The second weekend of every month the stained-glass window of the Sanctuary Cultural Arts Center at 2525 Burgundy Street illuminates with the low light coming from inside the church. The stalwart doors open, and this non-denominational and non-partisan church welcomes visitors for a different kind of service. It is a service that worships art and community.
“This [space] is an incubator for new work. It is here to facilitate dreams and ideas,” says Cameron Eaton, the Creative and Artistic Director of The Sanctuary Cultural Arts Center. Eaton has been creating spaces similar to the Burgundy location for 20 years, and she now has five fully functioning artistic spaces in her creative repertoire. As she explains, “I like being behind the scenes and helping the pieces come together.”
Those “pieces” she refers to are both metaphorical and literal, which one experiences the moment they walk into the SCAC. With new events coming through the Center on a daily or weekly basis, everyone at the SCAC has to be ready to move walls, break down sets, or design any kind of space the artists might require.
Just this week, the SCAC hosted a Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert with all the proceeds being donated to Standing Rock, and this collaboration brought together musicians, artists, sound engineers, volunteers, and the community. The pews overflowed with people during the concert, and one enthusiastic congregate told her friend, “Oh, I’m sitting on that throne-looking thing over there.” She was referring to the Medieval set that is used for the play The Lion in Winter, which is currently being housed at the SCAC. On the night of the benefit concert, however, all patrons were encouraged to sit at the Medieval dining tables or curl up next to the lush tapestries that lined the walls as musicians such as Helen Gillet, Micah Mckee, Medea Lady LaRose, and many more sang interpretations or traditional versions of Cohen songs.
Providing a transitory and ideal backdrop for artists, dancers, and performance companies is simply one branch of the Center’s mission. They host a one-on-one artist in residency support service, they are one of the 50+ venues for PhotoNola this year, they participate in Second Saturday, and they host an Acroyoga class on Mondays. Eaton says that she hopes for even more programs in the near future, including a woman’s self-defense class, as well as a strong speaker series that can provide education to the artists and the community.
If you feel like shouting hallelujah, then Sunday mornings might be the best time for you to visit the SCAC. It is a functioning church with the perspective that all viewpoints are welcome. The space is a way to “…bring things to existing communities and build new communities as well,” Eaton says when asked about the various uses of the space. “We want it to be seen as an open canvas,” she says, and that is exactly the feel the space cultivates.
More organizations are finding their way to the SCAC, and no matter how different the organizations may be, an emphasis on community and collaboration seems to thread them together. Dancing Ground will be holding their holiday celebration on Saturday, December 10 at the SCAC, and this party, which features performances as well as food and drink, is free and open to the public. The Lion in Winter performance is taking place all weekend and will continue until December 18, and every second Saturday the SCAC spotlights artists for all who walk into the space to enjoy.
“Every time you walk in the door you are walking into a new place,” Eaton says, and every time you walk in the door, you know you will be welcome.