By Tara Bennett
Art has staying power, an undeniable fact. Baton Rouge’s Forum 35 believes art possesses keeping power, too.
The state’s largest multi-media juried art exhibit returns this summer with the11th annual Art Melt. The event will open on July 19 at the Capitol Park Museum in downtown Baton Rouge from 5-10 p.m. and admission is free to the public. Art Melt is presented by Forum 35, a young professionals organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life in Baton Rouge.
“Our main focus is trying to keep young professionals here. We’re trying to make it a place where we want to live.”
“Our main focus is trying to keep young professionals here,” said Sean McDonald, the 2014 chairperson for the Art Melt committee. “[We’re] trying to make it a place where we want to live.”
According to McDonald, Art Melt is the organization’s biggest arts and cultural event, and serves to feature artists from all across the state and provide public exposure to local art, music and performing arts. The name Art Melt originated from when the art show took place entirely outside 11 years ago.
“Downtown was not quite where it is today,” said McDonald. “There were no air-conditioned gallery spaces, so the night of Art Melt was literally a melt for the people that were there at the time.”
Since then the term Art Melt has evolved into experiencing a melting pot of the arts all at once.
“That’s always been the effort of [Art Melt] is to try to bring all these things together,” said McDonald. “It‘s here to show all of the talent we have here in our community.”
As in Art Melts past, the public event will be preceded by the Art Melt Preview Party held on Friday, July 18 from 7-11 p.m. in the museum. At the preview party, guests will be able to mingle with the featured artists, purchase artwork and get a first look at the exhibited works prior to the Art Melt public opening. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served along with entertainment by the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra. Tickets are still available at $75 each and cocktail attire is required.
According to McDonald, Art Melt received over 450 entries this year, which will be culled down to around 50-70 pieces to adorn the gallery space of the museum on the third floor. There will be a wide arrange of mediums including photography, painting, sculptures and installs.
“It’s all about supporting the artists themselves and giving them the exposure,” said McDonald.
During the preview party, the winners will be announced for first, second and third place, with cash prizes. This year’s winners were selected by three jurors; one local, one regional and one national. This year’s local juror is the LSU Museum of Art’s newly appointed curator Katie Pfohl. The regional juror is Ben Thompson, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Florida. Eric Dallimore serves as the national juror. Dallimore is co-owner and curator of Leon Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Denver, Colorado and a graduate of LSU.
The events on Saturday kick off with “Arts and the Economy,” a panel discussion that will include members of the local arts community and support organizations. The panel is free and open to the public, and will be held at the Capitol Park Museum starting at 4 p.m.
Immediately following the panel, guests will be able to view the art exhibit and experience the outside entertainment until 10 p.m. This year’s featured lineup on the music stage is SpeakEasy at 5:15 p.m., the Bedlamville Triflers at 7:15 p.m. and Baby Bee at 9 p.m., with the Brian Breen Trio performing in the museum. Performers on the cultural performance stage include Eclectic Truth Poetry Slam Team, Gulf Coast Theater on Tap, Of Moving Colors, Dance Collective BR, Cangelosi Dance Project, Baton Rouge Music Studio and Buku Breakers.
“It’s just such an eclectic event,” said McDonald. “There’s so much different stuff to see. It’s always growing.”
New to Art Melt this year is the children’s activities art yard featuring projects and crafts in conjunction with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Children will be able to practice different art making techniques including pottery, screen printing and the annual graffiti wall. According to McDonald, the Art Melt committee wanted to provide activities that kids could enjoy after seeing the increased number of families attending the event.
“We always saw the kids wanting something hands-on to do,” said McDonald.
Along with the artwork and entertainment, food trucks will be stationed on North 4th Street between Spanish Town Road and North Street. Food booths from several local restaurants will also be available this year. Also featured is the Art Melt Marketplace area in front of the museum where one-of-a-kind pieces will be available for purchase.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said McDonald. “It’s a great community event. Just show up, come have fun and see the art.”
Following the Art Melt Preview Party and opening night, the juried exhibit will remain on display at the museum until Aug. 30. For more information, visit www.artmelt.org.