A new fitness trail debuting downtown this month promises more public art for Baton Rouge

Taylor Jacobsen runs in the shape of a heart. It’s a perfect 5 kilometers, weaving along the river and through historic landmarks around the State Capitol, downtown businesses, painted murals and the Spanish Town neighborhood.

Jabobsen’s personal running route gave him an idea. The Baton Rouge artist and designer approached Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge president Renee Chatelain with a proposal for a new trail combining physical fitness with public art.

Together, Jacobsen and the Arts Council created the heART Trail, a running and walking route through downtown Baton Rouge that incorporates both existing and new temporary art installations.

“What we wanted to add were pieces of art that were wayfinding but also discovery points,” Chatelain says. “Art would be driving your path.”

The heART Trail will be unveiled at this month’s Ebb & Flow Festival. Maps will be available at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum downtown during the festival, and Front Yard Bikes will provide bikes for rent.

The trail’s first installed piece brings a new medium to the Baton Rouge public arts scene: a crocheted mural. The piece by Philadelphia artist Olek depicts opera singer and civil rights activist Marian Anderson with the message, “You lose a lot of time hating people.”

The mural celebrates women, like most of Olek’s work, which Chatelain thought was especially important since it was installed in March, which is Women’s History Month.

Chatelain was inspired to work with Olek to create a piece for Baton Rouge after seeing the artist’s work in an article. The crocheted portrait resulted from a community engagement project. Residents from all corners of Philadelphia learned to knit and crocheted squares, which Olek assembled into the mural. Chatelain likes to say it was a gift from the people of Philadelphia to Baton Rougeans.

The installation now hangs at 233 St. Ferdinand St.—a special spot, considering it also happens to be the site of the Arts Council’s eventual relocation.

Tours of the trail will be offered during the festival, April 6-7. Live music, dance and theatrical performances will be scattered along the trail. The Southern University Choir and the Heritage Choir will also perform in front of the crocheted mural.

Although the trail has not yet made its official debut, it is already inspiring community engagement here in Baton Rouge. As the crew installed the mural, Chatelain says people stopped on the street to comment on or ask questions about its features.

“Good art is always provocative,” Chatelain says, “and whether you like it or don’t like it, how you express that, what it brings to mind, what emotions it brings to mind—all of those are great community-building components.”

This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.