The Louisiana State University Museum of Art was founded in 1959, and since opening its doors to the public in 1962, it has become a thriving part of the Baton Rouge community. The museum consists of over 13,000 square feetand consists of fourteen galleries housing six permanent collections. The museum receives approximately 20,000 visitors annually and is very involved with community outreach programs.
The LSU Museum of Art houses one of the largest university-affiliated art collections in the southern United States, estimated at over 6,000 objects. These exhibitions range from local and regional Louisiana art to European and American sculpture, portraiture, and photography. There is even an outstanding Chinese jade collection and Japanese works on paper. The museum is vital to the preservation of the art and culture of Louisiana, especially since it is the only dedicated art museum in the city of Baton Rouge.
In 2005, the Museum of Art relocated to the fifth floor of the Shaw Center of the Arts in historic downtown Baton Rouge. The building, which used to be a parking garage known as the “auto hotel,” has undergone quite a bit of esthetic improvements, ultimately becoming a piece of art in and of itself. The most notable improvement is the large white addition to the building that appears to hover above the original parking garage structure. It consists of hundreds of translucent glass sections that sparkle in the reflection of the sun-soaked Mississippi River during the day and appears to glow like a lantern at night. This has earned the Shaw Center for the Arts a nickname amongs locals: The Lantern on the Levee.
This simultaneously historic and contemporary building provides the ideal setting for the Louisiana State University Museum of Art to pursue its mission of enriching and inspiring the minds of all who visit it.
The LSU Museum of Art Permanent Collections
The Museum has six permanent collections, five of which are divided by medium: painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, and decorative arts. The sixth permanent collection,which has recently been reinstated, is entitled Art in Louisiana: Views into the Collection. This collection is the current highlight of the museum and focuses solely on the local art and culture of Louisiana.
The LSU Museum of Art is known for its prominent collection of American and European oil on canvas portraiture. The majority of the paintings are from early 19th century American artists, but some items in the collection date back to the mid-14th century. The portraits are traditional and depict members of high society during the time. There are also landscapes from the 19th century in the collection, ranging from the classic to the abstract.
The museum also houses some of the most fascinating and diverse pieces of sculpture. For the most part, the pieces on display are from the 20th century and were created from a wide variety of substances. From heavier metals like steel and cast aluminum to porcelain,wood, and even blown glass, there is endless ingenuity to be found in the museum’s sculpture collection.
A large collection of American, European, and Japanese works on paper are also on display. This collection includes: woodblock print, black lithograph, sumi-e ink, etchings, engravings, and even collages. These works range in style from urban landscape to Japanese woodblock portraiture. Local artist Caroline Wogan Durieux donated one of herprized works entitled Bourbon Street, New Orleans. It was created with black lithograph and is a bold visual of two African-American singers in a jazz club on Bourbon Street. The piece captures the unique musical culture of New Orleans and its locals in the 1940s.
The photography collection at the museum mainly focuses on local landmarks and events. Most of the photographs are from American photographers from the turn of the century. From landscapes depicting the majestic Mississippi River to candid shots of vibrant Mardi Gras parades, the culture of Louisiana comes to life in this collection.
The decorative arts collections contain various works of porcelain, clay, fabric, and glass. Extravagant vases, pitchers, and gold-embellished mantel pieces make up the majority of the collection. This collection is one of the most comprehensive in the Southern United States. It also contains pieces from the newest reinstallation of the museum’s prized collection: Art in Louisiana: Views into the Collection.
As of March 2016, the museum has permanently returned its world-class collection, Art in Louisiana: Views into the Collection.It has been more than 10 years since the collection has been open to the public for viewing. The collection is focused around the unique culture and history of Louisiana and its locals.It contains some of the best decorative arts that Louisiana has to offer, with some pieces from as early as the 1700s. It occupies seven of the museum’s fourteen galleries (over 8000 square feet), with each gallery revolving around a different theme. Each and every piece in the collection has a rich story describing how it impacted Louisiana’s history.
Guest curators with specialized expertise worked with the museum upon the return of the collection in order to put the works into a fresh perspective and global context. The curators worked with each of the seven galleries individually to ensure a dynamic and diverse experience.
Besides highlighting local culture and history, there are two more initiatives that the museum is pursuing: to transform the museum into an art lover’s paradise and to build a larger, more comprehensive educational department at the university. This includes generating more community programs, university curriculum, and gallery tours.
In September, 2016, the museum will be hosting two new exhibitions: Painting Enlightenment: The Art and Science of the Heart Sutra, and Everlasting Calm: The Art of Elliot Dangerfield.
The exhibition of the Heart Sutra highlights the sacred Mahayana Buddhist text that teaches compassion and liberation through understanding. Many believe this text has powers of healing and wisdom and that it has been said to transcend the understanding of both religion and science simultaneously. A melding of science, gold painting, ancient calligraphy, and scripture unfold into a gallery filled with visual wisdom. The exhibition will be on display until November 27th, 2016.
The Art of Elliot Dangerfield is on loan from the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, GA. It highlights the American painter Elliot Dangerfield (1859-1932), an artist who is best known for his focus on religious depictions and landscapes. His goal as an artist was to help the viewer transcend modern life into a greater spiritual understanding and deeper connection with nature. The exhibition will be on display until November 27th, 2016.
Ongoing Programs & Education
The university and the museum have a thriving relationship with local elementary and middle schools, which helps continue vital art education. LSU and the museum are dedicated to art education and advancement in the local community and beyond.
Through creative programs and experiences such as ArtWorks, local youth can receive free opportunities to explore their creativity and grow as individuals. This program differs from typical field trip experiences because it is based on a long-term model. It tracks the students’ educational, social, and emotional development all the way through elementary school.
The museum also offers customizable field trips so teachers can tailor their students’ educational experience. The museum encourages university groups to utilize the galleries for academic discussions and growth as well.
The Neighborhood Arts Project is the museum’s largest community outreach program. It provides meaningful experiences to underprivileged communities where citizens may not have access to summer camps or after-school programs. The Neighborhood Arts Project and its dedicated volunteers, bringing valuable artistic and educational experiences into the community. The children and their families who benefit from these programs lack reliable transportation and the finances to have typical access to museums and art education.
Planning your Visit
The museum offers a wide variety of gallery tours for guests, including guided and self-guided tour options. Whether you are visiting in a group of family and friends, a club, student group, or other professional organization, all groups of 10 or more people will receive a reduced rate on their tour.
More ideas: Louisiana Art and Science Museum.
Custom tours and tours of special collections that may not currently be on view in the gallery can also be arranged with advanced notice. These custom tours are perfect for visitors who have a flair for a specific artist or medium, or who don’t want to miss a chance to see a special collection.
The museum also offers a world-class store where visitors can purchase unique gifts, toys, art, and books. Special merchandise related to current exhibitions will also be available.
Visitors can enjoy a relaxing, sunlit lunch overlooking the Mississippi River on the Shaw Center for the Arts fourth-floor roof terrace. Or, if a cozy picnic is more your group’s style, try the beautiful Lafayette State Park, which is right across the street. If eating out is on the agenda, worry not, as downtown Baton Rouge offers some of the best local Cajun cuisine in Louisiana.
100 Lafayette St, Baton Rouge, LA 70801 website, Phone: 225-389-7200