Business Person of the Month: Brad Jensen of Bricks and Bombs

Taken from owner’s website with permission.

Bricks and Bombs

449 Hearthstone Drive

Baton Rouge, LA 70806

Brad Jensen developed his first T-shirt brand, Icon, at eighteen, while studying graphic design at LSU. Bricks and Bombs is the culmination of decades of artistic development, business savvy, and a good bit of luck.

It begins with the name – or, not quite, but the name is fantastic, so we’ll start there. “The short story,” Jensen laughed, “it’s from some misinterpreted Clash lyrics.” He carried them around for years until the opportunity to use them struck. “It became a little bit more of an analogy for what I wanted to do with the store and the gallery space initially, and that was, the bricks being a symbol of a building block, something to support a wall, or in my case what I was hoping to build was a community of artists and creatives. And then bombs, of course, being a symbol of destruction, and that juxtaposition of building a community and destroying some ideas of what people thought art is.”

The store opened in 2009, but Jensen’s work on Icon and on other artistic and screenprinting projects is at least ten years older. “I got a job at a screen printing shop and learned how to print my own shirts, and then learned how to print stickers, and learned how to print posters, and then I started incorporating Icon into my fine art,” he said. “I went around to a lot of bike races, I rode BMX, growing up, so it was kind of like a bike-rider thing, and then it sort of evolved into my artwork, and still clothing, and posters and stickers and hats and other things too; it kind of became a brand.”

He was working across the street in a studio in the back of a friend’s shop, what is now a Crossfit gym, when he saw Bricks and Bombs’ current location open up. At first, it seemed like a great office space, somewhere to work outside of his home; the front was, if nothing else, great storage, and a place where people could find his shirts more easily. It was very minimalist, just plain white walls and a T-shirt rack. “It was meant to be store by day, gallery by night, and there wasn’t a lot that had to happen to make it transform into that space,” Jensen said. Bricks and Bombs recently hosted a traveling poster show, and has highlighted skateboard deck art, tattoo and graffiti artists, photography, sculpture, and the senior shows of graduating LSU students. The shows are something he wants to get back to this year: “The more events that we have in between those that are already established,” he said, referring to White Light Night, the Ogden Park Prowl, and other annual MidCity events, “the more we can make this a destination place – make people realize that MidCity is something more than just those bookended events.”

The neighborhood, like so much of Baton Rouge, is slowly changing for the better. “When I first moved in over here, it wasn’t quite like it is now. It’s been an evolving thing. But it showed a lot of promise,” said Jensen. “Someone told me once that Baton Rouge is the kind of place where you’ve got to get in, stake your claim, and ride it out. And I’ve been riding it out for seven years now, and that’s a positive thing for sure. I’ve definitely seen Saturdays becoming more and more of a day when you can rely on people walking in, when before it was kind of hit or miss. There were a lot of Saturdays when I wasn’t open because I wanted to be doing something else, when no one was walking in. It’s getting there.”

Jensen’s growth as a business person was very organic, based as it is on ideas he’s worked on since he was eighteen years old. “It was an opportunity that I saw. When I first opened up, I thought I’d just try it for a year. I wasn’t risking a lot, other than a year’s worth of rent, because … I had a product, I had a service that was already in place, so this just kind of became a more permanent fixture for all those things that opened up some opportunities.”

But if you’re just starting out, his advice would be to “Do your research, for sure. Think about what it is that you can offer the area. I think that’s the biggest struggle with an artist and a business, or any business, is that you have an idea of what you want to do – and I’m guilty of this for sure, I didn’t start my business thinking, oh, Baton Rouge really needs another T-shirt shop! That was what I was interested in doing. I can understand the challenges now, and I still kind of grapple with it, with what does the area around me need, versus what I want it to be, versus what will it support?”

“I do everything myself. Everything in here, I’ve designed it, I printed it, I folded it, I orchestrated it all,” he said. “I think the attitude that’s over here is a little bit different from everywhere else. People come in here and they know that you can’t find this kind of stuff everywhere else, especially not locally made or locally designed. I think what I’m offering is an opportunity to get involved with the shop – I’m doing some artist series shirts, and I do other events with artists in here. I have kind of an open door policy; I’m not very discriminatory like some of the other galleries. They operate differently than I do. I can be a little less conscientious of bringing someone in, take a risk of having their artwork hanging up in here.”

Really, for Jensen, it’s still about that contrast between bricks and bombs – breaking something down so you can build something better. “I’ve done some nontraditional things. When you hang a skateboard with some cool graphics up on a white wall, it kind of takes on a new meaning – it’s all of the sudden this utilitarian device that people view in a different light. They see the art for what it is, not just a piece of wood with wheels on it. That’s what I was seeking to show people, especially in Baton Rouge – if they didn’t grow up in a subculture, like BMX or skating, to enlighten them to some other aspects of culture that they may not be aware of,” he said.

“It’s all very interwoven, being a graphic designer. I don’t see it just as design, I see it as just as much of a fine art too. I guess when you take that graphic design and you screenprint it, put it on a poster, limit it and put a number and a signature at the bottom, it becomes not just a graphic design piece, it’s an art piece” – or wearable art, like a T-shirt; or mobile art, like a skateboard.

