Artist’s vision inspires downtown Alexandria art scene
ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — The original Heart Wall in downtown Alexandria became one of the most popular pieces of art in the city.
And when artist Liz Cornett decided to paint it, she never expected that it would have such a positive impact on the community.
People would make a trip downtown to take prom photos, wedding photos, family portraits and the like in front of the wall that was painted with hearts on a piece of plywood on the old Weiss & Goldring building, covering the wall facing Desoto Street.
Cornett would see photos that people took in front of the wall posted on social media.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” said Cornett. She never expected it to be as popular as it was. The Heart Wall became synonymous with downtown.
“Liz’s influence has become far more reaching than I think she had any idea it ever would be,” said Eddy Lashney, one of Cornett’s friends and a downtown Alexandria art scene supporter. “I cannot even begin to tell you how many proms, birthdays, engagements, weddings, events, and even national magazines, videos, and websites it’s been the background for.”
Bringing people downtown was among the reasons for painting the wall. Most of time, said Cornett, people don’t come downtown unless an event is happening. Enhancing the area with art gives visitors another reason to enjoy the area.
“I didn’t want people to see garbage on the walls,” said Cornett. “I want them to see something pretty.”
Other artists joined in by painting their creations on the other pieces of plywood.
“Being that she has literally been with the independent downtown art scene since day one, she has been a source of inspiration for many many people,” said Lashney. “Without most of those people ever knowing who she was, which was actually fine with her, because Liz does what she does for the love of her art and community.”
The idea for the original Heart Wall came about after one of Cornett’s friends visited New York City. Her friend posed in front of a wall with hearts that was painted by New York City artist Jay Goldcrown.
Inspired by Goldcrown’s creation, Cornett decide to paint Alexandria’s first Heart Wall.
“I think it was 2015,” said Cornett. “It was July when I first started.”
“It was easy because I wasn’t the only one who did it.”
Her husband Jed and daughter Adelle, who was three at the time, helped her.
Cornett recalls while up on ladder painting, that Embers owner Jennifer Atwood came outside to see what she was doing. Cornett thought she was in trouble.
But once she explained what she was doing, Atwood offered her a glass of water.
The original Heart Wall facing Desoto doesn’t exist anymore. The painting didn’t last because it was in the sun, said Cornett. And the plywood on which it was painted is warped and decaying. Cornett said she would consider painting another in the same location if there were new plywood because the plywood that is there now is not worth painting.
Another Heart Wall has been painted in a covered area near the original.
Last year, she came up with an idea to paint a Garden Wall on new plywood installed next to the old Heart Wall.
“We were lucky to have someone put up new plywood and prime it for us,” said Cornett.
“I’m glad how it came out — how it lasted,” said Cornett while looking at it.
“It was like a big community effort,” she said about creating the Garden Wall. Her daughter, husband, sister, nephew, one of her friends, Lashney and his wife Carmen and another local artist, Morgan Lasyone Guidry, chipped in to bring the Garden Wall to life.
It took two trips to downtown Alexandria over a weekend for them to finish the Garden Wall. The Cornetts live in Forest Hill where they operate Pin Oak Nursery.
The Cornetts like to travel and Liz has been influenced by the art scenes she sees in different cities.
She finds inspiration everywhere she travels. She was particularly inspired by San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district when she and her husband visited.
Bringing that kind of colorful and lively art scene to Alexandria has been her goal.
“It would be good if other businesses would allow art on their walls,” said Cornett.
One of the local businesses downtown would like to have something artistic done on one of their walls, said Cornett.
Cornett said she and her husband have also lent their talents to painting a wall at the Central Louisiana Homeless Coalition’s Virginia Soprano Homeless Resource Center located on Jackson Street.
In addition to other artists adding their touches of art to downtown, Cornett would like to see a Free Wall where others could add their own artistic creations.
“The Garden, Cenla Love, and the Heart Wall, among others have become downtown icons and landmarks locals and visitors alike seek out. Downtown would be a much dimmer place without her talent,” said Lashney.
Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com