Art Al Fresco
Are you tired of staying home watching the news? Do you need something uplifting? Try art. While COVID-19 has disrupted the schedules of art galleries and museums, Louisiana has several fascinating outdoor art spaces open to the public. They range from a small garden in Chauvin, dedicated to the artwork of a single, enigmatic artist to a nationally acclaimed sculpture garden in New Orleans with artwork by many of the world’s best known contemporary artists.
For a good autumn walk, here are a few suggestions.
Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden, 5337 Bayouside Dr., Chauvin. Along Bayou Petit Caillou sits a remarkable sculpture garden built by the mysterious bricklayer Kenny Hill. Here larger-than-life concrete angels and monuments rise from the banks of the bayou like some apocalyptic Biblical struggle between damnation, redemption and salvation. Hill showed up in Chauvin in the late 1980s to work at local construction sites. Over the next decade, he built his garden. Then one day in January 2000, he walked away, never again to be seen in Chauvin. Now operated by Nicholls State University, the garden is open daily and admission is free.
African-American Sculpture Garden, 709 E. Louisiana St., Hammond. Dr. Charles Smith describes his African-American Heritage Museum and Sculpture Garden as a spiritual mission directed by God to tell the story of Black America and to save the nation. Here hundreds of Dr. Smith’s handmade concrete statues stare out to the street, waiting to tell their stories. And this self-taught artist, Vietnam vet and spreader of the Gospel has riveting tales to tell. For visits, call 504-931-5744.
Located in City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features 90 world-class artworks spread out in a picturesque 11-acre floral landscape. The nearby Helis Foundation Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden is dedicated to magnificent work by the Mexican-born sculptor who for over a half-century created graceful statuary for gardens and buildings throughout New Orleans. In addition, the park is filled with his artwork created for the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Also, don’t miss his recently restored and once controversial WPA-era “Fountain of the Four Winds” located at the Lakefront Airport. For the Besthoff garden hours and entrance fees, see noma.org, and for the Alférez Sculpture Garden, neworleanscitypark.com
R. W. Norton Art Gallery, 4747 Creswell Ave., Shreveport. The Norton’s 40 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens feature eight bronze sculptures such as American-Canadian Sandy Scott’s “Brown Pelican,” a playful pair of playful otters titled “Ring of Bright Water” by the Swedish sculptor Kent Ullberg, and American sculptor Bart Walter’s life-size “Mountain Silverback.” The most engaging piece is the bronze “Monet” by American artist Gary Lee Price. Open daily and admission is free.
Louisiana Capitol, Baton Rouge. The city’s best sculpture garden is not a sculpture garden at all but the State Capitol built in 1931-1932 by Governor Huey Long. Monumental statues and a bas-relief frieze sculpted across the skyscraper’s façade — executed by prominent mid-20th century American artists including Louisiana’s Angela Gregory and Juanita Gonzales — depict various aspects of Louisiana’s culture and history. At the top of the stairs, step inside to see the spectacular Memorial Hall filled with statues of historical figures, murals, bas-relief artwork and Italian red marble walls. For brief descriptions of the artwork, visit the Society of Architectural Historians’ website (sah-archipedia.org) and search “Louisiana Capitol” or bring along Vincent Kubly’s book “The Louisiana Capitol: Its Art and Architecture.”
Across from the Capitol lies the pleasantly landscaped Capitol Garden with its imposing 12-foot statue of Huey Long by New York sculptor Charles Keck. With outstretched arms, “The Kingfish” faces forever his beloved capitol. Literally, for his tomb lies below the statue.
Although you have to search for them, downtown Baton Rouge has several outdoor sites with impressive artworks. Be sure to visit Galvez Plaza and River Center Plaza to see works by the acclaimed California-based Po Shu Wang, Louisiana artist Frank Hayden, Croatian-American Ivan Mestrovic, and New Orleans physician-sculptor Arthur Silverman. With these and other art sites, the city has greatly improved the downtown experience.
While visiting Louisiana’s outdoor art spaces, check with local art museums. You never know. They might be open, too.
Bridging the Mississippi: Spans across the Father of Waters
Photographer Philip Gould documents bridges and their historic significance along the Mississippi River, through April 3, 2021. Paul and Lulu Hilliard Art Museum, Lafayette. hilliardmuseum.org
Collected Visions: Louisiana’s Artistic Lineage
Features the connected visions of Louisiana artists over the last century, through 2022. Alexandria Museum of Art. themuseum.org
Capital City Contemporary 5: Water
A biennial featuring contemporary artworks by local and regional artists, through Dec. 13. Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Baton Rouge. lasm.org
Arte Sacra: Roman Catholic Art from Portuguese India
Explores cross-European and Indian artistic influences of Roman Catholic art in India, through June 20. New Orleans Museum of Art. noma.org
Kogyo: Japanese Theatre Woodblock Prints
Features over 50 Japanese color woodblock prints, masks and history of Japanese Noh theatre. Nov. 27, 2021-Feb. 5, 2022. Masur Museum, Monroe. masurmuseum.org
→ Editor’s Note: Due to COVID-19 phasing, call ahead to confirm in-person exhibit visits