The Arts Council’s new community center brings a fresh approach to supporting artists

To Baton Rouge’s creative class, the much anticipated Cary Saurage Community Arts Center sounds like heaven.

There’s a kiln room for ceramicists, a black box theater for actors and a recording studio for musicians. There’s ample, flexible studio space where artists can work or collaborate with others. There are community rooms for art exhibitions and live performances. There’s a permanent gallery, a retreat area and a rooftop terrace with downtown views.

The newly minted hub for local arts and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge sits in the former Triangle Building, a once-empty building on St. Ferdinand Street noticeable for its distinct wedge shape. The 1950s structure saw a $3 million transformation that signals a new approach to how the Capital City fosters its arts and culture scene, says Renee Chatelain, the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s executive director. “It’s a pretty extraordinary space,” Chatelain says, “and it’s going to mean so much to artists and to the community.”

A rendering of the Cary Saurage Community Arts Center, as seen from St. Ferdinand Street. Courtesy Ritter Maher Architects
A rendering of the “Shell Gallery,” at the narrow point of the building where St. Ferdinand and Somerulos streets meet. Courtesy Ritter Maher Architects

Along with creative spaces, the center is also the new permanent home of the Arts Council’s administrative offices, previously located for more than 40 years on the second floor of the historic Bogan Fire Station on Laurel Street. 

Among other advantages, the move will give the Arts Council a chance to install pieces from its own permanent collection of visual art throughout the center. The collection includes paintings, stained glass, wood carvings, sculpture and other pieces the organization has either commissioned or collected over its decades of operation in Baton Rouge.

Chatelain says one of the most important aspects of the community arts center is the artists’ studio space, which she says was a direct response to requests from local artists. This part of the building has been finished in an open, minimalist manner so artists can design their individual spaces in a way that best accommodates their work.

“Early on in the process, we heard, ‘Don’t build it out, keep it open.’ So we’re letting artists create the space as they see fit,” Chatelain says. “One artist might need a 5-by-5-foot space, and another may need 20 feet.”

The space is available on a first-come, first-served basis and must be reserved in advance.  

The Arts Council initially planned to welcome the public to the new space with a grand opening in September. But because of the alarming spread of the delta variant in August, that event was rescheduled to January 2022. 

Still, Arts Council staff has already begun operating out of its new digs—and plans to provide space to local artists and arts groups ahead of next year’s grand opening.  

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of 225 magazine.

Editor’s note: 225 editor Jennifer Tormo is on the Arts Council board.

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