Baton Rouge’s museumsoffer impressive collections of art—but murals, sculptures, statues and other installations have also spilled over into the streets in recent years.
So clear your plans for a day this summer and dedicate it to touring our city’s public art installations.
Futuristic downtown murals
What did the future look like back in 1998? Several murals in the Riverfront Plaza offer a glimpse. The Arts Council and Forum 35 asked middle school student artists back then to paint Baton Rouge in 2020—“A Vision of Opportunity with a World of Possibility.” Their depictions show the skyline dotted with flying cars, palm trees and futuristic architecture. They got at least one thing right—several of the buildings in their paintings are covered with colorful murals.
Museum of Public art murals
Drive through Old South Baton Rouge to marvel at the incredible faces and scenes that color the sides of the area’s buildings. The murals are the work of international artists, and their pieces have earned the museum nearly 265,000 Facebook followers worldwide. The museum is located on the corner of Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive and Myrtle Walk, and you’ll find many of its murals in the surrounding area. The nonprofit also has several murals along Government Street. museumofpublicart.org
Odell Williams Museum of African American History murals
The grounds of the museum use art to bring African-American history in the South to life. Outside the museum’s front entrance, a vintage Mercedes bus is painted to honor the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott. Under the overpass nearby, the pillars are painted with murals that show the numbers of free and enslaved colored people in Southern states during 1860. No spot is left untouched—even the cement ground in front of the museum is painted. 538 South Blvd.
House of Jamba metal sculptures
A giant mermaid made of scrap metal commands attention from drivers along Government Street. She shares her home in front of the House of Jamba with giant seahorses, birds, elephants, robots and aliens. Artist Joseph “JoJo” Jilbert makes the pieces out of bike chains and wheels, mirrors, car parts, nuts and bolts and even musical instruments. We counted at least 50 sculptures in the lot surrounding House of Jamba during our visit—but Jilbert says there are probably even more. 4808 Government St.
City Park sculptures
Park at City Park and walk around its edges to find two sculptures. The pieces serve as lights at night and history lessons during the day. The base of each statue offers trivia about the park, where visitors can read about the carousel built there in the 1920s as well as Steele Burden (who planted the oaks the park is known for) and Betty Claiborne (who was arrested for trying to integrate the park’s pool in 1963). 1515 Dalrymple Drive; brec.org
The Walls Project’s murals
The Walls Project’s local artists have turned highway underpasses, street benches and buildings into vibrant images of people, animals and scenery. While the majority of the organization’s murals are located in or near downtown or along Government Street, you can find the group’s work in other spots around town, too. For a map of its 36 murals, visit thewallsproject.org.
Walk around downtown and you’ll spot several urban sculptures, from the historic statues surrounding the State Capitol to the large-scale bronze sculptures and stainless steel “Crest” at the Galvez Plaza stage. In front of the Claiborne building, you’ll also find painted steel flowers by artist Howard Kalish. Behind the State Capitol building, there’s an abstract steel sculpture by Merill Stigge.
Tell us about your street art adventures.
This is only a small sampling of our city’s public art—we’re sure we haven’t discovered all of it yet. Is there a piece you love to visit? Tell us about it in the comments below.