Visiting exhibition shows the impacts of evictions—and it’s more timely than ever

The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge is hosting the National Building Museum’s “Evicted” exhibition starting this month. But this won’t be a typical art show.

The traveling exhibit, which first debuted in 2018, aims to put a spotlight on the national eviction problem and the harsh realities many Americans face.

Using large visuals, graphics and images from tenant families, the exhibit is inspired by Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.

Its timing is more relevant than ever as more families face hardships due to the pandemic.

“When we started working to bring this here, it was pre-COVID. And then that all got expanded by this idea that just in an instant you can have a whole population of people who could really fall into this same situation,” says Renee Chatelain, the Arts Council’s executive director and CEO. “We’ve been trying to bring in temporary art exhibits that speak to an issue in the community and provide all of us with a deeper understanding of the challenges people face.”

Infographics on the walls and in four “houses” constructed within the gallery display information from the Eviction Lab, the first central repository for national eviction data. The data emphasizes the “rates of evictions in different markets and makes evident the depths of the problem,” according to the National Building Museum.

Whether you care about high health care costs, racial inequality, children’s issues or fiscal responsibility, “Evicted” shows how all of these matters have a connection to the need for affordable housing.

Chatelain says the Arts Council is exploring ways to attach local meaning during the exhibit’s run through virtual panel discussions and tours, as well as working with New Orleans artist Erin K. Wilson on a companion display. Wilson created illustrations for educational pamphlets aimed at low-income families seeking housing.

“Evicted” will be on display in the Arts Council’s Firehouse Gallery March 25 through May 28. On opening day, the new Arts Ambassadors program will give private tours of the exhibit. Read more in this 225 story.

The Arts Council is at 427 Laurel St. artsbr.org

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

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