Dig Baton Rouge

Advocating for the Arts

A chat with Kelsey Livingston, Director of Visual Arts at the Arts Council

For local artist Kelsey Livingston, community is at the heart of her work both as an artist and as the Director of Visual at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Livingston earned her BFA from California State University Long Beach in drawing and painting, studying the way of the masters. She then pursued an MFA in Studio Art at LSU and had her work shown abroad in Italy, Japan, India, and South Korea. Livingston sat down with DIG, to speak about her work at the Arts Council, the BR arts scene, and what her role is in seeing the arts thrive. 

How did the arts play a role in your childhood? 

Growing up I was always an artsy kid. Most kids are, and the difference happens somewhere around middle school where you either stop drawing or you don’t, and I was one of the ones who did not stop drawing. I was very fortunate because my mom always encouraged it, so I ended up going to art school. Single parent household, so we didn’t have a lot of money, so I was fortunate going to art school with the help of grants. Probably sparked the drive to want to give back and contribute to my community.  

What drew you to the position of Director of Visual Arts? 

After I got my MFA, I sort of stumbled into running the gallery space at the Arts Council. I was having my MFA thesis show at that space and had an idea for an exhibition. They had some space in their calendar and decided to let me curate. It was an international printmaking survey, so I had something around 50 or so artists from mostly national and some international artists. The show was a hit, so the Arts Council offered me a job. I expressed my desire to give back to the artists around me in a real way and had an aptitude for administrative work.  

What were some formative moments or experiences as the Director of Visual Arts at ACGBR? 

Generally getting to know the every-day-artists who live and work in the community. All the different forms of arts that are out there, including those that I would never think of like the Modern Quilt show that was early in my time at the Arts Council. Also getting to know my co-workers in their fields like music, dance, and other arts.  

What excites you about working at ACGBR? 

I like getting a chance to be a part of positive change in my community in a real and measurable way. I love to be a resource for artists, and I like to connect artists with other artists who can help them on their journey. I want to “bloom where I am planted” and to do that I need a thriving arts scene. Working with the regional arts council helps me advocate for the visual arts in a way that I don’t feel I could as an artist alone.  

What do you see as your mission as Director of Visual Arts? 

My goal is to connect people and resources to help talent retention in Baton Rouge. When talented people stay in a community, that community and economy benefit in genuine ways. I want to help be a part of all that.  

What is your vision for the arts scene in BR for the immediate and distant future? 

I am excited for the trajectory of the Ebb and Flow Festival in the city, and its potential to be the arts festival for our city that brings the region out to celebrate all the talent in the area. I am also excited about what Culture Candy is doing in reviving their visual arts promotion in the city. They’ve got some good people at the helm over there. We all work together to make good things happen.

Photos by Sean Gasser

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