DIG: So what will your title be?
EH: I don’t really want one. I’m just going to be the Creative Development Bureau, and occupant of the desk. I’m not intending yet to make it a formal entity. It’s just a service, and I can provide it for free, and I can do it as long as I’m here. As long as there are people knocking on the door saying, ‘We want to start a festival,’ or ‘We want to start a Kickstarter campaign.’
DIG: So if someone just needs advice or want guidance they can just sit down and talk to you?
EH: That’s right. Just email, or come over, or gimme a call. It’s really just a service. It’s a desk, and a bureau, and a guy who wants to help creative people. There will be things I’ll be able do once projects emerge, like help find grant funding sources, help find venues, help find marketing angles, all that. So it’s sort of a case-by-case of what’s needed.
DIG: What are some other topics of your expertise?
EH: Well, just about anything if you’ve got a creative idea, anything that needs to help make that real. Sometimes it’s marketing, sometimes it’s funding, sometimes it’s a venue, sometimes it’s social media knowledge, sometimes it’s how to structure formally like a nonprofit. Throughout my career I’ve run three nonprofits and worked for local government for arts and cultural development, and I want to bring that to whoever needs it. Share what I know to help Baton Rouge and the people who want to make it more creative to do what they do. I can’t promise that I’m gonna get anybody money or that I’m gonna be able to do everything for free because some stuff is gonna cost. I don’t have a venue, but if someone wants to find a venue, I’ll help them.
The key a lot of times is knowing where those doors are to knock on, and what the right first opening line is, and then the second line and the third, and the conversation goes. So many times doors aren’t opened or they’re just shut, or presumed locked, and artists aren’t always equipped to get into the machinery and build a collaborative partnership, so I’m gonna help with that as well. That’s what really what helps audiences grow, is being able to engineer. I’ve always called myself a cultural engineer. It’s kind of a weird term for working across a wide, creative span of disciplines, but what I’m really concerned about is how culture is made, identified, perpetuated, advanced, and celebrated. Culture isn’t just paintings and musical compositions, it’s everything we do.
DIG: What is it about the Baton Rouge arts community that you love? What makes you still want to be a part of it?
EH: There is a sense that the arts and the creative life of Baton Rouge is bubbling up rapidly. It’s effervescent. There’s always stuff going on, there’s new projects, new ideas, warehouse spaces going on, new festivals. There’s people that aren’t afraid to challenge and find new stuff, or find a way to move ahead. What impressed me was when I would go to New Orleans, and someone would say, ‘You guys got some good stuff going on with that Elevator Projects,’ or ‘What is going on in that Chase space?’ It was going from here out into the world, and influencing people’s impression of Baton Rouge as a more creative city. And it doesn’t often take a lot. It takes good ideas that are executed fearlessly, and with a sense of collaboration, and that’s what this place is about.
DIG: And that is what that desk is all about?
EH: Yea, that’s why I’ll be there. So bring it on.