On the corner of Iroquois and Delaware Street in North Baton Rouge, an unassuming vermilion house is the home to non-profit Chez Fab Arts and Community Project, an organization dedicated to connecting local residents through art.
Upon opening her front door, homeowner Cindy Wonderful welcomes guests into her home that doubles a creative space for members of the Baton Rouge community.
The house’s open living room is used for movie showings, video production, as an art gallery and a venue for up-and-coming musicians.
The house itself is a work of art, as it’s been remodeled and decorated from Wonderful’s artistry. As you move through the home, you arrive at a kitchen where the walls and floors are painted in a black and white entangled vine and snake pattern. The cabinets are covered in chalkboard paint that invite a quick, whimsical expression.
“I’d like it feel like a fun house, and when you step inside you’re transported immediately,” Wonderful said.
The house’s three bedrooms, including its windows, are individually coated with a solid color — one is a deep red, the other a vibrant turquoise and another is pitch black that immerses those who enter. Two of the bedrooms are accentuated by a wall of shattered mirror shards Wonderful had collected. The floors and windows of her personal bedroom are covered in pages from inspirational texts she hopes will envelop her in a room of positivity, she said.
“I’m just scratching the surface, and it will only grow more intense,” Wonderful said.
Wonderful obtained the house in 2013 after returning to Baton Rouge to “completely reinvent [herself],” she said. Growing up, Wonderful lived across the U.S. including Colorado, Washington state, and Baton Rouge. Wonderful found herself in Europe, specifically Berlin, working as a rapper, DJ, and artist.
The 42-year-old eventually returned to the U.S. to be closer to family and discover “how [she] could flourish and carve out [her] own path,” she said. After accumulating savings, she purchased what was to become Chez Fab for a mere $1,000.
Wonderful remodeled the abandoned house, eventually deciding to welcome members of the community into her home in the name of creativity, she said.
Chez Fab Arts and Community Project has flourished by allowing people from all walks over life to experience various forms of Baton Rouge art through free events. Whether it’s through traditional art, music, video or performance art, Chez Fab gives people an opportunity to experience art outside of commerce, Wonderful said.
A driving force for Chez Fab, Wonderful said she felt there were limited spaces in Baton Rouge that granted artists exploration and growth. With Chez Fab, artists can grow as performers or showcase their work in addition to making career connections, she said.
“There’s a lot of people who want to get into the art world and simply don’t know people yet,” Wonderful said “They might see a lot of closed doors, but this house provides a nontraditional avenue [for them].”
When scheduling shows, Wonderful purposefully mixes established artists and newer, up-and-coming groups to create a network, she said.
Ultimately, Wonderful’s free events open doors for dialogue and understanding among different sectors of the local community. Those who typically don’t come to North Baton Rouge now have a reason to invest and plug in, Wonderful said. In addition, those who don’t attend art shows now have an accessible way to enter into the Baton Rouge arts culture, she said.
Hosting the event inside a house establishes a powerful sense of trust among all attendees, and “[is welcoming] to people even if they aren’t cognitively thinking about it,” Wonderful said.
Chez Fab Arts and Community Project gained its non-profit status in 2015, and since has proactively looked to aid an area of the city that too often goes unseen or forgotten, she said.
Wonderful said she uses Chez Fab’s status to aid those who have the vision for change but perhaps need assistance on making it happen. She said she happily allows her organization to be a conduit for others to invoke change.
One project the organization completed was fixing the leaking roof of one Chez Fab neighbor who was elderly and disabled. From labors of love to empowerment, Chez Fab can inspire others to be proactive in their community.
“[I want Chez Fab] to play a bigger role in showing people they don’t need to wait for outside help, we, as a community can do it ourselves — together,” she said.