In a small brick building on Government Street, Yes We Cannibal is looking to add some new space for Baton Rouge’s creative energy.
Yes We Cannibal, which co-owners Mat Keel and Liz Lessnerdescribe as “anti-profit,” is an art and performance venue that aims to allow cultural experimentation for the Baton Rouge community at no cost. It opened in March 2020 at 1600 Government St.
“I hope that people who come get a chance to see what the youth of Baton Rouge is producing,” Lessner says. “That connection to the creative energy here is what we want to create.”
This month, the art gallery is showcasing “Created Spaces: Young Black Artists,” an array of works from young Black creatives from the Baton Rouge area. Curated by 19-year-old Baton Rouge artist Yana, the exhibit features painting, photography and more. Yana was the first non-musician to approach Yes We Cannibal about doing a show in their space.
“She’s just starting out,” Keel says, “but I think she really has talent. This is one of our greatest achievements: her saying that she wants to create a space for something she’s passionate about and being able to do it.”
Yana’s art is incredibly distinct, the kind that becomes instantly recognizable once you know her style. She uses colorful lines and curved shapes to create faces, abstract patterns and even spell out words and sayings against solid-colored backgrounds.
Photographer Ugo’s work is also featured in the exhibit. His vibrant photography features unique lighting, creative angles and colorful backgrounds, and his writing is also included in the exhibit. Isaiah 78th, an artist who makes traditional and wearable art, is featured as well.
The exhibition’s opening event on April 3 featured many musical guests, including Diego, a young and local music maker, whose soulful music got a positive response from the crowd.
Yes We Cannibal is dedicated to giving the artists who come into the space free rein over what they want to do, Lessner and Keel say.
“There’s a really serious and very talented young Black creative group that has an interest in being committed to art,” Keel says. “It is truly meant to be 100% their own design. It’s meant to be their show and they are allowed to do what they want to do.”
Highlighting local artists really brought a homegrown feeling to this particular show, Lessner says.
“It’s cool because the artists’ parents and family came,” Lessner says, “and there was a real community vibe to it.”
As for what they hope Yes We Cannibal and the “Created Spaces” exhibit can bring to Baton Rouge, the answer is simple.
“We hope the people who come to see the exhibit feel like they’re encountering the creative energy of Baton Rouge,” Lessner says.