DENHAM SPRINGS -- Despite difficulties from the coronavirus pandemic, the Arts Council of Livingston Parish is starting 2021 the same way it starts every year — by showcasing the many talents of its artists.
The Arts Council has officially opened its “Salute to the New Year - New Beginnings for 2021” exhibit, which will be on display over the months of January and February.
Opening on Jan. 9, the exhibit will conclude on Saturday, Feb. 20.
Artists and visitors gathered for a reception on Saturday, Jan. 16, giving the public a chance to check out dozens of pieces completed by the organization’s juried artists. The exhibit features artwork from a variety of mediums, including watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings, photography, jewelry, and fiber art.
For the artists, it was a chance for them to continue doing what they love in what has been a challenging year.
“One artist told me, ‘You have to keep the art out there so you don’t lose momentum,’” said board member and past president Mary Felder. “Our artists have been very good about submitting artwork to exhibit here, and we’ve sold a lot of artwork.
“We’re really happy with it, and I think we’ve done a lot for all we’ve had to deal with the last year.”
Even with challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arts Council has managed to stay open and put on exhibits, even adding virtual showcases on its website.
Felder said the organization had “a lot” of visitors for its “100 Under 100” exhibit in November and December and even sold more than a dozen copies of “Preserving the Culture of Livingston Parish,” a collection of artwork and stories celebrating the history and life of Livingston Parish.
“This year has been very hard. It’s really been a struggle to stay open and to allow people to come in,” Felder said. “But we’ve found a way.”
New ACLP President Ken Crotwell attended the reception for the first time in his new position, spending part of the morning serving s’mores bars and hot beverages to visitors. Crotwell, whose family owns nearby James Drug Store, said he was pleased with the artist turnout for the exhibit, especially as the coronavirus continues to rage across the state and the nation.
“We’re trying to make it as normal as possible, but safety comes first,” Crotwell said, noting the limited capacity, addition of hand sanitizer stations, and the mask requirement. “It’s been a little different, but we’re hoping we can keep doing this and putting on exhibits.”
After spending 25 years in the restaurant industry in Mississippi, Crotwell said he hopes his tenure as ACLP president will continue to build on the Arts Council’s emphasis on education.
“It’s about creativity and starting at a young age, which can solve a lot of problems,” Crotwell said. “You just have to give kids a chance to be creative. Children need a place to express themselves, and that can solve a lot of problems.”
After the COVID-19 outbreak last March, the Arts Council began offering virtual classes for children in the community. That led to a virtual summer camp and other classes in the fall.
The Arts Council recently wrapped up a series of decorative painting workshops this month and in February will teach the tips and tricks of colored pencils through a series of Zoom sessions.
Instructor Kerry Curtin, a former Artist of the Year, will also hold his annual spring art classes for young artists in grades 2-6.
“We want to continue the classes,” Crotwell said. “That’s something the Arts Council has done a great job of, and I want to see that continue.”
During the reception, the Arts Council recognized the winners of its two annual awards, the Artist of the Year and the Kathy Reeves Scholarship.
Cherie Ducote-Breaux, a repurposed jewelry maker in Denham Springs, was named the 2020 Artist of the Year, becoming the 17th winner of the award.
Kristine Stone, a food photographer who won Artist of the Year honors in 2018, was named recipient of the Kathy Reeves Scholarship, named after the award-winning wildlife photographer from Denham Springs who passed away in June 2017.