Visual #Artist and filmmaker, Brandan “BMike” Odums, has been working for the past few years to change the urban landscape of his beloved city of New Orleans, through his own art. Neighborhoods that Brandan Odums says are neglected since the tragic Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, have now a new life, with spray-painted murals celebrating African-American historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou or Mohammed Ali. With this action, the artist says he’s trying to bring a critic's voice to how the city neglected poor and mostly-black neighborhoods, but also, to celebrate the residents and their communities.
According to the Huffington Post, Brandan Odums said that his art is to make people feel they have value, and see themselves reflected in the portraits of these icons.
It all started with 'Project Be'
Back in 2013, the “Project Be” kicked off the artist’s “Be” art series, by completing a series of spray-painted depictions of famed civil rights African-American leaders, at the public housing complex in #New Orleans, called Florida Avenue, abandoned since the Hurricane Katrina.
There, Brandan Odums and other artists painted murals with known figures like Malcolm X or the Black Panthers. After praising New Orleans to Huffington Post, he added that the goal was to give voice to the issues going on in the community and create visible change.
Soon after, the property's owner shut it down, declaring it unsafe for visitors, but not before the project appeared on the front page of a local newspaper, calling attention to it.
Then, the second series’ project happened
Odums soon found a new abandoned place to keep on painting.
An apartment complex in an abandoned neighborhood offered the artist an unique opportunity, when the owner, a nonprofit called RDLN Foundation, stumbled upon Odums’ art and loved the idea, and encouraged him to keep going. The “Exhibit Be” was then born.
With this permission, Brandan Odums brought in 35 artists to help with their talent, and they turned a huge abandoned apartment complex into an art show, celebrating black culture, depicting inspiring figures and powerful quotes.
The project opened to the public in 2014, and became a success, attracting the attention of many visitors, national media, and school trips. Brandan wanted every visitor to understand that it was only possible for those crowds to be there through the power of art, otherwise, people would be too afraid to go there.
First solo show and final 'BE' series’ project
“Studio Be” was opened to the public in 2016, as Brandan Odums’ first solo show and the first “Be” project to open fully legal, at a warehouse in New Orleans.
It took him six months to complete and consists of large-scale murals which reflects many social justice issues, such as police brutality and civil rights. On one portrait, visitors can see the figures of three black men shot down by the police.
Brandan hosts school trips to the art show, to teach children about lesser-known figures, like the assassinated Black Panthers’ young leader, Fred Hampton. Odums told Huffington Post, how the power of art allowed him to speak “as a young black man from New Orleans, and speaking truth to that existence ― the hope, the pain, the beauty.”