By Peter Jenkins
If you’ve noticed an increase in public art in the Baton Rouge area during the past few years, The Walls Project probably had something to do with it. If you haven’t heard of The Walls Project yet, they are a local nonprofit created back in November 2012 and they “intend to bridge the gap between the artistic and business communities in order to accomplish not only city beautification but also economic development in order to serve a greater social good,” according to their website.
Every major city around the company has some rendition of a successful public art initiative both because people enjoy it and because it has a positive economic development impact on the area. Many people who come to Baton Rouge come for events, family and yes the legislative session. Public art not only gives city residents a new way to experience our city, but they also help increase tourism. Public art brings more tax dollars to a city because people travel for art. Many people may come to Baton Rouge for the first time for a local convention, sports tournament, race or the myriad of other attractions and events that our city offers. While they’re here, they are going to explore our city, and hopefully, they will find it to be a beautiful place that they can’t wait to visit again.
Casey Phillips from The Walls Project was excited to talk about what the group has planned for 2016. Casey spoke of a number of new initiatives they will be working on in the coming year including #10WordStoriesBR in partnership with Forward Arts, the #BikeTheWalls club, #MyWall student mural initiative and more. They will also be working to bring “more mural and sculptural installations across the city.” Casey says that “a team of artists, entrepreneurs, marketing specialists, urban planners and architects contribute daily” to help make the group successful and that they are always looking to work with other local artists to help move their mission forward.
People across the city have taken notice of what The Walls Project has already accomplished. “Everyday I walk by the Mentorship Academy on Florida Street and smile,” Metro Council member John Delgado. “Not only because of the beautiful artwork but because I am reminded that Baton Rouge is in many ways a blank canvas.”
“I look at some of the art that has been painted in South Baton Rouge and think, ‘Wow, we could build a real arts district in Baton Rouge,’” said Gary Chambers, a local advocate for the development of North Baton Rouge. “How amazing would it be when people arrive at the airport in Baton Rouge to drive through a North Baton Rouge that helps tell the story of our city in a beautiful way?”
One of the projects that Phillips mentioned they are working on is the #10WordStoriesBR initiative. The Walls Project and Forward Arts, Inc., are teaming up to put this event together. Donney Rose, a local poet and the Marketing Director for Forward Arts, is pumped up for this collaboration between the two groups, which is “a community dialogue spoken through words and walls.”
“Baton Rougeans are encouraged to submit 10-word poems about their lived Baton Rouge experiences,” said Rose. The most compelling poems will be selected to be placed on 15 different buildings throughout the city. Rose ended by saying that anyone who wants to participate in the 10 words initiative can submit their stories from Jan. 4th until Feb. 1st. Just contact Forward Arts and they will help you out.
Baton Rouge has a rich cultural history that can shine now more than ever. We have entered the digital age, and if we don’t keep up, our city will be left behind. Groups like The Walls Project, Forward Arts and others are keeping our city moving and showing each of us that our city can be so much more.