Photo by Collin Richie

The Creatives: Jenn Lee Hester

Jenn Lee Hester
Hometown: Baton Rouge
Age: 35
Artistry: Murals, lettering, graphic design
Online: @jennleecreates on Instagram

As late June’s temperatures climbed aggressively above 100, Jenn Lee Hester was perched on top of a stepladder to face the glare of her glass canvas up close while hoping for just a few more minutes to work.

Turns out acrylic enamel paint, like an iPhone or your teenager pulling the weeds, does not operate efficiently in oppressive heat.  

“You really have to move in the summertime or else your paint dries fast,” Hester says, motioning to her leafy signage adorning the Mid City storefront of The Hope Shop. “But after about four hours, which is usually fine, I was shaking picking up the ladder. It was just so hot.” 

Over three days Hester completed the Government Street-facing mural project, her latest work for the retail arm of Hands Producing Hope, a nonprofit devoted to the betterment of disadvantaged women makers from Costa Rica and Rwanda, as well as refugees from far and wide who have settled in Baton Rouge. Hester’s first collaboration with The Hope Shop was painting windows at the store’s Perkins Rowe holiday pop-up in 2019.

Hester’s artwork has always traced a similar path of intentionality. Depressed and burnt out from replicating others’ designs for a sign company, she began flexing with chalkboard art and display design at Trader Joe’s and creating custom hand-lettered signs for weddings.

Never shy about trying a new medium, the artist and mother of two added screen printing to her repertoire last year, in addition to her glass work for Moxi Boutique and a flowery butterfly mural for Eutopia Salon. 

“I love a mix of natural elements and poppy shapes,” Hester says. “You kind of want it to be bold and minimal. For glass or a mural, people are driving by, so it needs to be big enough and simple enough to grab attention but not get lost in.”

Inspired equally by her creative Baton Rouge friends and Vancouver lettering icon Lisa Taniguchi, Hester is most comfortable working outdoors, with hip-hop pumping in her earbuds and a brush in her hand. That’s when there is less thinking and more excitement, when she can really flow with her art.

“It’s been a long road, but I’ve found what I enjoy doing,” Hester says. “Helping businesses bring joy to the community is really important to me, and I get to do what I love, so I’m so thankful for the opportunity to do that.”