This Minneapolis teen artist wants to inspire young creatives

Papa MBye is pushing youth art by curating a turtleneck-themed show.
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Papa MBye is a North Minneapolis-based visual artist who is dipping into fashion and event curation. 

MBye, 18, began taking drawing seriously two years ago, mostly specializing in caricatures. To push his work, he joined a creative collective called Young Vision led by his classmate Gabe Hostetler, who has produced videos for local hip-hop artists Drelli, Malik Augustus and Lux & Longley. 

While attending Armstrong High School, MBye and Hostetler pioneered a student-run news show. Through Young Vision they hope to cultivate youth creative talent, MBye said. 

Post graduation MBye didn't slow down on creative contributions. Between attending classes at MCTC, he draws, paints, thrifts, customizes clothing, and drops original music on SoundCloud. 

GoMN sat down with MBye to get the lowdown on his artistic journey, inspirations, and this week's upcoming, multi-faceted art show. 

When did you first get into art?

I started drawing two years ago. Basketball was my first passion, but I realized I wasn’t going to the NBA, so I picked up a pencil, started drawing, and people liked it. At first it started with notebook paper sketches, and eventually I got the resources to get better. I got some mentors like Steve Sack who draws cartoons for Star Tribune. 

What was the first thing you drew?

Birds. My mom always used to draw birds on the page to make me stop crying when I was three-years-old, so birds were the first thing.

Who are your inspirations or mentors?

Kanye West, Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Nuri Durr, and just like the world and everything around me. Sometimes I’ll just doodle and draw anything I see, so I feel like you can get inspired by literally anything. 

What's some advice you'd give to fellow young creatives?

The main thing is to just go out there and do it. So many people are waiting for someone to give them some secret advice and give them a shortcut, but nothing is going to happen unless you do it. You can’t get better at drawing, unless you put the pencil to the paper, you can’t get a mentor unless you reach out and ask for help, and you can’t throw an event unless you throw an event.

What's some of the worst advice you've recieved?

Some people have told me to sell myself short just to get more sales or get more recognition and that art wasn’t a good career. I hear that from my dad. But, you shouldn’t be doing something that you’re not happy with. Life’s too short to do that. What if I get reincarnated and I become somebody that can’t draw? Then, at least I lived this life as somebody that could.

So just recently you decided you wanted to do something fashion-oriented?

Yeah! So, I applied for a grant from the Awesome Foundation's North Minneapolis chapter. I wrote a proposal about the fashion show and they liked it. Since then, I’ve just been working on it.

I have been painting a lot and I have a lot of art that I want to show, so I was like let me have an art show. I don’t want to have a solo show yet, so I was like let me let other people show their art. Then, I looked in my closet and I saw all these turtlenecks, because I frickin' love turtlenecks. I was like let me style these turtlenecks, get some models, and do a fashion x art show. Then, I went to one of my friends' performances, and I’m like let me have music at this show too and make it like a triple threat art show. 

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What do you hope to achieve with the Turtleneck Szn show?

With this event that I’m throwing, I’m trying to make it like a regular thing for creatives to come together through creative things like fashion and art and just get everybody I can involved in it. There’s so much creative talent in Minnesota, but I just feel like it’s not organized enough to have the effect that New York, LA or Atlanta has.

How did you book talent for the show?

The photographer went to my high school, the DJ went to my old high school, and a lot of the performers are my friends. I’m trying to put money in people’s pockets that I know are creative, but don’t necessarily have the financial literacy side down yet. I’m trying to give them a kickstart, because I know that I’ve been blessed with mentors and people who’ve taught me a lot. Even though I have a lot to learn, I want to give what I already been taught and pass that along.

Papa MBye and his fashionable friends, musicians and artists will be taking over New Rules in north Minneapolis on Saturday, November 25. To get event updates and glimpses of MBye's latest projects, you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter

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