This Minneapolis teen artist wants to inspire young creatives

Papa MBye is pushing youth art by curating a turtleneck-themed show.

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. 

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

Next Up

mickey moore driver's license shared

Beleaguered Ward 9 city council candidate loses Strib endorsement

Mickey Moore has faced questions in recent days about where he actually lives.

CDC biohazard scientist health work

New clue may explain how rare tropical disease sickened Minnesotan

The disease, known as melioidosis, killed 2 people earlier this year.

Sen Mark Koran crop

MN lawmaker encourages donations for locals charged in Jan. 6 insurrection

"They are a good family!" Sen. Mark Koran wrote Friday.


Money Gal Coaching: Mastering the spiritual parts of money

Kelly Blodgett used her passion behind becoming debt free to launch Money Gal Coaching.

University of minnesota sign

U of M will now require proof that employees have been vaccinated for COVID

Previously, only students were required to be vaccinated.

Jim Hagedorn

Report reveals details about ethics investigation into Rep. Hagedorn

The congressman described the report's findings as "unfounded conclusions."


SkyWest cancels hundreds of flights due to server error

More than 80 have been canceled at MSP Airport.


First elk in more than 100 years spotted in parts of southern WI

The elk population was reintroduced to Wisconsin in recent decades.

grand marais

10 beautiful Minnesota cities to visit for outdoor adventures

These places are perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway.


This MN 'Project Runway' alum's new collection is inspired by teddy bears

Christopher Straub will show his cozy pieces this weekend at the Mall of America.

This Minnesota designer creates T-shirts celebrating hip-hop queens

Graphic designer Gerald Edwards Jr. specializes in shirts with thoughtful hip-hop and anime-influenced designs.

Inside Twin Cities designers Mermaids & Accolades' custom streetwear

These Twin Cities designers create zip-up shirts that match your personality.

This St. Paul thrift shop is on-trend, affordable too

TEN provides a judgement-free space featuring personal shopping, by appointment.

Fashion Week MN: Harlem Renaissance vibes hit Minneapolis

This fashion week runway event featured an all-POC model lineup and a celebration of Nubian heritage.

MN-made gift idea: AK Collective vintage apparel and handmade cards

Aimee Kriegl carefully curates vintage items to sell at her northeast Minneapolis studio.

Meet the Minnesotan who designs clothes for every woman

A Twin Cities fashion icon who designs clothes for every woman.

An eco-conscious jeweler just opened in Minnesota

GoMN met some of the first customizable jewelry shoppers at Alex and Ani's new location.