Minnie's Place hosts first River Road Talent Night

Michael Tortorich
Dorothy Lear, an American Idol hopeful, sings during the River Road Talent Night.

Anyone who has ever met Alvin Batiste knows he has a megawatt smile that can light up a room.

With his trademark beaming grin, the local artist regaled an intimate crowd about his art during the first River Road Talent Night on Wednesday at Minnie's Place in Donaldsonville.

Fresh off his appearance on WAFB's special Road Trip morning show, Batiste's star has been rising. He was also featured on New Orleans local television, as the focal point of Fox 8's The Heart of Louisiana series.

The local folk artist said he would hear stories as a child and sketch out the scenes that would come to him.

A self-taught artist, his work has been displayed everywhere from local living rooms to museums.

Batiste said sales of his work have seen an increase with the recent media exposure.

"It's just been a joy," he said during his presentation Wednesday. "It's been a lot of fun."

Batiste showed several of his art pieces, and answered questions about how he constructs his colorful creations.

He and the event's organizer, Mary Gehman, collaborated on a children's book, Cardy the Cardinal, which traces the adventures of a friendly cardinal as it makes its way through Donaldsonville.

Gehman originally started the talent event back in 2013. It was at the same location, but then it was known as Cypress Cafe and under different ownership.

The original event was held weekly for about nine weeks, giving many a chance to put their talents on display.

After the hiatus over the last few years, Gehman teamed up with Minnie's Place to bring it back. This time, she plans to hold the event on every third Wednesday of the month.

"It's a way to help out the locals," Gehman said, adding that she hopes to attract a wide array of talents - musicians, artists, poets, and dancers.

Batiste was among the original artists six years, along with Dorothy Lear.

This time around, she hopes to catapult her way to American Idol stardom.

Lear said she plans to audition for the hit show during an open call in Baton Rouge.

Just months ago, the first Louisiana native won the competition when Laine Hardy of Livingston Parish brought home the honors.

Lear said when she found out about the local auditions on social media, she knew she wanted to give it a try.

Singing since her childhood, she was always eager to take the stage at talent shows at school and around the area.

"I really want to go for the experience," she said. "It's on my bucket list."

Though she's hopeful to make it to ABC prime time and face judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, she would rather the scowl of Simon Cowell.

"I prefer Simon. He'll tell you, look, this is not your thing," she said with a laugh.

Just as the first edition of the event wrapped up, Batiste raised his hand and flashed his well-known megawatt smile again, saying: "I have a request. Maybe we can hear another song?"