Dig Baton Rouge

So Fresh: Bringing color to Baton Rouge

 

Baton Rouge artist Marc Verret is leaving a mark on the Capitol City in a big way, adding a little color and inspiring local youth to do the same through summer workshops.

Verret has been painting murals all over the city for a few years. He’s done about 40 so far, many of them on the sides of businesses in Mid City. While some are his own creation, most of them are commissioned by the business owner. He’s done work for gyms, hair salons, restaurants, and bars.

For the past few years, Verret has worked with kids around Baton Rouge in the Summer Youth Employment Program. The summer workshop is in coordination with the BR Walls Project. The program brings in high school kids to paint, garden, and do other artsy tasks to make the city beautiful.

“Every year we do an MLK Day with the Walls Project too,” he said, “We get several different artists to do the mural, and then we get community volunteers to come and help.”

The age of participants in MLK Day ranges from adults to kids, and Verret has joined in the effort for the past five years. He got involved in the projects after organizers reached out to him. Already familiar with his work, it was clear Verret was a great fit for the event.

“It  gives them ownership of the artwork so they’ll come back and say ‘I did that,’ and just some experience they’ve never had,” Verret said.

The summer program is only three days long, so Verret doesn’t have much time to help the kids grow from amateurs to artists. But he finds ways to simplify it so kids of all artistic abilities can participate. Patience, he said, is often the biggest challenge for the kids.

“I’ll sketch it out and do a color by number coloring book style, and then all the kids will just paint it in,” Verret said.

The subject matter of the murals is usually up to the owners discretion. Owners work with project coordinators to find something that suits the needs of the business. Verret said it’s usually something uplifting and positive that brightens up the area. Although it’s tough to pick a favorite, Verret said he’s a fan of the giant eagle on Government Street, which he painted on a local alternative school for teens who drop out. The eagle is next to school supplies, and the colorful mural seeks to shine some light on the kids and get them amped up as they come in to learn.

A lot of work goes into painting a mural big enough to cover the side of a building, especially if that building is two or more stories tall. Renting a lift is really the only way to complete a piece that stretches 20 feet in the air and just as far across. Verret can usually finish a mural in a few days, but some bigger pieces take up to a week to complete. The longest he’s worked on a project like that is two weeks.

A lifelong artist, Verret did receive formal art training at LSU. He also took art classes in high school, after his humble start with colored pencils as a child. Using his degree comes naturally, but making the business aspect of his art come together is the challenge as of late.

“You just hype up like you would with any small business. Social media, whatever you can do to get your stuff out to people,” Verret said. “You just have to be around to where if someone needs something they think of you.”

That’s why you can often find Verret at local art festivals downtown and in Mid City, because he said it’s important to stay relevant. He even does live paintings so attendees can see him in action. The process takes around two or three hours start to finish. It’s a fun and creative way to get his name out and meet new people, since marketing is most of the work.

Art-lovers can commission Verret for a painting as large as they can dream it, or small enough to fit inside their homes. You can check out his work on Facebook and Instagram @marcfreshart.

Image: Sean Gasser

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