By John Hanley
As music grows more and more digitized with applications like iTunes and Spotify, CDs and vinyl albums have become more or less obsolete. But many people still collect vinyls for their sound and, perhaps more importantly, their aesthetic. Vinyls still have enough of a draw to keep them alive—even enough to land them a spot in the Manship Theatre.
From May 28 to August 2, the theatre’s art gallery (The Gallery) is hosting The Art of Vinyl, an appreciation of the cover artwork for vinyl albums. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and features vinyls contributed from local shops like The Atomic Pop Shop, Lagniappe Records, and Capital City Records, along with local collectors Alex Cook, Eric Babin, Lee Barbier, and Paul Dean. The exhibit also features original paintings by T.J. Black, Paul Dean, and Scott Finch that are inspired by the exhibit itself. The Art of Vinyl is sponsored by local businesses Chelsea’s Café, Radio Bar, Chesteen & Associates, and John and Lisa Burns of Christian Street Furniture.
According to Liz Goad, the director of Development for The Gallery at the Manship, the exhibit features almost 100 framed vinyl albums that the contributors viewed as highlights in their collections and inventories. The vinyls range from well used to brand new, but they all represent something important.
“I wanted to work with vinyl enthusiasts in the community to find out what was important to them at this moment, and what has influenced them throughout their careers as artists, designers, and musicians,” said Goad. “It has been fascinating to see each of [the contributors’] unique interpretations for the show. Some focus on the particular design element like color or form, while other highlight thematic content within the album images. Combined into a single exhibition, they create a visual harmony that we could not have planned better.”
Goad says the theatre advertised the show during Record Store Day on April 18, and received tremendous support from the public, with more vinyl submissions than they could fit in the exhibit. As a sort of “thank you” to those supporters and as general promotion for the exhibit, the Manship is hosting a free and public Opening Reception and Listening Party on June 19 from 6-8 p.m. The reception will feature a performance from Lee Barbier, who will play music from some of the albums in the exhibit, as well as food from Chelsea’s Café and a chance to meet the artists and collectors that are featured in the exhibit.
“It’s exciting to see Baton Rouge taking part in the vinyl renaissance,” said Goad, referencing the recent resurgence in the popularity of vinyl albums. Part of this excitement for Goad stems from her interest in the blend of pop culture, art, and art exhibits. “This is happening at institutions like [the Museum of Modern Art], where they have recently acquired video games like Pac-Man and Tetris into their collections. As a performing arts organization, Manship Theatre wanted to explore the exchange between visual arts and music, and the cultural resonance of iconic album images. The original artworks…alongside the albums also relate to the intersection between art, music, and pop culture.”
Indeed, this intersection between the arts and pop culture can be seen everywhere, from music videos to movies to album covers and exhibitions like this one. Beyond that, as Goad says, “Album covers are an art form that is instantly recognizable and relatable.” It is thus that this exhibit offers a glimpse into our culture through a blend of art and music that is understandable, relatable, and ultimately, fascinating.