“Forum 35, which is a young professionals organization here in Baton Rouge, hosts the Art Melt as a venue to expose people to all different types of visual and performing arts on a communitywide basis,” Christen Losey-Gregg said.

Losey-Gregg is the immediate past chairperson of Forum 35’s Art Melt Committee and is rolling up her sleeves to help this year’s co-chairs, Scott Higgins and Emily Adams, along with the other 10 committee members who are in charge of organizing this year’s Art Melt.

Hundreds of artists submit their works in the competition, Losey-Gregg said. “The artists are from all across the state of Louisiana. We solicit art through all of the arts councils across the state and various websites, and through various art associations and groups.”

Art Melt’s first prize is $2,000; second prize is $1,000; and third place is $500.

That payoff attracts many good artists who work in oil paints, clay, film - everything.

“It’s all media. It includes painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media, video, textiles, drawing, installations...” Losey-Gregg said.

“Our mission has really evolved over the last couple of years, so that we can try to use it (Art Melt) to promote the visual and performing arts becoming an integral part of education,” Losey-Gregg said. “For instance, we’ll have Playmakers of Baton Rouge there this year, and their children’s group will be doing an excerpt from one of their plays. Baton Rouge School of Music is going to be there having some of their youth band perform.

“As the night goes on, it’ll become more adult-oriented entertainment versus family oriented entertainment. We’ll have the Michael Foster Project,” she said.

One usual aspect of the competition is the submission/judging process. It’s in cyberspace, the “cloud.” Losey-Gregg said three judges - one local, one regional and one national - are chosen, each of whom must have “five or more years of curatorial experience spanning a broad spectrum of mediums and genres.”

“We use a web-based software company for the artists to submit. The artists can each submit up to three pieces. Those pieces are then assigned a number and their names are hidden, and then the jurors are each assigned their own account. And they log in separately and independently evaluate each of the works that are submitted and assign a rating to them on a scale of one to seven. And then the scores are averaged,” Losey-Gregg said.

A complicated formula, which includes available wall space, is used to determine which pieces make the show and which don’t.

“The jurors pick the winning pieces live when they come into town on the 14th. That morning of the preview party, jurors will convene at the gallery before it opens to the public and privately determine live who wins the show,” she said. The preview party is two days before the actual Art Melt and is an event in and of itself with music and food. It’s also held at the State Museum and admission is $75, including food and an open bar. Attendees get a chance to purchase the art works before the actual opening of the show. The Art Melt winners also are announced Thursday night.

The 2011 Forum 35 Art Melt Louisiana Legend Award recipient is also honored at the preview party. This year’s honoree is Rhea Gary.

“She was selected to be our second recipient of the award. We acknowledge them and their work. It’s just an honor for them to acknowledge their contribution to Louisiana culture for their work,” Losey-Gregg said.

According to a Forum 35 release, Gary is from Louisiana, went to LSU and now lives part of the time in Baton Rouge. “She has also studied at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and with well-known American artists. She has spent time traveling in Europe attending and teaching special programs for artists in France, Ireland and Italy.

“For more than 30 years Rhea has captured the splendor and magnificence of the Louisiana landscape, transforming the pristine beauty of the natural surroundings into dramatic color and form applied to canvas.”

Other awards to be presented at the preview party include:

•Forum 35 Choice Award: This award recipient is selected by the all volunteer Art Melt Committee, and the work by the chosen artist is featured on the following year’s commemorative poster.

•Country Roads Magazine, People’s Choice Award: This award recipient is selected by votes submitted by the public at the event and receives a feature in a forthcoming issue of Country Roads Magazine.

•Ann Connelly Fine Art Gallery Award: This award recipient is selected by Ann Connelly and has the opportunity to participate in a future gallery show.

Jurors for this year’s Art Melt are Rachel Wolff, a Brooklyn-based critic, writer and editor who covers art for New York magazine, The New York Times, Town & Country, The Daily Beast, Bloomberg Businessweek, Art+Auction, Modern Painters, ARTnews, Chicago magazine, and Manhattan magazine, where she serves as a contributing editor; Benjamin Hickey, the curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Masur Museum of Art in Monroe; and Kelli Scott Kelley, Baton Rouge artist.

Members of Forum 35’s Art Melt Committee 2011 are Scott Higgins, incoming co-chair; Emily Adams, co-chair elect; Christen Losey-Gregg, immediate past chair; Chris Brooks, immediate past chair; John Jackson, event co-founder; Fairleigh Jackson, event co-founder, Bill Stark, Masa Song, Lisa O’Bierne, Lance Paddock, Rikki Hegwood, Ashley Holden and Jesse Hoggard.

Artists’ work will remain on display for six weeks after Art Melt.