A highlight of the reception for artists participating in the Arts Council of Livingston Parishes’ Holiday Marketplace exhibit, currently hanging in the organization’s gallery, was the naming of Amber Hilbun as the council’s Artist of the Year.
Now hanging in the gallery on Hummel Street in historic Downtown Denham Springs are a wide variety of art objects created by 14 of the area’s best-known artists. Included in the collection are oil, acrylic, watercolor and pastel paintings, photographs, fabric art, jewelry and sculpture. All creations are for sale, and local residents are invited to visit the gallery and shop for potential gift items during the Holiday Marketplace exhibit.
Besides Hilbun, Council President Ken Crotwell recognized Jenny Bauer as the council’s first Artist in Residence for the past year, and Melanie Glascock announced that aspiring photographer Avery Martin was the recipient of the Cathy Reeves Scholarship.
Bauer is an acclaimed photographer whose photos are frequently on exhibit at the gallery. She was a major contributor to the coffee table book “Preserving the Culture of Livingston Parish,” published last year by the arts council. Bauer is a veteran member of the art council’s board and is involved with Main Street Denham Springs and assists with preservation of local history through her contributions to the Old City Hall Museum.
Martin, a junior at French Settlement High School, is pursuing her interest in capturing the history and culture of her community through photography. She said that she anticipates participating in the arts council where she can hone her skills as a photographer. The scholarship she won is named for the late Cathy Reeves, of Denham Springs. Reeves was a well-known photographer whose photos were published in prestigious publications including National Geographic. She was a veteran member of the Arts Council of Livingston Parish.
In his address to the artists and visitors at the reception, Crotwell said, “Despite the unusual challenges of the past year, the arts council still realized many successes. We overcame the seemingly endless threat from the coronavirus and Hurricane Ida and managed to continue our activities. We had a number of successful exhibits and artists’ receptions and continued our arts classes and involvement in the performing arts. My thanks are extended to the members of the board and to our artists who helped make the year a success. The members of our board create the magic that is the success realized by the Arts Council,” Crotwell said.
In presenting the Artist of the Year award to Hilbun, Crotwell said, “Amber is a very accomplished artist who frequently contributes to our exhibits. She is also a valuable member of the arts council board and is always ‘tooting her horn’ for the arts.”
Hilbun said that she primarily paints with oils but “dabbles in multiple mediums.” She said that she dedicated herself almost full time to painting three years ago when she decided to seriously pursue her craft.
Hilbun said that for much of her life she participated in rodeo and was primarily a barrel racer. However, an injury incurred while riding marked the end of her rodeo career. “I am constantly learning and constantly evolving as an artist. I have learned that what I enjoy is putting a painting together in bits and pieces … something like a puzzle. I make it a point to search for the little details that add so much to a painting. For me, it is those special details that give a painting some ‘pop,’ some special visual appeal.”
Now hanging in the gallery are a number of Hilbun’s paintings, including some striking paintings of dogs. Her paintings are intricate, and her attention to detail is evident in that one can almost count the individual hairs on an animal’s coat.
She said that she stays busy painting on a consignment basis for families. “I am sometimes asked to paint pictures of a deceased loved one from photos. Sometimes those requesting the painting ask that I include a favorite pet in the picture. I enjoy painting pictures that involve family members because it brings relatives together,” she said.
Hilbun said that one of the rewards she gets from her art is the appreciation expressed by those for whom she paints. “I just enjoy the looks on the faces of those for who I paint. … Their excitement makes my work all the more rewarding,” she said. “I always have something on my easel. … The consignments keep me busy,” she added.
She said she was invited to hang some of her paintings in the River Road show and for that she was grateful. “I have to say that I was proud to have my work on display at that show. I was very excited,” she said.
Hilbun, offering advice to aspiring artists, said, “Don’t give up. … Just keep trying. … The more you work, and the more you experiment, the better you will get. I tell new artists that they can always learn from others. Different artists have different techniques and different ideas, and artists can always learn from one another.”
The artist of the year said of the Arts Council of Livingston Parish, “The council is an excellent tool for those who are involved in the arts. The council supports not only the visual arts but also music, dance and drama. The council is dedicated to getting the message out about how important art is for the community. Art, in its many forms, is uplifting and says something about the community’s culture. It is an essential part of who we are as a society.”
The Holiday Marketplace will be on display through the end of December. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. until noon Wednesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturdays.
In addition to the art objects, copies of “Preserving the Culture of Livingston Parish,” a full-color coffee table book, is available for sale. The book contains historical sketches of every community in Livingston Parish, along with some recipes and striking paintings and photos.
Artists participating in the exhibit are Robert Corbin, Kerry Curtin, Cheri Ducote-Breaux, Mary Felder, Marita Gentry, Judy Gilmore, Mary Harris, Jackie Hoffman, K.C. Kuhnert, Diane Scimeca, Jackie Wilson, Shelly Frederick, Bauer and Hilbun.