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Lift Every Voice

The sculpture of Frank Hayden

Lift Every Voice

Photo by Kevin P. Duffy

Frank Hayden, Head of Oliver Pollock (1976/1980), located in Galvez Plaza near Town Center, downtown Baton Rouge.

Frank Hayden (1934–1988) is one of Louisiana’s most significant sculptors of the twentieth century—and until now, also one of the least well-known. The Louisiana Art & Science Museum (LASM) in Baton Rouge has organized the first exhibition to explore Hayden’s life and work in depth. Titled Lift Every Voice, the show includes around forty artworks, some rarely seen, selected from private and public collections in Baton Rouge and New Orleans; many of the works are from LASM’s permanent collection.

Hayden is best known for public art and liturgical commissions, most of which are concentrated in and around Baton Rouge. Anyone walking around downtown, worshipping in one of the city’s many churches, or visiting LASM has most likely encountered Hayden’s work. Located in downtown plazas, university quadrangles, churches, synagogues, and along riverfront levees, Hayden’s sculptures reveal Louisiana’s shared history and reflect the artist’s deep spiritual and humanistic concerns. Hayden’s views were shaped by his Catholic faith and the principles of the Civil Rights Movement. Although mostly figurative, his sculptural forms are stylized and often abstracted, with words sometimes inscribed onto the surface. His work commonly features themes of fellowship, family, Christian values, and civil rights. Hayden worked in clay, plaster, fiberglass, wood, and stone; he was also a master of the archaic lost-wax process of bronze casting.

Born in Memphis, Hayden was educated at Xavier University in New Orleans. He studied at Notre Dame University in Indiana under famed Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović and studied in Europe on three occasions, including at the Munich Art Academy on a Fulbright Fellowship. In 1961, he joined the faculty at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he taught for the next twenty-seven years. Hayden was a prolific artist; between 1956 and his untimely death in 1988 at the peak of his career, Hayden completed nearly forty commissions. Among them were some of the first tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including a 1976 commission for the City of New Orleans. On the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit to Louisiana, Hayden created a small bronze of St. Martin de Porres on behalf of United States African-American Roman Catholics. His sculptures were exhibited in Chicago, Dallas, and New York and featured at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. A modest man, he often gifted his sculptures to friends and colleagues.

Lift Every Voice will be on view until at least mid-October, though this is subject to change depending on circumstances related to COVID-19. A virtual version of the exhibition is planned. More information is available at lasm.org.