Every artist’s journey is different. While some artists stay in their lane and focus on one creative outlet, others dive in headfirst and explore a wide array of mediums. Baton Rouge is overflowing with talented creatives who know how to hustle. They can be spotted selling their art at Mid City Makers Market one day and headlining a show at Varsity Theatre the next.
For these artists, music and art have a symbiotic relationship. Without music, their art wouldn’t be the same. Without art, some of them wouldn’t have felt brave enough to share their music. But no matter where they are in life—or what global crisis is happening—they turn to music and art to make sense of it all.
And Baton Rouge gets to see the results.
Kimberly Meadowlark is one of many local all-around creatives.
She is a full-time photographer, abstract painter, singer and songwriter on the side. Though she’s always had a love for music, the Denham Springs native only recently performed her original songs for the first time. During the COVID-19 shutdown, she took part in a virtual concert by local online shop Wonder South.
Kimberly Meadowlark and her colorful art flecked with gold leaf.
“Music is my release,” Meadowlark says. “I do a lot of writing, even though I haven’t shared too much original work. For me, writing, playing music and even listening to songs that I relate to validate my feelings.”
The two mediums work hand in hand for the 26-year-old. In August 2019, Meadowlark demonstrated how she sees colors when she listens to music during an interactive art experience at The Market at Circa 1857 titled “Synesthesia.”
Attendees were given headphones to use throughout the night. Under every colorful piece of art there was an MP3 player where guests could listen to the song that inspired each piece—from Billie Eilish to Kacey Musgraves to Dizzy.
Meadowlark isn’t the only local artist who gets inspired to create while listening to music. Madison Buratt is a local apparel designer, abstract painter and singer. The 23-year-old sells bold, geometric and graffiti-like acrylic paintings and beaded bras while also singing in her spare time.
On a whim in 2018, she started sharing videos online of her singing original songs. After she received positive feedback from viewers, Buratt decided to go for it. She released her easy-listening debut album Sick. that same year and never looked back.
“I thought, how far can I push myself in any direction?” Buratt says. “What can I allow myself to do?”
When he’s not playing bass, Christopher Polk builds furniture pieces out of repurposed wood.
On the album, she sings stripped-down coffee house-style songs with only her piano as accompaniment. She plans to continue pushing herself outside her comfort zone and release a second album in 2021.
Someone no stranger to recording albums is Christopher Polk. Before the pandemic, music was at the forefront of his career, playing bass for local bands Alabaster Stag, Third Eye Music Group and The Easy.
During the shutdown, Polk wasn’t able to perform at venues like The Varsity or The Republic in New Orleans anymore. So he returned to one of his original passions: woodwork. The Baton Rouge native had started his woodwork business, M.I.G.I. Creations, in 2008. Over the years, he’s made everything from coffee tables to TV stands out of repurposed wood for local clients. For now, he takes orders through email, and he plans to increase his clientele reach with a website and app. But he hasn’t let go of music completely.
While he works on furniture projects, the 32-year-old is always listening to music. He also plays the bass with Elevate Church of Baton Rouge’s band for its livestreamed services.
Local abstract painter, singer and songwriter Alexis Phillips also began her career early on in the music industry. She was in choir in high school and learned to play the guitar at 16. Since she can remember, she’s always loved singing.
Alexis Phillips has a musical background, so she relies on music to help her paint her abstract pieces.
Before becoming a full-time artist, she played in the folksy duo Two Bear Moon and the band Dirty Little Mouth in Texas. Now, music has shifted from a professional gig to a healing practice while the 34-year-old paints her whimsical, moody and abstract paintings. The music she listens to helps her get lost in the moment.
“I just love when a song really gets you and just blows your mind,” Phillips says. And that emotional connection shows in the rich purples, blacks and other dark colors in her work.
Phillips plans to eventually return to performing music. For now, it’s an outlet to help her convey her feelings as she paints in her downtown studio.
For all of these creatives, the cultural pause of the pandemic has given them license to experiment with their work or take a break from one creative outlet to explore another—all the while still using their hands and voices to keep creating.
“I think the only difference between artists and anyone else living is just the willingness to go with your gut and try things without any expectation,” Buratt says.
This article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.