For those tired of the typical drab restaurant surroundings, J. Broussard’s in Columbus has been trying something different. Each month, the upscale restaurant rotates in the work of a local artist, as well as hosting an “Art in the Restaurant” night with a special five-course meal where the artist is in attendance.
J. Broussard’s Head Chef Beth Rogers, a former anthropology major from Mississippi State University, was inspired to start Art in the Restaurant after she saw a similar setup when visiting Grit in Taylor, MS. Upon her return to Columbus, she reached out to a former employee who had become an artist, Katherine Munson. The two of them collaborated to find artists who would be able to participate.
“Changing the art out every month is doing a lot to make the dining room feel different,” Rogers said.
Rogers encouraged students to come to Broussard’s.
“Good food has a home with all people … Everything here is locally-sourced, responsibly-sourced meat and everything’s made from scratch,” Rogers said.
One artist Rogers was particularly excited about was Joe MacGown, a research technician scientific illustrator in MSU's Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology.
“Joe does shows all the time. He’s always selling something somewhere. I’m glad to have all (his) stuff in here today. It looks really amazing,” Rogers said.
MacGown’s pieces are featured for the month of October. His pen-and-ink illustrations are otherworldly and draw from his experience as a scientific illustrator for MSU’s Entomology Department.
“(After the chef mentioned it to me), I thought it was cool, and I gave her some suggestions for some artists,” MacGown said.
For MacGown’s night, he requested “spicy Cajun food” to match his “somewhat strange art,” and Chef Rogers came up with a menu featuring offerings such as a crawfish étouffée and a spicy catfish jambalaya. The dinner will be held Oct. 8, and a seat can be reserved for $45.
MacGown’s entomological work as a researcher and illustrator at MSU has bled into his art.
“Everything I study can go into my art, or my art can go into my work (at MSU),” McGown said. “That’s definitely part of the inspiration and nature in general. It all ties together, I think. It overlaps a lot.”
Columbus realtor and artist Heather Madison was the featured painter for September. Unlike MacGown, who has been producing art for decades, Madison started more recently, and her paintings are abstract splashes of color on canvas. She thoroughly enjoyed her experience with Art in the Restaurant. As a past patron of Broussard’s, Madison has certain favorites, such as the shrimp and grits, and she worked closely with Rogers to select the menu. 78 people came on her night, and she sold much of her work.
“It was just great. It was a lot of fun,” Madison said.
Madison was enthusiastic about encouraging other artists to participate in Art in the Restaurant.
“I would recommend it to any artist,” Madison said. “I just think it’s good to let people know. A lot of people aren’t going to go the art center, unless you just really love art. It is a great way to bring people into the restaurant and introduce people to your art.”
Since the program has proved successful, Rogers is now finalizing plans to continue Art in the Restaurant through the entirety of 2020, including one month with paintings made by the tigers at Cedarhill Animal Sanctuary in Caledonia, Mississippi. She encourages interested MSU art students to contact her at email@example.com if they are interested in participating.