By Tara Bennett
Blank walls of brick have inspired many artists to turn Baton Rouge into a public art museum, but not many know the stories behind some of the most iconic public art projects in the city. This topic will be covered in “Monuments & Metaphors: Art in Public Spaces,” which is the current exhibit featured at the Louisiana Arts & Science Museum (LASM). As part of the exhibition’s programming, LASM will present its next installment of the “Art After Hours” series with an opening reception for “Monuments & Metaphors.” The exhibit highlights 50 public works in and around the city ranging from as far back as the ‘30s to modern day.
“You’ve seen the murals that are popping up and now you really get to dig into what those murals are, where they came from, and why they are important today and what comments they make on our culture,” said Douglas Kennedy communications coordinator at LASM. “I love finding out the hidden stories behind things.”
“Monuments & Metaphors” includes a variety of items such as preparatory drawings, scale models, and 3D prints, as well as large-scale photographs of artworks in their original location. The works range from recent contemporary work to some of the oldest works in the city. However, it’s not just about appreciating a 10-foot-tall sculpture, but also understanding what it adds to the culture of the city.
“Baton Rouge is experiencing some great positive change in the art we chose to display, and what we choose reflects our growing values and changing values as a city,” said Kennedy. “They really represent who we are right now at this time.”
Many attendees will learn the stories behind artwork they pass everyday on their commute or when they go for a drink downtown. Works such as the “Baton Rouge Blues Harmonica,” “Lady Liberty,” “Elements of Government,” and “Head of Oliver Pollock” are just some of the public art projects that have helped shaped the identity and community of the Capital City. Featured in the exhibit will be the molds of sculptor Angela Gregory, who revitalized the capitol building in 1931 with a series of panels into the façade of the building.
“I think that’s a really cool piece,” said Kennedy. “What are these things on the capitol building, who designed them and how did they come to be?”
In keeping with the museum’s mission of merging art along with science, attendees of “Art After Hours” can view the related display “From Clay to Bronze Revisited,” which investigates the process of bronze casting often used to create outdoor public sculpture. There will be step-by-step guides to explain the practice, and will have models comparing traditional methods to modern 3D technology. An “Art After Hours” reception will be held for “From Clay to Bronze Revisted” on May 7.
To learn more about the stories behind the various public artwork around Baton Rouge, the LASM will host “Public Art Today: A Panel Discussion” on March 31 from 5-7 p.m. featuring a panel of local artists, architects, historians, and art activists. There will also be a free walking tour of public art on April 18 from 10-11 a.m. “Art After Hours” will be held on Friday, March 27 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres will be provided with cost of admission: $7 nonmembers, $5 college students with ID and free for LASM members.