Like Jensen said about the library, in Bricks and Bombs and the rest of the midcity area, “A lot of people don’t realize how many great resources are tucked away.” Stop by and check it out.

The Kilted Man

Veteran performer Matthew Gurnsey will give a rousing performance of traditional Irish and Scottish music at three locations this year!

  • Main Library’s Plaza on Saturday March 4th from 11 am to Noon
  • Delmont Gardens Branch on Saturday March 4th from 2pm to 3pm
  • Jones Creek Regional Branch on Sunday March 5th from 3pm to 4pm

Everyone is invited to enjoy the FREE concerts.

If you need a Celtic music fix before then, check out his website for streaming music!

Authors After Hours with Elizabeth Berg

Mark your calendar now! Bestselling author and novelist Elizabeth Berg will be at the Main Library at Goodwood at 7 p.m. Friday, March 3, for the Authors After Hours program!

Warm without being sentimental, optimistic without being cloying, and eminently readable, Berg has written 21 novels, three short story collections and two nonfiction books, many of which have been New York Times bestsellers. Three of her novels were television movies and she also has been honored with the NEBA Award for her body of work. Other awards received by Berg include Oprah’s Book Club Selection for Open House, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Best Books for Young Adults Award for Joy School, the AMC Cancer Research Center’s Illuminator Award for Talk Before Sleep and the ALA Best Books of the Year Award for Durable Goods.

To learn more about author Elizabeth Berg and her works, visit her website. To find a great new read, visit our catalog!

BREC’s Baton Rouge ZooMobile

Forget lions, tigers, and bears; there’s still time to check out awesome animals at free programs for children. The BREC Baton Rouge ZooMobile has come back to the Library! Programs are continuing for children through late February. Children ages 4-11 are invited to the Library to enjoy these FREE informative and entertaining programs designed to educate audiences about wildlife conservation.

Kids also can see live animals at every program, including a one-eyed owl named Shakespeare! Attendees will be amazed as they get up close and personal with an armadillo and a ferret while they learn about different animals’ bone structures, fur and more! Each presentation lasts about one hour.

Registration is required for all, so call the Library location nearest you ahead of time to reserve your spot. Here’s the ZooMobile schedule:

  • 10-10:45 a.m. Tuesday, February 21, River Center Branch
  • 10-10:45 a.m. Wednesday, February 22, Carver Branch
  • 3:30-4:15 p.m. Thursday, February 23, Bluebonnet Regional Branch
  • 2:30-3:15 p.m. Monday, February 27, Jones Creek Regional Branch

For more information about these ZooMobile programs and to register, call the Library location where the event is taking place closest to you. To learn more about the BREC Baton Rouge ZooMobile, visit the website.

Oscar Night at the Library

The stars will be out for the film industry’s biggest night! Adults are invited to the Main Library at Goodwood, 7711 Goodwood Blvd., at 6 p.m. Sunday, February 26, for a free, live screening of the Academy Awards show (commonly known as the OSCARS) on the big screen of the Large Meeting Room.

On this night, everyone’s a superstar! Have your picture taken with “paparazzi”, try your hand at guessing the most correct winning movies and enjoy delicious complimentary popcorn, movie candy and soft drinks while you watch. Attendees are encouraged to come dressed in long gown/black tie attire or as a favorite character from a 2016 movie.

Partygoers also should feel free to bring their own finger foods that do not require heat or refrigeration. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, but doors will open at 6 p.m. for Red Carpet viewing.

For more information about the OSCARS Viewing Party, call Pabby Arnold at (225) 231-3761.

The History of Baton Rouge’s Mardi Gras Parades

by Baton Rouge Room archivist Emily Ward

King Ugandi

The first Mardi Gras parade in Baton Rouge was sponsored by two African American clubs, the Purple Circle Social Club and the “colored Esso Boosters,” and took place in 1941.  The Esso Boosters were responsible for sponsoring King Ugandi and his float for the event.  King Ugandi was represented by Ernest Dupuy, employed by Y. & M. V. check office.  The King and his parade followers rolled down South Blvd., on to East Blvd., North Blvd. and  ending on Government Street where the revelers attended a ball at the Club’s headquarters.  There was an estimated 20,000 people, both White and Black, that showed up to watch the festivities.  When asked about the choice of names for the king, the response was this, “Ugandi is a British protectorate in East Central Africa.  It consists of 110,300 square miles and has a population of more than three million highly cultured Negroes.  Hence—King Ugandi.” (Matthews Jr., 1941, p. 14). Visit the following links to read the original announcement in Standard Oil’s newsletter, then called The Stanocolan:

The Stanocolan, pg. 1

The Stanocolan, pg. 2

 

Once Upon a Time

A float from a 1951 parade.

What was believed to be the first, but was actually the second, Mardi Gras parade took place in 1949 and was sponsored by the Young Men’s Business Club (YMBC) of Baton Rouge.  The theme was Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes and consisted of 33 floats all representing a nursery rhymes, 4 marching bands from local high schools, and torch bearers.  The parade rolled downtown and made a loop back to the American Legion Community Club where a ball was hosted in honor of Mardi Gras royalty and nobility.

