By Tara Bennett
Baton Rouge exploded into a world of creativity over the past weekend as the 12th edition of Art Melt took to the streets. Produced by the young professionals’ organization Forum 35, Art Melt has become a popular summer event and holds the title of the biggest juried art show in Baton Rouge.
Festival participants are selected each year through a jurying process to grace the walls of the Capitol Park Museum. This year’s 380 pieces were judged by a panel of three jurors including Kitty Pheney, the director of new initiatives for the LSU School of Art; Keene Kopper the director of the May Gallery in New Orleans; and Patty Ortiz, an independent curator in San Antonio and former director of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
Placing in first this year was Brittany Sievers for her red earthenware piece, “Welcome Mat.” Featuring a “tread on me” sign, the terra-cotta latticework was laid down on the museum floor for patrons to walk upon. When asked how it felt to win Art Melt this year, Sievers said she was thoroughly surprised and excited.
“This is such a wonderful event, and I already felt lucky enough just to be among the selected artists for the juried show,” said Sievers. “I am thrilled about the response that Welcome Mat has gotten through this show and I am looking forward to my next two years, at least, working in Baton Rouge.”
Welcome Mat was conceived from a larger installation made of the same ceramic pieces during Sievers’ fall semester at LSU. Currently, she is going into her second year as an MFA student in sculpture. According to Sievers, each of the pieces were individually pinched out of earthenware clay and folded over a 2×4 board. By stacking them together, mimicking a weaving pattern, they became stable enough to walk on.
“The scale of this piece really highlights the change over time as the pieces get kicked around or broken, and creates a new path through the piece. This work shifts how an audience interacts with art. Instead of just looking they become a part of the piece and have an experience. It’s definitely an unusual feeling hearing the ping and crunch of ceramic pieces under your feet.”
“It became this really neat interactive piece,” said said Art Melt Chair Ellen Fargason Mathis. “It was neat to see how the piece was transformed through that interaction with the people who came Friday and Saturday.”
When selecting artwork, Pheney explained some of the qualities she looks for are pieces that distinguish themselves or possess a different approach to the medium.
“Just a unique point of view,” said Pheney. “[Welcome Mat] had just a fun, interactive element to it and just the idea behind the piece and the really nice textural quality of all of those little shards stuck together.”
Placing in second place was Weston Lambert for his sculpture entitled “Pocket Sculpture” and placing in third was Morgan Reese with his piece “Buzios.”
Also receiving recognition during the Preview Party was Lin Emery for the impact she and her work have made on the Louisiana art community and her continued public service to Louisiana. Emery is a kinetic sculpture artist based in New Orleans.
Along with the juried exhibition, Art Melt features different spectrums of art including a cultural performance stage, live music, and an arts market where attendees found eclectic work by artists who work in a broad range of mediums — painters, potters, fabric artists, photographers, glass artists, jewelers, woodworkers, and sculptors. In previous years, Art Melt has seen high-level temperatures, but this year the event received cooler temps and a drizzle of rain.
“We were prepared for much hotter temps, and the weather actually ended up being a nice surprise for the evening,” said Mathis. “Everything went great. It looks like a lot of people got to go experience the exhibit, which is the crown jewel of Art Melt.”
Performing on the cultural stage was an array of acts ranging from belly dancing, theatre performances, spoken word and contemporary dance. The level of arts and culture was found to be reassuring and inspiring for audience members.
“Arts and culture are back,” said Neda Parandian, who spent the day body painting three aerialists from AirSeekers with Gabriel Aguilar. “We are using [Art Melt] as our inspiration for developing more opportunities for artists.”
While attendees gain entertainment for the day, the performers also gain exposure for their art.
“It was an honor to perform,” said Bambi Pizzolato, who saw Art Melt as an outlet to get belly dance seen in Baton Rouge. “The event staff is wonderful and helpful. It is always great to bring belly dance as an art form to an audience that appreciates art.”
Performing on the main stage for the night were PACIFICO, Bedlamville Triflers, The Chambers and Corey Ledet & the Zydeco Band. Closing out the night was a performance by AirSeekers, a Baton Rouge-based aerialist group.
“This has become a kind of a unique Baton Rouge event, and it has gained momentum every year,” said Pheney. “I think it’s great. My whole professional career has been around the arts and so certainly an annual event that not only celebrates art, but presents art, gives artists of all kinds this opportunity I’m just 100 percent supportive of it. I think it’s a great lasting art event. Obviously by the support and turnout it’s really brought people’s attention to the arts.”
2015 Art Melt Winners
First place: Brittany Sievers for “Welcome Mat”
Second place: Weston Lambert for “Pocket Sculpture”
Third place: Morgan Reese for “Buzios”
Forum 35 Award: “Deceived by Shadows” by Michael Aldana
The Ann Connelly Fine Art Award: “Souls Release” by Megan Buccere
Forum 35 Louisiana Art Legend Award: Lin Emery
Honorable mention: Irene Kato for “Seek”
Honorable mention: Mark Vargo for “The Expansion & Exploration of Human Experience”
Honorable mention: Robert Dutruch for “Champignon D’Hui Tre”