Words by Heather Buzbee with contributions from Christopher Stephens and Katie Gagliano | Photos by Colby Sterling
For TEDxLSU 2016, a group of artists asked themselves, why should TEDxLSU talks exist as only spoken communication? Why can’t these talks also be translated into visual pieces that still communicate ideas worth spreading?
Supporting the theme of “why” and our thirst for discovery, TEDxLSU was excited to host this group of artists who painted each talk as they happened live! Initiated by Chris King of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA), alongside TEDxLSU Creative Communications team member Ashlyn Verrette, this project set out to communicate this event from another perspective. For this project, there were twelve artists grouped into four smaller groups of three. This included four professional artists from across Louisiana: Alex Harvie (New Orleans), Pat Phillips (Alexandria), Joshua Chambers (Bossier City), and Chris King (Natchitoches). As well as four collegiate artists from LSU (Lindsey Chaplain, Suzannah Burke, Amelie Provosty, and Hannah Lemoine) and four high school artists from LSMSA (Ella DiResto, Ellie Williamson, Dale Campo, Desiré Johnson).
During the event, the artists painted alongside the audience from a balcony in the theater. Each smaller group of artists included an artist in high school, college, and a professional artist. “The way I look at it is that it’s teams of three people that are at various stages in their art career,” noted Chris King. “So we all could learn from each other and contribute from different directions.” So not only did the artists have to create the pieces live, but they also had to collaborate. Reflecting on the experience Joshua Chambers, one of the professional artists, also shared that this was great for a bunch of artists because they didn’t even have to talk to each other; they could work together in the moment and use the medium as their tool for collaboration.
For each speaker, one team of artists created a mixed-media piece on paper that visually captured the messages in order to share how the artists perceived the ideas visually. King noted, “I hope that it reveals a little bit about how artists interpret things and how visual artists understand things and use the language they’ve learned. Whether it’s high school or college level, the idea is that art is a visual language.”
Through this collaborative experiment the artists worked together to combine their specific talents and perspectives across age ranges to capture the moods and abstract ideas from the talks. And in doing so, provided a new perspective to appreciate TEDxLSU while fostering collaboration, discovery, and innovation. According to Chris King, “In a lot of ways that’s what we all hope for -- to create thought provoking art. For a piece to be thought provoking you have to demonstrate a skill level, and then that skill level defends the idea or the information you’ve put in the piece. We want to make some things that look skilled, that look contemporary and relevant to the issues that will be discussed.”
When asked about the experience Amelie Provosty, one of the LSU artists, stated “I strongly believe that LSU students are a great resource for the greater Baton community. Events like TEDxLSU allow the university and community to connect, and this merge results in empowered people, who create, share, and inspire within their neighborhoods.”
Ready to see active community and collaboration visually communicated? Check out some of the artwork here, and compare notes with fellow attendees or prepare yourself for the video reveals later this spring.