Before 1949, if you wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras, the options were limited to New Orleans or to one of the smaller parades such as those in New Roads or Lafayette.  There was also the more traditional Mardi Gras celebration that took place in the small Cajun town of Mamou which involved the Courir de Mardi Gras – a traditional rural celebration where participants ride through the countryside costumed and masked collecting ingredients for the evening gumbo.   The Baton Rouge parade attracted some of the largest crowds the city had ever seen and that popularity allowed the YMBC to sponsor the parades for eight years.

When there were no parades

There was no definitive reason given by YMBC when they dropped their sponsorship of the annual Mardi Gras Parade and subsequent ball in 1957; however, other groups and organizations kept the celebration going by hosting private balls and parties for members of their organizations or clubs.  The archives houses the Mystic Krewe of Desk and Derrick collection, which is a women’s organization dedicated to the education of women in the oil and gas industry.  They have hosted an annual ball since 1961 that still thrives today.  Another organization whose records are stored in the Baton Rouge Room Archives is the Mystic Krewe of Apollo, which began hosting a lavish bal masqué (masked ball) in 1980.

La Krewe Mystique de la Capitale and the Baton Rouge Mardi Gras Association

In 1976, two krewes decided to put on a parade for Baton Rouge.  The krewes Knights of Nineveh and the Ladies of Antiope paraded with 68 units, 14 floats, and 7 bands and was sponsored by the Baton Rouge Mardi Gras Association.  Mayor-President Woody Dumas served as Grand Marshal and rode in a convertible at the head of the parade.  Nearly 100,000 people came out to view the parade that began in the Rebel Shopping Center on Florida Blvd. and rolled East to E. Airport Drive. Ever wondered what the “mystique” or “mystic” meant? This is a designation applied to krewes that will not reveal the identities of their royalty until the opening of a parade or a ball.

In 1977, new krewes and parades begin to develop.  La Krewe Mystique de la Capitale became the premier parade Krewe in Baton Rouge.  This parade and Krewe is meant to be for the Capital City and not specific to any one neighborhood or specific group or organization.  It’s mission is to bring Mardi Gras to Baton Rouge.  Today, La Krewe Mystique de la Capitale’s parade is one of the longest running parades in the city.

The Mystique Krewe parade route, 1977.

The most recent city parades to be added to the itinerary of Mardi Gras celebrations are the Krewe of Orion, added in 1998, and the Krewe of Artemis, an off-shoot of Orion, added in 2003.  Orion began as a co-ed organization and then split to create its sister Krewe of Artemis, which is a women’s only Krewe. These krewes are still an integral part of the Baton Rouge parade scene.  You can see these parades a few weeks before “Fat Tuesday.”

Neighborhood Parades

From 1979 to 1981, two new krewes were added to the mix.  The first in 1979 was the Krewe of Rio, which paraded on Burgin Avenue. In 1981, Don Zeringue announced that the historic Spanish Town neighborhood would host its own parade. The Spanish Town parade became well known for its satire and as a medium to critique and poke fun at current events and politics.  Sporting a pink flamingo as the official mascot, this parade has only grown in popularity through the years and has added an array of parade favorites such as the Krewe of Yazoo Lawnmowers Drill Team and the Prancing Babycakes to name a few.

In 1989, Southdown Flambeau Parade was added to the Mardi Gras Roster.  This parade rolls out from S. Pickett Street and ends at Acadian Thruway and Perkins.  A family friendly parade, the identifying characteristic is the use of flambeau.  Flambeau is a type of flaming torch typically with three candles.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Krewe of Southdowns.

There are many smaller krewes that host or have hosted community parades that deserve mention as well. See the list below:

  • Poor Man’s Parade: Gulf State Regional Institute and Burbank parade
  • Mystic Krewe of LaCumba de Jaguar: Southern University Krewe
  • Krewe of the Tiger: LSU Krewe
  • East Gate Mardi Gras: Old Hammond Hwy.
  • Krewe of Girl Scouts
  • Krewe of Grease: Cotton Club parade

Self-Publishing @the Library

Get that novel out of the drawer and self-publish it for free at the library!

We’ve got several electronic platforms that, individually or in concert, will be perfect for your creative brainchild. If you want to standardize your book’s digital formatting and make sure it reads the way you want, check out Pressbooks! You can upload a file or even just copy and paste what you’re working on, and export a shiny new file in the format of your choice when you’re finished.

From Pressbooks, you can send your book to SELF-e for publication in the library’s ebook collection! SELF-e is an ebook submission platform managed by Library Journal. It’s completely free to submit to, and if your book is selected for publication (almost all are), it will be included in the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Biblioboard collection. They’ve recently revamped the submission process to make it easier and more streamlined than ever!

Your book could even be chosen as biblioboard_1a Library Journal Select Title,
meaning it would be shared with collections across the country – or anywhere a library has signed up for the Biblioboard service. We’ll be able to feature it in a variety of collections. You can use your profile on Biblioboard to grow your readership and support your new career as a published author!

Get started today!