SWLA's center for creative risk-taking

Free Swim SOUP Launched for Southwest Louisiana!

Free Swim brings the open source crowdfunding initiative SUNDAY SOUP to Southwest Louisiana!

Free Swim brings the open source crowdfunding initiative SUNDAY SOUP to Southwest Louisiana!

Free Swim, a new arts and public life initiative, is launching an ambitious new effort to enrich cultural interactions between the Southwest Louisiana citizenry and its regional artists.

Free Swim will foster collaboration and conversation amongst the civic, cultural and artistic communities of Southwest Louisiana. As part of the initiative, Free Swim will begin hosting monthly microgranting events, called Free Swim SOUP, at satellite locations around Southwest Louisiana. The inaugural SOUP will be held at Botsky’s Gourmet Hot Dogs on Sunday, May 18 from 2:30-5pm.

Free Swim SOUP is a community dinner celebrating creative projects in Southwest Louisiana. For $5 you receive soup and a vote. You will hear four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology, etc. Each presenter has four minutes to share his or her idea and then field four questions from the diners. We eat, connect, share resources, and vote on what project we think should win the money gathered from the night. When the night nears to a close we count the ballots and whoever has the most votes takes home the money from the door.

Free Swim SOUP is now accepting ideas for its inaugural event to be held Sunday, May 18, 2014 at Botsky’s, located at 104 W Pujo Street in Downtown Lake Charles. Anyone in the Lake Charles community, as well as the Five Parish Area, is eligible to submit a proposal.

If you have an idea for a community-minded project, or your business, non-profit, club, or organization requires monetary assistance to realize a goal, Free Swim SOUP can help provide funding with microgrants from $50 up to $1000 (depending on attendance and donation amounts). SOUP is an open source idea and has programs in other cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Toledo, Phoenix, and others. Presenters at SOUPs across the U.S.

have discussed everything from art, music and theater workshops to after school programs, hunger initiatives and more.

All ideas that meet Free Swim SOUP’s requirements will be sent to a panel of community judges for further review. The top four ideas, as agreed upon by our judges, will have the opportunity to present at the event on May 18. Grant recipients are selected through a community voting process, and funding is received at the end of the event.

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Botsky’s Gourmet Hot Dog’s to host inaugural Free Swim SOUP on May 18, 2014 from 2:30-5pm

Prospective presenters have until Sunday, May 11 to submit ideas online. Go to freeswim.org/soup to submit. Additional information on this May’s Inaugural Free Swim SOUP event will be announced on Free Swim’s Facebook page: facebook.com/freeswimcreative. Interested presenters, attendees, purveyors of soup, and volunteers may contact us at info@freeswim.org.


Free Swim’s flagship project is to establish an Center for Creative Risktaking in Southwest Louisiana. Designed to cultivate collaboration and creativity between local residents and the arts community, Free Swim will provide space and resources for artists and members of the community.

Artists Victoria Eleanor Bradford and Tracy LeMieux will lead the initiative.

Victoria is a native of Lake Charles who now works between her SWLA home and Chicago, IL. She has been working in non-profit administration, government relations, and cultural advocacy since 2006. In addition to her work with Free Swim, Victoria has an active art practice under the umbrella of her conceptual dance company A House Unbuilt. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Notre Dame.


Site-specific, New York-based performance by artist and Free Swim Director Victoria Eleanor Bradford

Tracy is a native of Baton Rouge with a BA in art/ceramics from McNeese State University. She has directed the Einstein Art Camp for 11 years in addition to being a dedicated wife and mother. She is an active member of the Catholic Church where she serves as a Catholic Daughter. Tracy has been involved in the Southwest Louisiana arts and culture community for over a decade.


Recent ceramic art installation by artist and Free Swim Director Tracy LeMieux

Along with LeMieux and a team of community volunteers and supporters, Bradford will work to realize Free Swim’s major goals: cultivating creative energy in the community through the SOUP microgranting program, advancing artistic ambition through a program of artist residencies, amplifying cultural assets by promoting interactions between artists and cultural institutions throughout Southwest Louisiana including its educational institutions, and inspiring creativity in young and old through a flagship seminar as well as resident-taught classes and workshops.

“As Southwest Louisiana is preparing to burst at the seams from an economic shift, business development is not the only tree that needs shaking. It’s a proven fact that culture and quality of life are key components to attracting and retaining the knowledge workers our community’s growth requires,” says Bradford. “My experience as an artist and arts administrator on the national scene has availed me of networks for bringing in artists to collaborate with citizens from our own region. It has also schooled me in the way of grassroots programming that operates on the level of the individual but impacts the entire community.

“By seeking support through individuals, corporations, private foundations, local and state government programs, national “placemaking” initiatives, as well as fees for events and services, Free Swim is a viable Southwest Louisiana cultural institution.”