Lake Charles, La. -The Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana are working to coordinate the Lake Area's role in celebrating two hundred years of statehood from April until September of this year. The events are being planned in conjunction with the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission and numerous regional organizations and consist of newly commissioned works of art, historic celebrations, and cultural experience.

The Calcasieu Parish Historic Preservation Society will celebrate the centennial anniversary of Margaret Place Historical District with a Tour of Homes on April 1st from 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. Visitors will have the opportunity to stroll down memory lane as they attend a guided history of the neighborhood.  This educational experience will include docents dressed in vintage clothing as well as an interactive oral history of the neighborhood, its architecture, and family history.  The event will also have a visual art exhibit of renowned local artist Sue Zimmermann's watercolor representations of nine homes located within the historical district.  The exhibit will be inside Immaculate Conception Cathedral School and will then be a traveling exhibit to be displayed in governmental buildings and museums across the parish.

On April 28th from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., four historic Lake Charles landmarks will simultaneously offer open house celebrations, featuring live music, educational tours, and art exhibits featuring collections of memorabilia, photos, and artifacts. Central School Arts and Humanities Center, the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and 1911 Historic City Hall will be spotlighted during this unique event. As with many pre-20th century buildings in Lake Charles, several of these important buildings were lost in the Great Fire of 1910. Shortly after, a renaissance of construction designed by noted New Orleans architectural firm Favrot & Livaudais followed with the courthouse, Cathedral, and Central School all being built in 1912. Residents can expect to tour all four buildings on April 28th with each showcasing its own elegance and historical value. Friends of Central School has produced a limited number of pewter ornaments that will be for sale at the event.

The current Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane has been commissioned to compose an original series of five to seven poems which will use the history of Lake Charles and the Louisiana Bicentennial as inspiration, and the series will be revealed during a special poetry reading by Kane on Saturday, May 12th at 4 p.m. The reading is sponsored by the Imperial Calcasieu Museum and will be held under the arms of its extraordinary 375 year-old Sallier Oak in Lake Charles. Kane's series will celebrate the intersection between landscape and identity while uniting both the raw and the rapturous images and symbols of Southwest Louisiana. Kane is also a non-fiction writer, editor, and translator and is the author of several books of poetry with many of her poems appearing widely in anthologies. Kane, who currently lives in Natchitoches, La., was appointed to the position of Louisiana Poet Laureate by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2011, and is a professor of English at Northwestern State University.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting will present a screening for Louisiana: 200 Years of Statehood on May 17th at 7 p.m. in Central School Arts and Humanities Center theatre. The documentary is narrated by Harry Connick, Jr. and is approximately 56 minutes in length. The film will follow a glimpse of the newest downtown public art mural located on the side of locally-owned dessert shop, Sweets & Treats. Local artist Fred Stark, whose murals appear in sixteen states, is creating a large scale Bicentennial-themed mural to illustrate our Southwest Louisiana connection to the state's 200 year legacy. Composed in three different layers and timelines, the mural will show the visual history of Louisiana from 1812 to 2012 and will include local ties with the centennial anniversaries of four local historic landmarks.

The Imperial Calcasieu Museum will host a special George Rodrigue art exhibition titled 200 Years: The Faces & Places of Louisiana which will exhibit Rodrigue's famous prints and paintings of significant Louisiana figures steeped in over 200 years of both history and folklore. This comprehensive collection of the people and landscapes of our state collectively makes up the expanse of our own history and identity. Rodrigue will be on hand during the exhibit's opening reception on September 14th for a discussion of the featured pieces and his ties to both art and Louisiana history.

Other Bicentennial events with historic components include the Downtown Crawfish Festival, April 12-15; the Louisiana Railroad Days Festival, April 12-14; Spring Fest and Civil War Re-enactment, April 20-21; the Sulphur Heritage Festival, May 25-26; and Downtown at Sundown, May 18, 25, and June 1, 8.

For more information on the Louisiana Bicentennial celebrations in Southwest Louisiana, contact the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau at 337-436-9588 or log onto www.visitlakecharles.org/200.