By Leslie D. Rose
One drive through the city of Baton Rouge and it is inherently clear that Marc Fresh is its unofficial painter-laureate. His public artwork can be seen at the corner of Government St. and Eddie Robinson, a block north of Florida Blvd. on N. Eugene St., and Christian. St under the Perkins overpass on Fresh Salon.
And now by way of a tour inspired by ExhibitBe – the now destroyed five-story, collaborative graffiti environment of the unoccupied apartment complex in Algiers – Fresh’s work will now directly benefit the community he calls home.
“These pieces will be auctioned off and the money will go back to Capitol middle,” Fresh said. “They are one of the schools that took a field trip to Exhibit Be, came back and created artwork inspired by what they felt.”
Fresh was one of the painters whose work was a part of the large street exhibit that opened in Nov. 2014. Saying he wanted to do something that appealed to a lot of people in a large format, he crafted an angel on the outer walls of one of the dilapidated buildings.
“I’m still in awe at how successful that event turned out,” Fresh said. “It was one of those things where we thought it was possible but didn’t want to get too excited too soon. It just goes to show you that with the right pieces put together, things will fall into place and grow.”
Now on an unidentified amount of cities tour, ExhibitBe’s founder Brandan “BMike” Odums, along with photographer and LSU alumni Patrick Melon made Baton Rouge the first stop of ExhbitBe’s “Paint where it ain’t” project.
A street artist of high acclaim, Odums was of those responsible for the thousands upon thousands who turned out to view the closing day of ExhibitBe in Jan. 2015. Having become familiar with Fresh from his visits to Baton Rouge through street exhibits like melon’s “Art Has a Home”, and by way of the artist’s work at ExhibitBe, it was a no-brainer to have Fresh partner for the tour stop.
So on March 25, sponsored in part by Ole Blaine of Detail, and taking place outside of The Garage (375 N. Foster Drive) during a normal work day, Fresh and Odums began separate art pieces on plywood boards, later to be joined together for the auction benefiting Capitol Middle.
“Bmike and I wanted to collaborate on a design to create a nicely connected piece as opposed to two separate ones,” Fresh said. “After some back and forth, we decided to go with that design of my apple skull spraying his Jimi Hendrix. It logistically worked out nicely so we could each do our section, but still connect the two.”
Proud of the opportunity to do what he loves and also support his community, Fresh said that he believes a project like ExhibitBe would have significance almost anywhere.
“I feel like New Orleans needed it a little more at the time,” he said. “Being one of the most cultured cities in the world, they should be ahead of any city with projects like that. I think if more business owners got murals done, than it would maybe open the right eyes for larger scale projects through the city.”
Fresh continued that Baton Rouge is making its way to city beautification through graffiti artwork thanks to Casey Phillips of the Walls Project, Kevin Harris of Mopa and other city programs and local artists like him.
“The most important goal of public art is to evoke thoughts, reactions and feelings from the public eye,” Fresh said. “Whether good or bad, as long as a piece affects someone’s day, you know you’ve done something right.”