Fest for All, to Yolanda Dixon, is a perfect exemplar of the mission of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge.
“The very name of it speaks to what the Arts Council is all about,” Yolanda says of the annual al fresco celebration. “It brings all kinds of art to all people.”
That open-armed outreach is also what compels Yolanda to lend her time and talent to the Arts Council, for which she has served as board member, board chair and, now, board secretary.
“I’ve always loved the arts,” says the New Orleans native, who returned to Louisiana for law school after attending college in Colorado. “Helping others was just something that my family always did. Only when I became an adult did it become for me being a ‘volunteer.’ ”
Yolanda says the Arts Council’s work impacts segments of the population that sometimes seem disconnected from the cultural realm. “The Arts Council helps large and small organizations and individual artists and at the same time tries to provide cultural opportunities to all different types of people,” she says. “When musicians come to town for the River City Jazz Masters Series, for example, they often visit local schools. “Those encounters are something that the children will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Another Arts Council initiative, supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and others, aims to revitalize Old South Baton Rouge through an infusion of creative and cultural projects. “That area did have a history of the arts, and we want to bring that back,” Yolanda says. “We hope to eventually be able to use what is done there as a template for other areas.”
Yolanda’s work with the Arts Council includes fundraising and planning for events like the Laurel Street Palooza outdoor party and Fest for All. She also served on the selection committee for new Arts Council CEO Eric Vaughn Holowacz, who she says “has a lot of new ideas about providing cultural exposure to a different audience.”
Yolanda says the most inspiring part of her involvement is being able to provide eye-opening arts experiences to those who might not otherwise have them.
“When I was in school, we had art classes and field trips to museums,” she says. “A lot of that is not happening anymore. My dream is that children everywhere can experience art and thereby enrich their lives.”
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What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
I love giving and making somebody else’s life better. I think it’s so important that we help others.
How is your cause making a difference?
The Arts Council helps to create a vibrant cultural life in the city of Baton Rouge. It is the impetus for other arts organizations to grow. It really provides that thread that holds it all together.
Is there a big/yearly event for your cause?
There are several. Coming up in January is Laurel Street Palooza, and Fest for All is set for April 5-6.
How would you like to inspire others?
I hope that they would look at me and say, “If she can do it, I can do it.” Giving a little is really a lot more than you think.
What is something we don’t know about your cause?
A new grant program established in the name of the late Derek Gordon, who served as the Arts Council’s president and CEO, will provide opportunities for high school and college art students to continue to create and advance their learning.