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The Hammond Art Guild celebrates over five decades of unity and creativity

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Locals got the oppurtunity to view 131 works of various mediums during the Hammond Art Guild's exhibition. HAG recently celebrated its 56th anniversary. The organization aims to inspire a variety of local artists. Larshell Green/The Lion's Roar

The Hammond Art Guild celebrated 56 years of presence and advancement in the local community with its annual art show.

The competition between local artists on Friday, April 6 was not to be overshadowed by the long standing principles of HAG. 

“For an art guild in the small town of Hammond to be in existence and continue to grow and flourish and be well known is fabulous,” said HAG President Nancy Lowentritt.  “The founding members probably had no idea it would still be here and growing up and flourishing.”

Lowentritt joined HAG in 2006 after volunteering. She was welcomed by the prospect of coming to a place where artists could communicate, share ideas and learn from one another. 

Despite competition, the guild serves as a mentoring opportunity for artists in the community.

“It’s a safe place for artists to gather and encourage each other,” said Lowentritt. “Older members can share experiences with galleries and shows. I wish I had it when I got out of school. People that are serious can jump in at any time and learn the ropes of the art world.”

Executive Director of the Hammond Regional Arts Center Maureen Joyce is thankful for the partnership between HRAC and HAG. She believes that by continuing the relationship with the guild, a sense of healthy competition, a diverse community of artists and progressive ideas and subjects emerge. 

“It celebrates our community’s creative expression with both seriousness and expertise with a willingness to accept contemporary and progressive ideas and subjects,” said Joyce. “This well-established tradition continues to serve its community and reinforces the bond between the Hammond Art Guild and the Hammond Regional Arts Center, which started over 36 years ago.”

This year’s annual spring show came sooner because of the New Orleans Museum of Art’s upcoming show in May. Despite the show being pushed to spring break, it was the biggest show the guild has ever had. 

131 works of the three-dimensional category such as wood, clay, jewelry, basketry, glass fiber and wire,the two-dimensional category such as oil, watercolor, acrylic, encaustic, pastel, ink, egg tempera and resin metal and the image development such as photography, silkscreen, etching and block print works were shown. Professor of Sculpture Jeff Mickey served as a judge. 

“I developed a rubric that measured artistic expression, craft and presentation and critiqued pieces for five hours,” said Mickey. “They were all so wonderfully expressive work. Our region has a lot of talented artists in the community. There is a tremendous amount of artistic expression.”

When artists entered the gallery, they discovered the ranking of their pieces prior to the awards ceremony that occurred later in the evening. Audience members voted for their favorite piece. The winning artist, Margaret Hawkins, received the People’s Choice award for her piece “Warrior, After.”

Best in Show went to Nancy Stutes for “Hidden Morning.”

In the 2-D category, C.B. Hume placed first with “Mardi Gras Door.” Theresa Beaubouef placed second with “Wisteria.”  Beaubouef also placed third for “Lunch at the Rookery.” Tiffany Nesbit and Marion Ochs received Honorable Mention awards for their pieces “Drafts of Baked Chicken” and “Nocturnal Journey.”

Andrew Macaluso placed first in the image development category for “Tchefuncta Derelict in Mist.” John Paul Duet placed second for “Atchafalaya Blues.” Phillip Colwart placed third for “69 Figs and a Cover Up.” Winners for Honorable Mention included Duet for his piece “127 Spoons in Love,” Andy Matthews for “Calm Day at Evergreen” and Johnny Chauvin for “Kolorful Kids.”

In the 3-D category, Jim Creel received first place for “Old Pipes” and second place for “Peaceful Lagoon.” “Twisted Limbs” by John Green was named third place. Trent Pechon and Becky Burt racked up Honorable Mention awards for “Untitled Box” and “Trophy Wife.”

Creel’s pieces “Peaceful Lagoon” and “Old Pipes” required attention to detail and a special concentration on structure. 

Each individual piece for “Old Pipes” was placed on a wood turning lave. It took 20 hours to construct the piece that took an alternative approach to three-dimensional work.

“I wanted to make something other than bowls and platters on a lave,” said Creel. “What I made took a little more skill to do.” 

“Peaceful Lagoon” was constructed by using reactive paint over casting racks. The original piece was in clay that was later made into a mold and cast. It was colored with patina and sulfur to achieve the black color often found in copper jewelry. The color and texture were important to show off the highlights of the individual hand rolled feathers of the goose, taking over 200 hours and producing over 2,000 feathers. 

First place winner Macaluso began photography after using his father’s camera. He is interested in capturing local interests and things that capture people’s attention. The piece he won for, “Tchefuncta Derelict in Mist,” was captured at night, shot for an hour, edited for 6-7 hours over a few weeks, and stitched together five individual photos electronically. 

Beaubouef has been a member of the guild for about three years and felt honored that her pieces “Watercolor Wisteria” and “Watercolor Lunch at the Rookery” placed. 

“I was very surprised and super excited,” said Beaubouef. “We have so much amazing art here.” 

Winners of the show received ribbons and were invited back on Wednesday, April 11 for an intimate show at HRAC. “The Art Talk and Gallery Tour” will begin at 5 p.m. The pieces will be available to view until April 27. 

Co-chairs of the show and members of the HAG Marion Ochs and Otto Ochs retired in Hammond. 

Outside of his leadership role for the show, Otto Ochs created pieces inspired by historical pieces like the Holocaust. Otto Ochs believes that artists like himself should focus on showing three main elements in their pieces. 

“All of the artists in their own little way are seeking for truth, justice and beauty,” said Otto Ochs. “Whether you plant a rose garden or make a cake for someone you love, there is the creative spirit. You can’t predict what someone will buy. Not all artwork has these three element, but one is usually present.” 

Shayne Johnson participated in his first art show after beginning painting in November. His day job is serving a property assessor locally. 

“It’s been good,” said Johnson. “I’ve talked to several of the artists who’ve been painting for a while and got some tips. I’ve been trying to learn all I can.” 

Traci Brazan attended the exhibition as her second HRAC event. She is inspired by her mother Gayle Miller’s membership in the art guild and views it is a space for continuous education. 

“It allows local artists to share their work as professionals or amateurs,” said Brazan. “Despite whatever age you are, you have local people to support you.”  

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