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Inspiring Conversations with Marlon Powell of Art Vibez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marlon Powell .

Hi Marlon, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My creative journey started at Howard University, where I studied Radio, TV, and Film Production. I graduated in 1998, and during my last semester at HU, I submitted an application and a project to be considered for the recent Turner Broadcasting grad program. I made it through the phone interviews and was selected from 360 applicants to be flown to Atlanta as part of their 12 finalists. It would be my first time on a plane, and I was incredibly nervous about the whole situation. I made it through a round of in-person interviews and was eventually selected to participate as one of the 6 recent graduates hired to rotate through each of the Turner networks for a year. This experience would be the starting point for me to pursue my creative passions professionally. I would go on to work with some amazing and super talented directors, directors of photography, lighting, sound engineers, editors, voice-over artists, producers, and a few famous musicians along the way. My time at Turner only lasted two years before I got the urge to start my own multi-media production company. My first love is entrepreneurship, and I have never been able to get away from it. I ran my own multi-media company until 2003.

10 years later, my art advocacy work started during a poker game at my home one evening while drinking and sharing life stories amongst friends. At that moment, I wasn’t aware I was an art advocate and that my life would change dramatically from that point on. See, I’ve always admired art and visual artists- painters. My childhood friend, Rob Douglas, would share his sketches with me during class throughout high school, creating something from nothing by just using my imagination! I found it so fascinating. I would run home and attempt to recreate his art and try a little of my own but didn’t quite have “it.” I had trouble seeing in 3 dimensions and creating balanced proportions when drawing portraits. Eventually, I resolved to be a fan and channeled my energy into admiring the artistic gift of artists later in life. I grew that admiration into becoming a collector. So, my advocacy work began in high school. Still, on a professional level, I will maintain that it started this Saturday evening at my home 9 years ago during a poker game. This evening, my best friend from high school, Rob, brought over one of his friends to play poker. After many laughs and sharing family and work-related stories, Rob’s friend Levi Robinson shares with us that he’s an artist who has been painting for much of his life but hasn’t exposed his art to anyone. Levi shared that he had 30 pieces in his home that no one had ever seen. My interest in his personal story and his work grew instantly. At that moment, I knew I wanted to bridge my business knowledge and passion for art to help artists struggling with fear, doubt, or didn’t know how to expose and sell their paintings. Basically, painters struggled with starting an art business. My mind began to race, and my art advocacy journey was about to be on its way.

Several months had passed since Rob had introduced me to Levi as an addition to our poker game and discussed his art. We nudged him a little to put himself out there. Then one day, Rob and I received text messages inviting us to an artist showcase that Levi was participating in. We later found out that our encouragement inspired him during our poker game. He had submitted his work to showcase at a small community art center in Columbia, Maryland. There were many artists and some very nice art and sculptures on display. It had a very nice family and neighborhood feel.

After about 30 minutes of viewing the art and catching up with Levi, I noticed one of the volunteers reached over Levi’s shoulder and placed a blue dot over one of his paintings. Levi was so deep in the discussion that he wasn’t aware of what had happened, but I noticed and mentioned to him that your piece had just sold. He simultaneously had shock and excitement on his face. We are all waiting in anticipation of seeing the buyer come forward. When we finally saw the buyer, we were all a little surprised. He was a white, gray-haired man who appeared to be in his 60’s. The look on our faces confirmed we were all thinking the same thing. See, Levi paints very soulful urban African art, and he was not the profile we expected, but we all smiled. We smiled because we had the instant realization that art is universal. We had the social proof. This moment gave us a rush. We don’t have to compromise our art and potentially sell it to anyone, regardless of ethnicity. The color of its creator does not define taste in art. I left confident that I could help visual artists sell their work to anyone. It was an “ah ha” moment, and my journey was on its way. Since that showcase, I have worked with over 100 artists by creating unique and diverse platforms to assist with exposure and selling their art. It has been a wonderful journey so far, and I look forward to future opportunities to expand my advocacy work.

We all face challenges, but would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
My biggest challenge is finding funding, venues, and resources. Most of my events and art experiences are self-funded, putting a major financial strain on me.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Art Vibez provides successful business strategies and tools that will shorten the learning curve and allow visual artists to grow their art income without representation. We are known for helping emerging artists from diverse backgrounds gain access to unique spaces to showcase and sell their work.

What does success mean to you?
I define success as the value and positive impact you add to someone’s life.

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