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Art Unwrapped

Culture Candy returns renewed & revived

Arts and culture in Baton Rouge are about to get sweeter with the recent revitalization of Culture Candy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to showcasing emerging artists in Baton Rouge.

Originally, Culture Candy was the brainchild of local artist and musician Bill Kelley. Kelley saw a void in local arts programming in the city, and together with a group of young artists, he created Culture Candy, which offered programming as well as an online calendar that listed all the cultural happenings in Baton Rouge.

Over time, Culture Candy and its website went dormant due to the former executive director moving on to further her education, and Facebook becoming the popular platform for promoting local events. Today, however, Facebook’s algorithm has put a limitation on how people can become aware of events. Combining that with organizations such as Elevator Projects fading away, there was still a need for Culture Candy’s original mission.

Enter Rodneyna Hart, who works for Louisiana Art & Science Museum and The Healthcare Gallery. After seeing a real need for an artist hub, Hart decided to renew Culture Candy’s branding and create a new cultural presence for artists, starting with revitalizing the Culture Candy website and relaunching the Stabbed in the Art pop-up show.

“I saw where there was a great need for both of them to return and for Stabbed in the Art to be sustainable if it can work under an organization that could regularly see to its function, return and sustainability,” Hart said.

Hart serves as the Executive Director of Culture Candy and works alongside a board of directors made up of creatives and professionals who support the arts. According to Culture Candy Board President Jennifer Dewey, the long-term goal for Culture Candy is to help monetize and grow the creative community in Baton Rouge.

“We plan on achieving that by executing and supporting cool creative events happening in Baton Rouge,” Dewey said.

One of those events is Stabbed in the Art, a pop-up art party for emerging artists. The show made its return in June at Radio Bar and served as the Culture Candy rebrand launch party. It is one of the first events Culture Candy will produce. Artists are provided a venue to put up and sell their artwork. According to Hart, other art practices will be integrated in the event.

“We now have a performance art element that is in each of the events,” Hart said. “And we’re also bringing in culinary arts, and bringing in arts professionals to do a one-on-one with emerging artists. We’re trying to elevate craft.”

Dewey explained that Stabbed in The Art will serve as an exhibition opportunity for artists who haven’t gained much exposure and will allow for community support by giving artists the ability to receive feedback.

“Stabbed in The Art addresses a common issue young or fledgling artists face. ‘How do I exhibition, sell my work and build my resume?’” Dewey said. “It can be tough or impossible to get into a gallery with little to no exhibition experience. Also, it gives the community the opportunity to see that there is art being created right in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge has a large creative community; creativity does not just reside in New Orleans. It is alive and well here.”

Another upcoming program is Studio Jaunt. This six-week gallery tour will provide artists the opportunity to view the collections of community members, the studio spaces of Baton Rouge artists and gallery spaces with the artists and collectors present. One of the more ambitious programs is Surreal Estate, which aims to seek out condemned, temporary or neglected architecture and transform it into an encompassing work of art.

“It’s just another way to feel like art is strong and alive here,” Dewey said.

Along with the upcoming programming, Culture Candy is revitalizing its website and turning it into an Arts and Artist Index that allows artists’ skills to be searchable. As a member of the index, artists can post to a calendar about their upcoming exhibitions, put their studio or gallery on the map and share a portfolio on their profile.

According to Hart, the response to Culture Candy’s renewal has been positive. With community support, Hart would like to see Stabbed in the Art turn into a travel show and appear in various areas of Baton Rouge.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook, it’s amazing. It’s so beautiful to see how much…people are interested,” Hart said. “If you build it, they’ll come. So, let’s make some art in North Baton Rouge, bring the local cultural community in, and show how united we can be as a city.”

Photos by Blair Thompson

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