Dig Baton Rouge

I’ll Melt With You: Art Melt chair Jeremy Meiske talks 2016 event

It was during the ‘60s when the city’s art scene began to develop, after the emergence of the Baton Rouge Gallery. Since then, Baton Rouge has seen a substantial amount of popularity in local artist’s showcases and festivals.
One of these festivals is Art Melt, organized by the young professionals group Forum 35. Each year, Art Melt strives to “promote professional artists throughout the state of Louisiana while providing an opportunity for the public to experience the best of local fine art, music and performing arts.”
“This is one of the bigger events that Forum 35 puts on for the community,” said Jeremy Meiske, the 2016 Art Melt chair. “We do a lot of service projects…there are a number of things that go on, but this is kind of the single biggest item.”
According to Meiske, Forum 35 is always open to new initiatives, which is how Art Melt began. Forum 35 has two main events each year, one being a developmental event, which is a fundraiser, and then a project event, which is where Art Melt falls. Arts and culture are one of the three core pillars of Forum 35’s mission along with diversity and leadership.
“I think the three core pillars really highlight what makes a city great,” Meiske said. “I think that Baton Rouge is at a point where we have the population, we have the interest, and now it’s just a matter of getting people involved in the right areas, doing the right things to push it to the next level…I think people recognize that the arts are vital in creating a vibrant community.”
The idea for Art Melt began 13 years ago when a core group of individuals led by John Jackson approached the board with their idea and received the startup money. Eventually, the event grew traction and has become the largest multi-media, juried art exhibition in Louisiana.
According to Meiske, the previous chairs and committees wanted this event to be for the public as a way to expose them to art, and to have access to one another. The format will be the same this year, and Meiske said any major shifts new to the event will be a multi-year discussion.
“We want to make sure we’re not taking away from the main mission,” Meiske said.
This is the first year Meiske has chaired for Art Melt, and he explained that to become the chair is a bit of both expressing interest in the position as well as being nominated. The chair for last year’s Art Melt approached Meiske, asking if he would be interested, and then Meiske prepared his resume for the board who then decided who they would appoint as chair.
“It’s a little bit of appointment and interest,” Meiske said. “It’s a hybrid of both.”
The primary duty of the chair is empowering the other committee members to make sure each piece of Art Melt is happening. Committees include entertainment, catering, the preview party, awards and more.
“These people are volunteering their time for months prior to the event; I think the primary duty of being chair is to make sure I’m touching base with everyone and making sure they’re getting what they need,” Meiske said.
For Meiske, this year’s Art Melt has become more important to him as the event gets closer as it demonstrates that core mission of bringing art exposure to the city of Baton Rouge, and providing new opportunities for learning and growth.
Meiske said last year’s winner created a brand new sensory experience. Brittany Sievers won 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.
“That’s something that’s kind of off the wall that was really cool,” Meiske said.
One of the biggest challenges of putting on Art Melt is balancing one’s personal life along with putting in the time to make Art Melt happen. However, Meiske said the involvement from the community makes it worthwhile.
“I know that time is a personal challenge for many people; beyond that though, I think we have a fantastically supportive community. We have not had a huge problem with the involvement of businesses and other organizations that partner with us. Everyone’s been pretty fantastic this year.”
The main benefits for artists involved in Art Melt each year are the awards, but more so the massive boost in exposure, according to Meiske, as one of the goals is to put out new artists.
“I personally went through and liked a lot of different Facebook pages off of last year’s entries,” Meiske said. “I may not be able to afford this right now, but in the future I want to keep up to date on this artist and what they’re doing. I want to see more of it. I think it’s important to give them the spotlight whenever we can.”
Art Melt 2016 will take place on July 22 and 23 at the Capital Park Museum in Downtown Baton Rouge.

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