Rodneyna Hart has big plans for the BR art scene
Football games in LSU’s Death Valley and Cajun food with names like etouffee and gumbo are familiar trappings which make up the fabric of Baton Rouge. However, if Rodneyna Hart gets her way, a vibrant art culture will also be tantamount to the capital city’s narrative.
It’s clear that Hart was destined to be an artist. Albeit a coincidence, it’s no surprise that the word art makes up the last three letters of her last name, (by marriage), as art is at the essence of Hart’s being. She drew her first recognizable feature when she was two and had her first art show as a teenager.
Hart, the Exhibitions Manager at the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, and the Art Manager/Curator at the Healthcare Gallery believes that Baton Rouge’s art identity is evolving.
“There is lots of support for it,” Hart said. “It ranges in all demographics. Entities such as The Walls Project, The Museum of Public Art, and The Red Stick Project have done a wonderful job of bringing art to a larger community.”
While Baton Rouge’s museums and galleries are showcasing some of the most talented artists in the area, Hart also believes the city is making progress with the accessibility of public art.
“We have murals now. Art is now in the public sphere, it’s ubiquitous. You don’t have to go to a singular space to experience art in Baton Rouge anymore.”
Hart said tax incentives, offered by the Louisiana Cultural District program, exempting customers from sales taxes on original art purchases in certain areas has helped to expand Baton Rouge’s cultural landscape. She suggests more art making spaces and low-cost studios can also foster a thriving art culture.
“We have lots of infrastructure that is untapped,” Hart said. “I see buildings and I think they would be amazing artist studios or performance spaces. It would be nice to have a clay studio here.”
As an accomplished artist, Hart places impetus on the community to support the arts. “If not with your money, then with your time,” Hart said. “Go to a different gallery/museum or cultural space every month. It must become a part of your normal routine.”
Hart, who attended Baton Rouge High School, and received her Bachelor of Arts, Studio Arts, from Louisiana State University with a dual concentration in sculpture and painting, is the first to heed her own advice.
“If no one else shows up I want to be there, because the only way we’re going to grow is if we have dedication. I want to make sure my art community is as robust as possible.”
Hart often finds herself as the only person of color at local art events. She believes a city as diverse as Baton Rouge should reflect similar representation in its art identity.
“There is a lack of integration in a lot of the art in Baton Rouge,” Hart said. “Representation matters. You want to see something that represents you. When I have the opportunity, I absolutely open that door.”
Hart feels that art is supposed to be aspirational, larger than yourself.
“The artist is creating something that can exist for perpetuity,” Hart said. “The purpose of art is to propel culture forward.”
As one of Baton Rouge’s fiercest artists and advocates, that is exactly what she is aiming to do.
Photos by Ronni Bourgeois