Dig Baton Rouge

Public Art: Then and Now

By John Hanley

 

With a glance around downtown, you’re bound to find art somewhere. Whether you’ve been keeping up with the Walls Project, visiting local art museums like the Museum of Public Art, or simply enjoying the colorful street art, local art in Baton Rouge has been quietly showing its face for quite some time. And for the past few weeks, the Louisiana Art and Science Museum (LASM) has been giving that art the attention it deserves in an exhibition called Monuments & Metaphors: Art In Public Spaces.

The exhibition, which debuted March 21 and continues until June 28, features almost 50 art pieces from renowned local artists like Frank Hayden, Ivan Mestrovic, and Angela Gregory, and dating back to the 1930s. According to Elizabeth Weinstein, the exhibit’s curator, Monuments & Metaphors showcases the history and labor behind some of those artists’ work and displays current murals that can be found around Baton Rouge today, like those of the Walls Project.

“We wanted to show the current and still expanding world of public art in Baton Rouge today…whether they were mobile sculptures, stained glass windows, or painted murals on the sides of homes in old south Baton Rouge,” she said. “The projects and methods chosen for display reflect the modernization of our city, but retain the spirit of past public works. Great figures are still honored and messages that speak directly to the Baton Rouge citizen are still prevalent.”

This duality of modern style and traditional spirit is encapsulated in the exhibit’s two floors. The first floor features works from the local artists, explaining the thought and work processes that go into bringing an artistic idea to life; the second floor shows how modern technology has been incorporated into public art. The exhibit essentially leads the viewer through Baton Rouge’s public art history, starting with historical artists and techniques and leading the viewer into the modern age of public art in the city.

Douglas Kennedy, LASM communications coordinator, says these two sides help viewers to make the important connection between art and other disciplines.

“What’s really incredible about this exhibition is that visitors are able to make connections between the disciplines of art, science, and history in order to better understand what they are seeing,” he said. “For example, we have pieces in the show that were made using modern 3D printing and scanning technology. This allows our visitors to discover ways in which art and science connect in incredible ways; inspiring, what we think, is a deeper [understanding] of the world in which they live.”

Technology definitely offers a deeper understanding for art in this exhibit, with displays like From Clay to Bronze Revisited. This part of the exhibit uses videos and models to compare older processes used for bronze casting with more modern processes involving 3D technology. The exhibit highlights not only the modernization and shift in technology but also the processes, sentiments, and motivations behind the works. As Weinstein explains:

“Public art is not created by a solitary artist. Instead, it is often a labor-intensive project carried out by a group of people who believe that locating art where people live, work, and play improves the quality of life. As such, the shape and placement of public art reflects what the community values and becomes part of our shared cultural history.”

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