2021 People to Watch – Ellen Ogden

You may not know her name yet, but you probably know her work.

Ellen Ogden is a Baton Rouge artist behind many of the vibrant murals and whimsical sign art around town. Her lively creations have been painted on the windows and walls of businesses like Wanderlust by Abby, The Royal Standard, Hey Penelope, MJ’s Cafe, Pure Barre Baton Rouge and Olive or Twist.

The 32-year-old has been passionate about art for as long as she can remember. She studied painting and art history at LSU. She thought she wanted to work at museums but learned she hated sitting still. In 2016, she got her start in painting murals at Trader Joe’s in Metairie. From that year on, she painted dozens of murals around Louisiana.

Photo by Sean Gasser

Ogden paints everything from chalkboard menus to large-scale murals. Most of her work includes bright colors, mixed fonts and elements from nature like flowers, trees, leaves and grass. She works primarily with businesses and nonprofits to execute each client’s vision.

One of the pieces that has meant the most to her was an intricate mural of Lady Justice made for The Walls Project’s mural series, One Rouge, focused on the nine drivers of poverty in the United States.

The mural represents the wage gap in Louisiana, especially affecting single heads of households. It depicts Lady Justice as a strong woman pulling her blindfold off and shaking the scales of equality. The man’s scale is blue and weighed down, and the woman’s scale is pink, going up in smoke and dropping lotus seeds to grow flowers beneath it, which represent feminine power.

Since COVID-19 began, things have looked a bit different for the Baton Rouge artist. She took voluntary leave from sign art at Trader Joe’s and focused her efforts on community work. In 2020, she started her window art project Reflect Love. She wanted a way to continue painting but also bring life to businesses in an economically challenging time. She began reaching out to local shops, asking to paint on their windows.

Before she knew it, she had an influx of inquiries about the window art. She made an online form for people to request window paintings at their businesses. Ogden worked with fellow Baton Rouge chalkboard and sign artist Jennifer Hester of Blooming Chalk to paint positive messages like “reflect love,” “let kindness spread,” and “sprinkle joy,” on local stores’ windows.

In the future, Ogden plans to expand her online platform. She wants to begin selling prints and develop her website for people to view her work.

“My favorite part of my job is meeting a new client and figuring out what they’re excited about,” Ogden says. “When the puzzle pieces fit and they approve the design and see how it transforms the space, it’s the best.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of 225 magazine.