Seeing Music

Showcasing breathtaking bridal gowns, rare jade statuettes and exquisite original pieces from Louisiana artists, the LSU Museum of Art is a cultural staple in downtown Baton Rouge. The museum, once housed on campus, moved to the Shaw Center for the Arts several years ago.

“The museum is a critical part of our community,” asserted Emalie Boyce, former chairperson of the museum’s advisory board, explaining, “It serves as an avenue for generating new and different thoughts through the visual arts.”

Boyce, a lawyer in the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General, recently stewarded a gift to the museum from her father’s business, Louisiana Machinery Co. With nearly a lifetime of museum involvement in hand, Boyce knew its greatest needs and chose to dedicate half of the donation to the museum’s endowment to provide long-term sustainability.

The remaining donation supported needs and exhibitions to which Boyce feels a special connection, including exhibitions showcasing Walter Anderson, LSU College of Art + Design faculty, Herman Leonard and Professor Emeritus Edward Pramuk.

Anderson’s exhibition, “Walter Inglis Anderson: Everything I See is New and Strange,” highlighted more than 60 watercolor and oil paintings, prints and printing plates, pen and ink drawings, and pottery from the late artist. Each piece evidences Anderson’s unique observations of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s flora, fauna and landscape.

Pramuk’s exhibition featured paintings, drawings and collages that depict the remarkable and often emotional music-making process. “I think his work is really important,” Boyce shared, describing the exhibition as a marriage between music and images. “He’s an incredibly amazing artist that we’re lucky to have in our community.”

“The donation underwrote the creation of an edition of a fine art print of local jazz master Alvin Batiste,” Pramuk said. “I considered him worthy to appear in an exhibition that featured the great jazz musicians of our time, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Bill Evans and Miles Davis.”
Pramuk spoke to the impact this donation had on him, saying, “The full-color print honors a splendid performer and composer who developed the Jazz Institute at Southern University. It speaks well of the Boyce family to have their donation used in this manner, and it gave me the opportunity to create an image that celebrates the Batiste legacy.”

More than three dozen of Pramuk’s pieces were shown alongside 36 of Herman Leonard’s legendary jazz photographs. Leonard was known for immersing himself in the jazz world, using lighting techniques that allowed him to photograph performers in their element without losing the atmosphere or ambiance of the smoky jazz clubs.

Both artists use the visual arts as a tribute to the musical form, encouraging viewers to appreciate it through the visual complexity of musicians and their instruments.

Boyce shared that she was raised with an appreciation for art. “I’m very familiar with how funding works in education and the arts,” she said, explaining her family’s support of the museum. “I know funding for the arts is especially vulnerable.”

Published in Cornerstone Winter 2013 and Spring 2014.

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